Emma Ranson Bellamy looks at the causes of low and high self-esteem and sets a five minute test to evaluate levels of self-worth revealing just what can be done to raise the bar when needed.
I have spoken to a number of coaches about the role of self esteem. Not one of them had experienced a client who had gone to them with self-esteem problems but they all said that the coaching had highlighted a lack of it.
For example, the issue of self-esteem came up in a recent coaching session when I asked an individual to describe the people he regarded in the organisation as "high flyers".
He gave them attributes that he regarded as high self-esteem characteristics, such as: saying the right thing, looking the part, always delivering what they say, always being on time, always looking like they know what they are doing.’
Where does it come from?
Self-esteem originates in the beliefs system. If you have been told positive things about yourself and genuinely believe them to be true due to your own experiences then you will have a high self esteem. If this is the opposite, if you have been told negative things and believe these to be true as your experiences have verified these beliefs you will have a lower self esteem.
In my client's experience those individuals with the attributes he mentioned had those beliefs about themselves, which in turn was backed up by those around them. My client on the other hand did not necessarily feel or think the opposite, he just didn’t have a particularly high opinion of himself and neither did those around him. It's a type of self-fullfilling prophecy.
Here’s a quick five-minute test. Write 20 statements about your self, the first 10 starting "I am…" the second 10 being "I am not…’ I’ll tell you what it all means at the end and where on the self esteem spectrum you fall.
Raising your self esteem
People with high self esteem use language in the positive. They say "challenge", rather than "problem", "I won’t" rather than "I can’t", "I could" rather than "I should". They are totally responsible for their actions rather than being a victim of circumstance, they look back only to learn lessons for the future from the past rather than dwell on what could, should or would have been.
Look at the language you use. Make it a priority today to only use words and phrases that empower you, listen to yourself and your colleagues. Try affirmations as a way to re-programme the mind to do not only what you tell it (it will do that anyway) but what you want it to understand (there is a difference).
Affirmations are always in the positive and the present such as: "I am a non-smoker" or "I always deliver my promises". Say that to yourself every morning when you arrive at your desk after another bad journey and see what effect it has on the way you feel about yourself and others feel about you.
How many of your "I am…" statements were positive, eg "I am a good friend"? How many of them were factual and needed no effort to think of them, eg "I am a mother"? How many represented achieved goals eg "I am a home owner"? If the majority of your statements were positive and goal attributed then your self-esteem is high. If you have more than five that are negative statements, you have a tendency for low esteem.
What about the "I am not…" statements? If you were unable to complete them all this is a good sign and shows that you actually find it hard to consistently think negative thoughts about yourself. If you were able to complete some of them and they reflect things that you have not done which you would have liked eg "I am not a home owner/ board director" then you need to see what is stopping you from getting the things you want. Finally, are the final statements negative or statements of fact: eg "I am not boring", "I am not stupid"?
Ebb and flow
Self-esteem is ever present in everything we do. It ebbs and flows through you and can be effected by your self and others to both positive and negative advantage. No matter who we are, what level in our careers or personal life we have attained, we can all do with a bit of self-esteem checking. As Adlai Stevenson said: “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse!”
Emma can be contacted at [email protected]