“You have to know you can win. You have to think you can win. You have to feel you can win.”
Sugar Ray Leonard
Sugar Ray was an extraordinary boxer for many reasons. But one of those reasons — most certainly — was his self-esteem and self-confidence. He knew he had to believe in himself. And the same goes for you and me.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-ESTEEM
In fact, if you have anything less than great self-esteem, you will reduce the amount of happiness and success you will experience. No question about it.
Author Louise Hay makes that clear in her writings. She says, “If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.” In other words, if you don’t think you can do something, then you probably won’t.
Tim Connor, author of “That’s Life,” takes it a step further. He says, “Low self-esteem is one of the biggest causes of many of today’s ills — both in relationships and in society. This issue is at the root of much addiction, abuse, crime, health problems, and business or career failures.”
When you think about the enormous damage caused by low self-esteem, you’d think we’d all be very careful about damaging one another’s self-esteem. Sorry.
ONE CAUSE OF LOW SELF-ESTEEM
Often times, just the opposite is the case. The world seems all too ready to attach negative labels to children. Parents and teachers might say that Johnny is “a clumsy and awkward child … a slow learner … or … a day dreamer.” And Susie is “a bookworm … a wall flower … or … just not good at math/spelling/sports/etc.”
All such labels damage self-esteem, and all such labels hinder success. That’s why you’ve got to be very careful about labeling children … intentionally or accidentally … consciously or unconsciously. Those labels might get sewn on for life.
Of course, some of the labels put on children came from pure ignorance. The parent, teacher, or friend had no intention of inflicting harm. But labels sewn on adults are another thing.
The CBS anchor Dan Rather commented that one of the most shocking lessons in life was the discovery that not everyone wishes you well. There is a surprising amount of jealousy, envy and resentment directed at high achievers in every field. The more you try to do and the more you accomplish, the more you will be subject to the negative labeling of others.
Perhaps you’ve been the victim of negative labeling at work. Someone less capable than you has put you down in their vain attempt to pull themself up. It’s a sick way for them to pump up their self-esteem. And you’ve got to find a way to resist their negative labels.
I talk about that in my latest book, “PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success.” I talk about the healthy way to build and maintain your self-esteem.
I saw clear examples of such labeling with two of our recent Vice Presidents — Quayle and Gore. Even though I was never a great fan of either one of them, I was amazed at how differently the media “labeled” the two.
The media, for example, did their best to label Quayle as an “idiot.” His words and actions were scrutinized with microscopic intensity for the express purpose of catching something that could be used to reinforce their label. By contrast, Gore was known for giving long, rambling, meaningless, confused answers to questions on “Meet The Press,” but no one challenged him because he was labelled an “intellectual.”
A VAIN ATTEMPT TO BUILD SELF-ESTEEM
You certainly do not want an anemic, weak-kneed self-esteem. And you don’t want to carry around the negative label someone else put on you. After all, how you feel about yourself is something you bring into every relationship, business conversation, activity, or project.
The question is — are you blessed with great self-esteem — or are you cursed by a less-than-adequate self-esteem? Most people could stand a boost in their self-esteem and self-confidence.
But most people try to get it in the wrong way. They think they’ll feel good about themselves IF others accept them. And they think they can get others to accept, approve, like, and love them IF they just change certain things about themselves. So they try to dress a certain way, or look a certain way — through diets, cosmetic surgery, or the latest fad. They choose the “right” careers, read the “right” books, belong to the “right” clubs, or attend the “right” churches. And some even think IF they take the “right” drugs or consume the “right” alcohol, they’ll have the friends that give them the self-esteem they so desperately need.
Well that approach doesn’t work. It’s even dangerous. I know. I tried that years ago.
At one point in my life, in a particular relationship, I felt worthless. My self-esteem hit rock bottom. I no longer felt valuable. And nothing I did or said seemed to win the approval of the other person.
Finally it hit me. I was more concerned about the acceptance and validation of the other person than I was with my own self-acceptance. I was leaving my own self-worth — and my effectiveness — in the hands of somebody else. It was downright stupid.
Have you ever done that?
Then you need to realize that whether or not someone likes you or accepts you has very little to do with YOU. But it has everything to do with the other person’s beliefs, values, expectations, opinions, and prejudges. When they judge you, they are only telling you who they are.
THE WAY TO SELF-ESTEEM
So that raises the question, “How do you get an invincible self-esteem? One simple answer is by attending my two-day, life-changing, record-breaking seminar called THE JOURNEY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY. Self-esteem is the very first thing we work on.
I’ve found that powerful self-esteem comes from ONE FOUNDATION and FOUR PILLARS. Just like a house that has to be built on a solid foundation, so does self-esteem. And in the same fashion, that house needs some pillars to hold up the walls and roof. Let’s talk about the FOUNDATION right now, and next week I’ll describe the PILLARS.
But I have to warn you. The FOUNDATION is going to sound awfully soft and touchy-feely for all you analytical types out there. Nonetheless, here it is. Good, strong, lasting self-esteem is built on the FOUNDATION of unconditional love and acceptance. When someone gives that to you, it’s so much easier to accept yourself. You’ve got something to start with, and you’ve got something to build on. It empowers and energizes you.
Bob Lenz tells a story that illustrates the power of unconditional love and acceptance. It came from a girl he met at a conference where he was speaking.
She was a high achiever who was student council president and on her way to becoming valedictorian. She was involved in her school, church and community. She had chosen to be drug and alcohol free throughout her high school years.
At some point in her senior year, however, the stress and pressure became too much for her. She made an unwise decision to drink. She came home at 1:00 a.m., feeling terrible and crying. She didn’t want to wake her parents, so she sat out on the porch.
Moments later, the door opened and there stood her dad. “What are you doing?” he asked.
When he saw her crying, he sat down next to her. She began to sob, saying, “Dad, I don’t care. I just don’t care if I’m valedictorian. I don’t care if I get to go to the college you went to. I don’t care if I get scholarships. I’m sick of the pressure!”
Her dad put his face down in his hands and rubbed his head. She expected him to be disgusted, and she expected some punishment, or least a lecture. But he surprised her when he looked up with a tear in his eye and said, “I’m proud of your accomplishments, and I want what’s best for you. I hope you go to my alma mater and are the top of your class. But even if you don’t, and even if you take a path I wouldn’t choose for you, there’s one thing you always need to remember: you’ll always be my girl. I love you and I accept you.”
“Really Dad? Really?” she asked. He nodded with a warm smile of approval. She left that encounter with her dad with the assurance that she was loved.
We all need that kind of unconditional love and acceptance from at least one other person. We need to know that we’re okay … just the way we are.
Now that doesn’t mean that you and I couldn’t be better or shouldn’t try to be better. That’s what being an effective, growing human being is all about. But you start the self-esteem building process when you learn you are totally, unconditionally loved and accepted by at least one other person.
Of course some of you are saying that sounds fine and dandy — if you have or have had such an affirming person in your life. But what if you’ve never had anyone give you that kind of love and acceptance? What if no one has ever layed the foundation for you?
No problem. If you excuse me for being politically incorrect, you can always get that unconditional love and acceptance from God. In the sight of God, you are a precious human being. He doesn’t need you to look younger, have blonde hair, be thinner, or smarter to accept you.
Yes, if you are thinner, you might live longer; and yes, if you are smarter, you might get a promotion or a better job. But, 100 years from now, none of that will matter. God simply tells you that you are loved unconditionally.
I’ll never forget the bumper strip I read one time. It said, “God loves you whether you like it or not.” How true!
In conclusion, the ONE FOUNDATION for great self-esteem, the foundation that everyone needs, is a good healthy dose of unconditional love and acceptance. And the best news of all, it’s available to everyone.
All I can say is … your self-esteem is too important to be left to chance … because you perform exactly as you see yourself.
Isn’t it time that you built a self-esteem … a self-confidence … that will never let you down?
Action: What negative labels have been put on you? As a child? A student? An adult? An employee? A manager? A husband or wife? A father or mother?
And which of those labels are you ready to discard?