by Timothy Baril
High self esteem is our judgement of what we’re worth as human beings, and how we feel about ourselves.
Nathaniel Branden in 1969 defined self-esteem as “the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.” According to Branden, self-esteem is the sum of self-confidence (a feeling of personal capacity) and self-respect (a feeling of personal worth). It exists as a consequence of the implicit judgment that every person has of their ability to face life’s challenges, to understand and solve problems, and their right to achieve happiness, and be given respect. (Wikipedia)
In our evaluation of our worth, our capability, our self respect, our integrity, what we’re essentially asking is “Do I believe in myself?”. The answer, for many of us, is No.
Believing in ourselves is very difficult. Especially when we do it alone.
We can do it. We can come to understand and practice key timeless and universal values which produce a life of integrity. We can take on challenges, overcome them, and see what we’re made of. Those bring amazing self confidence, and in the long term this is the foundation of high self esteem. But sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes, in the short term, things become difficult and we doubt ourselves.
At some point, even the strongest of us doubt ourselves. But the strong become successful because their long-term self esteem and the support of others are enough to encourage them to lift themselves out of despair, and remember to believe in themselves again. Their long term foundation is already in place.
But for many of us, our daily lives are spent feeling like we’re drowning in despair, lost in a pool of depression that we can’t climb out of because we don’t like ourselves. We don’t think we’re good enough for anything. We could never achieve anything or become better at anything in life. We look in the mirror and see bad people. This is because we haven’t had others believing in us and encouraging us. We don’t know what to believe in. We don’t live lives of integrity. We haven’t accumulated a string of successes we can look back at and say “Hey, look at all the goals I’ve reached. If I can do that, I can do more.” Instead, we look back at our life and see nothing but goals unattained and we say “I can’t do anything. I’m a loser.”
So we just drift along, and our negative self esteem seems justified in every piece of bad luck, every failure that we’ve actually helped make happen because we’re sabotaging our own lives. When we don’t believe in ourselves, we start focusing on the ways things can’t happen, on the dead ends, on bandaid solutions instead of the roots of problems, on the obstacles in our way and by doing so we actually put ourselves on the path to encounter all those things. We actually want to fail, and reinforce our negative self image. We’re actively choosing defeat. We give up on living.
But, if we believe in ourselves, know deep down that things really are possible for us, then we put ourselves on the right path. Will things still be difficult? Will challenges still arise? Absolutely. But our frame of mind will be completely different. This is when success becomes possible. This is when the journey becomes a happy one.
Imagine looking down a hallway and needing to get to the other end. But in the middle is a wall, blocking us. If we have low self esteem, our attitude is defeatist. “It’s a dead end. I give up.” If we believe in ourselves, we smile and immediately start looking for ways through. “Ok, there’s a wall. No problem, I can deal with that. Let’s see… go around it? Over it? Can I break through it?” And we enjoy the process of reaching the goal.
If we don’t believe in ourselves, we never find the solutions to our problems. Because we don’t even try. “What’s the point in trying? We’re just going to fail anyway.” But when we believe in ourselves, reaching our goals is simply finding the right way to get there. We know we’re getting there eventually, it’s a matter of learning how and getting it done. Unfortunately, waking up every morning and simply looking in the mirror and saying “From today, I believe in myself.” isn’t always going to be effective. Especially when we don’t already have a string of personal successes to remind ourselves what we’re capable of.
Believing in ourselves becomes much easier when someone else also believes in us. Positive evaluation by others increases our self-esteem. We realize that they see something in us that we don’t. They give us social recognition and emotional support. And when that happens, we believe ourselves capable of success, and worthy of becoming happy. And as we become more positive, it becomes easier for us to believe in others. It’s an amazing cycle.
However, it’s all well and good that we know having people who believe in us will help us feel better about ourselves, but how do we make that happen? We feel alone. We probably couldn’t name, for certain, anyone who really and truly believed in us. Except for perhaps our parents, and not everyone has that. So we have a chicken and egg type problem. Which comes first? How can we start believing in ourselves if it feels like no-one believe in us?
We have to focus on what we can control, and ignore what we can’t. We can’t control who supports us, who loves us, who believe in us. Those are other peoples’ choices. So let’s stop thinking about that right now. What can we control?
We control whom we believe in.
We choose the people we think are worth supporting. We choose the people we think deserve to be successful. We choose the people we think make the world a better place.
Imagine this: if every single person on the planet started to believe in just one other person, the majority of people would have someone that believed in them, and we’d make a massive difference in everyone’s lives.
But consider the 6 degrees of separation theory.
This is the theory that everyone is linked to every other person on Earth by just 6 different connections. Let’s harness that. Let’s each believe in 6 different people. Our parents, our siblings, our children, our friends, a teacher, a student, our doctor, a neighbour. Anyone. Let’s pick 6 different people and write, call or better yet walk right up to them and tell them that we believe in them. If we each do that, it means that every single human being will have someone who is actively believing in them. In fact, it will mean that several people will believe in each of us! Imagine how empowering that will be!
We choose 6 people specifically out of everyone we know, or even people we don’t know yet. Because they need it the most, or they have the most potential, or they have already touched us in a positive way. Because we see something in them worth encouraging. When we look at them, we know the world will be a little bit brighter when this person is happier and more successful. If they are able to smile a little more, and see the silver lining once in a while, they can make happiness and success happen for themselves. Because they’re awesome people, even if they don’t know it, even if they doubt themselves, even if life has been really hard for them lately. We see that. We see the real them. Out of the hundreds of people in our daily lives, we choose these six people to believe in the most.
And all of that holds equally true when someone comes up to us and tells us the same. When people come up to us and tell us that they support us – let’s believe them! Thank them. If need be, ask them why they believe in us. Feel strengthened because these people chose to believe in us with good reason, just like we picked 6 people we knew who deserved to be believed in.
Let’s call this movement:
The 6 People I Believe In
First, let’s think about everyone we know. Let’s pick a bunch that we think would be good candidates. If we can pick the right 6 right away, great. If not, let’s get out and talk to these people, find out what’s going on in their lives, how they’re feeling. Get to know them. Then choose the 6 most worthy and/or most in need.
Every single week, let’s contact these few people and remind them that we support them, that we believe in them because they’re good people. It could be as simple as “Hey, I love you.” or a three hour conversation over coffee. Because self esteem isn’t a constant, because it fluctuates with all the events in our lives, support needs to be regularly reinforced. We don’t just tell our kids once that we think they can do something and expect them to be bolstered forever. We keep telling them. We don’t tell someone at work that we believe in them and expect them to feel capable for the rest of their career. Careers have ups and downs just like marriages and families and every other part of life. We’ve got to keep telling people that we believe in them, and why.
Let’s blog about Our 6. Email them. Set reminders on our phones to call them every Sunday. Book regular meeting times with them, like dinner every week, a tennis game every month, a trip we always do together.
On a blog, which is read by the people we chose, and everyone around them: “I Believe in these 6 people, and here’s why.” Then update it and republish it once a month. Because it’s still relevant. And they still need to see what’s written there.
On someone’s Facebook wall, for the world to see every Monday morning on the way to work: “I believe in you! You’re one of My 6. Because you are courageous and smart and you make everyone laugh.”
What if you’re a traditional man and you’re thinking of a fellow tough guy, manly man? Believing in someone is more important than an embarrassment of sharing feelings that probably only exists in our minds, and we need to get past the stereotypical unwillingness to communicate emotionally. They need to hear us: “I know this might sound silly or wimpy or whatever, and I don’t care if you want to make fun of me for saying this, but there’s this movement called The 6 People I believe In. It’s a really good thing, and I just wanted to write and tell you that you’re one of My 6. And here’s why.”
In a phone call: “Mom, I just wanted to call and tell you how much I love you. I know how things have been so hard for you. With the divorce, and us kids not being around much, and your job giving you so much grief. But I wanted you to know that, no matter how awful I’ve been in the past, or the differences we’ve had, I support you. I know that deep down you’re a really good person and you’ve tried your best to be a great mom. And if you want to be, you can become even better. You deserve to be happy. We all make mistakes and things don’t always go perfectly, but no matter what, no matter the pain or anger that we’ve gone through, or what I’ve said before, I believe in you. I really believe in you, mom. And I want the best for you.”
Or just a simple text to a friend on the way to work each Wednesday: “Hey. I believe in you.”
Let’s share The 6 People I Believe In idea with others. Make it viral. Reblog this article. Make internet memes and posters for walls. See something about the idea on Facebook or Tumblr or Twitter? Let’s share it. Make a YouTube video. Write about it in the newspaper and on TV. Make a smartphone and tablet app. Let’s make it a habitual part of our lifestyle so that others see it and want to make it a part of their own. Make it part of the workplace and share it with coworkers. Is 6 not enough? What if our heart is just bursting with all the wonderful things we want to tell people? Then make it the 12 or 50 People I Believe In. But let’s just do it.
Let’s take this amazing idea and make it happen. Idea + Action = Results.
We must not expect anything in return. Remember, this is all about giving. It’s not about reciprocating. Many, perhaps all of the 6 we choose will choose other people. That’s fine. Maybe they happen to know 6 people who need to be believed in more than we do. We must accept this and make peace with it, because that’s perfectly natural. We must not resent. We must not put conditions on whether or not we’re going to believe in someone else. We just choose to believe in others.
And the people we choose or who choose us may change over time. That’s ok too. As our self esteem goes up, someone else may be in greater need of a boost. Let our supporter shift their attention, knowing that they’re still there, and that someone else will come along eventually and believe in us.
We can’t focus on how many people contact us and tell us they support us. We can’t feel arrogant because right now we’re overwhelmed with emails and calls from dozens of friends. Quantity of relationships is not nearly as important as quality, and this is never a contest with anyone else. We’re not better than someone else because 6 people called to say they believe in us, but only two called them. Likewise, we can’t feel hopeless and alone because it feels like no-one is out there getting behind us.
We may find it easier to choose people to believe in when we find them less threatening. According to the Self Evaluation Maintenance Theory we’re prone to Reflection and Comparison with others. If someone else is defined by the same trait as we define ourselves, we tend to compare, and our mutual success can cause us to compare ourselves unfavourably to each other, lowering self esteem. For example, if we both define ourselves as soccer players, when one of us becomes more successful, the other feels bad. However, if one person is defined as a soccer player and the other as a musician, we find it much easier to support the defining trait of our friend because it’s non-threatening. So, when picking Our 6, it might be better to pick people we don’t feel in direct competition with, so we don’t end up in a Comparison relationship that undermines our unconditional support.
That said, Reflection is important. If we are defining ourselves in the same positive way, someone else’s success can make us feel like we’re sharing in that success and capable of it ourselves. For example, if two people define themselves first and foremost by their family relationship, success by one sibling is positively reflected by another. If two people define themselves as being part of a baseball team, success by one team member becomes our success too. Because our identity of being on the same team and with the same goals overrides any competitive aspect of sharing the same defining skills. So, when choosing Our 6, we should consider the type of relationship we have, and think about choosing some people we have a Reflective relationship with.
The purpose of The 6 People I Believe In is simply to give. To focus on just that. That alone will accomplish wonders, and if there were no other result than the spark of hope we put into other people, that would be enough.
But the act of giving alone will also bring us self worth from within. We’ll believe in ourselves because we’ll be doing something worthwhile, something that improves peoples lives. We’ll have a core belief in something fundamentally good and effective and the act of believing in others will help sustain us even when we feel alone in the dark. No matter how bad things feel in our own lives, there will still be a light within us, a light from our giving, a light that we alone make and can have pride in. A light that’s as bright as we want it to be. A light that takes away the loneliness and darkness for others. For that we will be proud. We will raise our heads and smile and our own darkness will recede.
- Firmly believe in certain values and principles, and are ready to defend them even when finding opposition, feeling secure enough to modify them in light of experience.
- Are able to act according to what they think to be the best choice, trusting their own judgment, and not feeling guilty when others don’t like their choice.
- Do not lose time worrying excessively about what happened in the past, nor about what could happen in the future. They learn from the past and plan for the future, but live in the present intensely.
- Fully trust in their capacity to solve problems, not hesitating after failures and difficulties. They ask others for help when they need it.
- Consider themselves equal in dignity to others, rather than inferior or superior, while accepting differences in certain talents, personal prestige or financial standing.
- Take for granted that they are an interesting and valuable person for others, at least for those with whom they have a friendship.
- Resist manipulation, collaborate with others only if it seems appropriate and convenient.
- Admit and accept different internal feelings and drives, either positive or negative, revealing those drives to others only when they choose.
- Are able to enjoy a great variety of activities.
- Are sensitive to feelings and needs of others; respect generally accepted social rules, and claim no right or desire to prosper at others’ expense.
- Can work toward finding solutions and voice discontent without belittling themselves or others when challenges arise.
What will happen when we start telling people that we believe in them? They’ll believe it too. And they’ll make better decisions, fight harder, love better, live with more integrity. People will feel that good things are possible and they will become more engaged. We’ll change politics, make economies more fair, stop killing each other. Yes, even accomplishments of that magnitude are possible when we wake up in the morning and believe in ourselves, and believe that we make a difference, not just in our own lives, but the lives of people around us, and in turn, the world.
It is in all of us to give. It is part of our nature as social animals. The act of believing in others is part of having others believe in us, and both help us to believe in ourselves. It starts with being as simple as believing we are capable of learning something, and then creating the opportunity for learning it. Or believing that we’re capable of being a good partner to someone, and then making that potential a reality. Or believing that our ideas matter and then having the confidence to share them.
When we believe that other people are capable of all this, and they believe that we are, the next thing you know everyone has hope. Everyone has strength. Everyone has courage. Such greatness we could accomplish if we had these simple things! With believe in each other, everything becomes possible.
Self Esteem – Wikipedia – READ THIS
There are a great many articles on Self Esteem, Believing in Ourselves and Believing in Others. Look around the web for more.