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Love Yourself - Self Esteem

"Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world." - Lucille Ball

So I’ve been thinking about my daughter Jenna quite a bit this week since it is the one year anniversary since her wedding last year. I was recalling that she had many women heroes she admired as she grew up, including people like Maya Angelou, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lucille Ball. Something each of her heroes had in common was that each overcame hardship and rejection, each had eventually become quite successful, and each had many good quotes on self-esteem.

While she was growing up in our house Jenna made it a habit to post all around her living space many of the inspiring quotes from the women leaders she admired. I used to see quotes taped to the bathroom mirror, above the visor in her car, on her computer monitor and desk, and on personal things she owned. I realized Jenna kept those inspirations around her because she was often rejected by people, and I think that may have been because we moved quite a bit and she was frequently “the new kid” or sometimes I think it was because she was academically gifted or because she was physically attractive. The things I would have expected to make her popular often seemed to work against her.

I asked Jenna once how it was that she kept such a positive attitude even when she would encounter someone being mean to her in a social setting. She said in those cases she thought of the fictional character Bob Wiley in the movie “What About Bob?” who said: “I treat people as if they were telephones. If I meet somebody who I don’t’ think likes me, I say to myself, ‘Bob, this one’s just temporarily out of order. You know, don’t break the connection, just hang up and try again.” Jenna even made a fictitious FaceBook page once calling herself Bob Wiley with all sorts of inspirational quotes and anecdotes of ways she had made something positive out of something negative that happened in her life.

All that had me thinking about the research which shows repeatedly that we always overestimate how much other people are thinking about us. The reality is that most of the time no one cares! This overestimation of how much others think about us leads us to undue inhibitions and lower quality of life. A great way to remind yourself of this well-established fact in research is to look around if you find yourself feeling bad about yourself, and as you look at others, realize that most often they are battling many of the same thoughts about themselves.

For me, I think in case I ever had any risk of becoming over-inflated with myself, many forces including luck, fate, karma, and God found plenty of ways to humble me on a regular basis J The great thing about humility though is it’s also quite liberating because you find you have less and less to be embarrassed about. A great example of that is once when I was the new Director of Administration in a large hospital, I spent my first day on the job walking the entire complex and meeting all the staff I was responsible for. After about three hours I made my way back to my office and on the way there I went to the restroom only to realize my fly was already down and my white shirt tail was sticking out of my black pants. When I reached my office, I told the new secretary “I’m so mortified! I think my fly may have been down as I was meeting people!” to which she replied: “Yes it was but the whole hospital loved it and said you seem like a down to earth leader” and then she laughed hysterically. It was a great way for a new team to see I was just me and I had nothing to prove or put on false heirs about.

On the flip side of how we think of ourselves and how others may be thinking of us (when we now know most often they are not!), it’s good to remind ourselves not to judge others. Because so often we may be quite mistaken in our assumptions. You can challenge yourself on this by trying all week to not judge but merely observe. So instead of thinking “that person who cut me off in traffic is a real jerk” we can try thinking instead “wow they must be in a real hurry for some reason.”

So, remember if you find yourself in that mental prison of constantly worrying about the approval of others, or what others may be thinking, you are really living in a mental prison built entirely by you and guarded by you. If you are stuck in that prison of shame and self-judgment, remember that you alone hold the key to your own freedom. Or better stated in the words of the Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu: “Disregard what others think and the prison door will swing open.”

Have a great week!

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