Life rarely comes in neat little packages. More than anything else, life resembles a rickety roller-coaster and performs exactly as it says on the tin – a few exhilarating highs, a couple of heart-wrenching nosedives peppered with several hair-raising hairpin bends.
While the going’s good, the world is our oyster but when life gives the proverbial lemons, there are very few robust souls who can take the knocks and remain unscathed. It is during these trying times, that self-esteem, that most elusive of attributes comes into play, marking the difference between those who can pick themselves up after a fall, dust down and move on and those for whom life’s many traumas are simply nails in their emotional coffin.
Why am I writing about self-esteem? In my line of work, I get to meet and interview the most talented and successful people from all of society’s strata; the arts, the business sector, politicians, the professions. The underlying similarity between these personalities is the unwavering belief they have in themselves and their capabilities. Sadly, I have also met some very talented individuals, who despite talents bordering on the genius they are still struggling to find their way in the world. Sheer bad luck perhaps? Could be, but some who come to mind are or were sorely lacking in self-confidence.
It is a pity and a waste that in 2018, when today’s generation has so much going for it that you come across plenty of youngsters who despite being academically or artistically gifted, all they seem to do is put themselves down. That said, low self-esteem is determined by many factors. While upbringing contributes greatly in the development of a child’s confidence, it seems that the greater damage is sustained during the teenage years. A negative body image, an irrational fear of being ridiculed by peers, bullying; all expound the feeling of ‘not being good enough’.
How to overcome this drudging lack of self-worth? How to get rid of these inner demons who constantly undermine our confidence? Self-esteem isn’t something one wakes up with one fine, sunny morning (though there are people out there who were distinctly born confident). It must be worked at constantly, forever reminding ourselves that we may not be perfect, we may not excel in X or Y, but we are unique, with our own unique talents and attributes.
We may not think that we’re the world’s best conversationalists but being sociable isn’t necessarily being able to dazzle others by discussing rocket science or baroque architecture in fine detail. It’s about being genuinely interested in what other people have to say and being ourselves, warts and all, all the time. It’s about being able to hold our head high and convey the message to the world – this is me, like it or lump it and I refuse to apologise for being who I am.
That said, building self-confidence takes time, but ultimately being comfortable in our own skin gives us the courage to pick ourselves up when life throws yet another curveball, and this will eventually gain us the freedom to move on to newer and better things. What’s the alternative? Spending all our waking hours anxiously worrying whether we are acceptable to others or not? Don’t think so.
All of this might seem insurmountable for those whose self-esteem is always at an all-time low, but there are always small steps that can be achieved on our way to overcoming this constant, looming shadow which blights so many lives. First and foremost, let’s accept our limitations. Let’s leave manufactured ‘ideals’ to PR companies who are handsomely paid to sell us ‘perfection’. Our value as human beings is not diminished in any way, if we do not drive a certain car, wear designer jeans, are of a certain body type, do not have a degree, or do not have the postcard perfect family life so cleverly curated on social media or aggressive marketing campaigns. Let’s be wise enough to make the distinction between what’s real and what’s not and therein lies part of the secret to serenity.
Let’s stand up for ourselves! Even if it’s trivial things, like our taste in music, food or literature. Our feelings, opinions, likes and dislikes are ours and ours alone. No one has the right to ridicule or deride us, no matter how ‘uncool’ our choices might be. Let’s take a step back and celebrate our strengths; it could be anything, from being a loyal friend, a hardworking employee to telling a good joke. It may not seem much when compared to others’ apparent attributes, but comparisons are truly odious and the surest way to self-destruct mode.
Finally, we need to banish the discouraging voice in our heads, egging us on; we are not clever enough, not attractive enough, maybe not the brightest or the most fun. Heeding that voice incessantly will only make us believe that we are only made up of our shortcomings. Ignoring that voice empowers us to trust our instincts and believe that our ‘gifts’ may not be as unremarkable as we might believe. If all else fails, we must remind ourselves that no matter what we do, we cannot ‘be’ anyone else, so we must deal with what we’ve got and make it work, at least for our emotional wellbeing. At the end of the day, life is really too short to waste on others’ opinions, genuine, well-intended or otherwise…