Low Self-Esteem/Image – It Can Hold You Back
“No, I can’t do that.” Or, “I just can’t picture myself pursuing something like that.” Another similar response is, “Yeah, maybe someday and somehow.” Those are statements I made either to myself and/or a response to others to a statement they have made. I had a very low self-esteem/image until I was in my late 20s.
Self-esteem includes a confidence in your worth and/or abilities. Self-image is your perception of your abilities, appearance, and personality. While there are some differences in their application, they work together to hold you back from performing at your best. For this blog, I will treat each as virtually the same. The similarity in each is that they define what and who you think you are. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are right.” Your self-esteem will largely determine what you might say in a situation where you would make a self-assessment statement similar to this.
A low self-esteem and/or self-image might come about through two means. Everyone has strengths. Some people do not believe that and others just don’t know what their strength(s) is/are. Everyone is good at something. That “something” brings satisfaction of having completed that task/assignment/chore. What makes you happy and satisfied? It doesn’t matter how small you think that “something” might be. What makes you sing, dream, and/or happy just for having the thought of having accomplished that “something?” By identifying that, you might at least be starting to identify your strength(s). Some of us are task oriented while others are people oriented. If you have not yet identified your strength(s), try starting by thinking whether completing a task or helping a person is more satisfying. Or, possibly they are equally satisfying. Think further/deeper (i.e., continue to peel the onion some more) to determine what type tasks or what aspect of tasks or what aspect of helping people is most satisfying. Continue the thought process until you can identify most specifically what is very gratifying to you.
Then, ask others who know you well what they think your skills/talents/strengths are. They will likely affirm what you just discovered. If they identify something different, ask that person how they came about that thought. They may have observed you in a role you had forgotten about. Or, it is possible that others know you better than you because of any subconscious self-doubts you might have. The subconscious works in self-defeating ways. A deeper topic for another blog.
So, once you have identified a strength/talent/skill/passion, how do you work through a low self-esteem/image? For me, I had to accomplish something of which I was passionate. I had a goal to fly fighter aircraft with the U.S. Air Force. That had its inception of thought as a pre-teen watching an airshow at Andrews Air Force Base, MD. As I watched, I thought, “I want to fly those type aircraft. I will do whatever it takes to achieve that.” For the next approximately 12 years, I kept that passion silent as I didn’t want anyone to possibly remind me that I had a vision and failed to achieve it. To achieve that goal, I knew I had to complete high school and have a college degree. My low self-image/esteem made me think I may never qualify to graduate at either level. If you knew my high school and college grades, you might think I am not qualified to speak with or write to you!
I struggled through high school and college. I did qualify to fly with the Air Force. While in pilot training, I became focused (some would say totally obsessed) with learning how to fly. My wife was my chair mate as we practiced flying and learned emergency procedures in the living room of our apartment. Nothing distracted me from what was becoming a lifetime goal.
As my focus became a reality through flight training, my self-confidence increased such that the positive achievement that was occurring in real time overcame the low self-esteem/image I had that made me think negative thoughts. After some time, I began to think without any arrogance, “I can do this.” The end result of 53 weeks of training was the dream of my life to that point. I was selected to fly the F-4 Phantom. From the inception of the dream to fly to the reality of being awarded my wings was about 12 years.
Persistence and focus. Everything worthwhile is uphill. Anything that comes easily can leave quickly. Persistence is a keep attribute in working through any adversity and/or obstacles. Persistence is that quality that says nothing will keep me from achieving my worthwhile goal. The focus helped me to avoid chasing “shiny objects” that serve merely as a distraction.
Did the obsession to achieve make me miss out on something? Possibly. However, whatever I may have missed out on was far less important and significant than attaining my life purpose goal. I had become certain was pursuing a life satisfying goal that was fulfilling a passion.
Do you possibly have a low self-esteem/image that is keeping you from achieving your very best? Many people do. That is not reason to be ashamed or otherwise feel inadequate. Most of all, you are not a failure because of anything of the past. Assess where you are today and move out. Associate with those who are socio-economically where you want to be in life. They will help inspire you to achieve. You need to associate with those who share your values who will help you get to where you want to be in life.
Let me know what you think. I hope you take the time to share your thoughts. Many of us have “stuff” we must overcome. Let’s work together to achieve your goals.
About This Contributor
Ron Cooper (Saint Leonard, MD)
ENGAGINING, AUTHENTIC, HUMOROUS, AND CREDIBLE.
I advance people and organizations by challenging the status quo through quality thinking. I leverage my 22 years Air Force fighter pilot and command, executive leadership, and certifications in leadership and human behavior to add value to people.en