Are any of you from a perfectly functional family? One of the interesting and sometimes fun characteristics among all human beings is that we are all uniquely dysfunctional. Maybe some of us more than others, but that is what makes us wonderful. Being aware and understanding of those dysfunctions are the keys to working through them and not using them as an excuse to justify why we do not have to be accountable for our own behaviors. We all have our “stuff”. I have mine and you have yours, but there are two types of people we see everyday. The first are those who use their stuff to justify why they are miserable, cannot perform their job, demonstrate disrespect toward others, are consistently negative, etc. In some cases, even use their stuff to rationalize why they do not have to take care of the children they bring into this world. Then you have the second type of individual who recognizes their stuff is an opportunity to grow, learn and become an emotionally stronger person. Which one am I? Which one are you? If I asked you to reflect on your life for just a brief moment, is it not the greatest challenges, disappointments, losses, failures and self-doubts we experience, that when we persevere through them, teach us what we are capable of achieving? Without the hardships in life how do we then have an opportunity to really assess and test what our values and character are composed of.
It is time to “Meet The Parents”. In this comedy movie and the sequel “Meet The Fockers”, Gaylord Focker and Jack Byrns are uniquely different, coming from backgrounds and having perspectives that are dynamically in contrast with one another. However in the end, the Focker’s and the Byrn’s dysfunctions and differences are overcome by recognizing common values, mutual respect, acceptance, a priority of happiness for their children, and the love between their respective children for each other. The movie is also indicative of how our parents significantly influence our sense of self worth. In a previous blog, Self-Esteem – “The Gift Myth” I mentioned that I would share that how we are parented affects our sense of self-respect, and creates the two major fears that all of us possess. As you may recall self-esteem, the self-respect you have for you, is earned not given. It is earned through our behaviors, and those behaviors are based on an understanding of our core values. However, how we were parented still influences our understanding of who and what we are. One of the first fears generated in our lives results from the conflict between destructive criticism and corrective discipline. Destructive criticism is the disciplining of a behavior in a way that is demeaning and degrading to the child being disciplined. An example of this would be harsh degrading screaming and/or physical punishment. We have all been exposed to varying degrees of destructive criticism. If a child is exposed to consistent levels of destructive criticism for making a mistake, then the child develops of fear of making mistakes, or a fear of failure. We all fear failure to a degree but depending on the strength of our beliefs and understanding of our own skills and core values, will determine how much we let that fear of failure dictate our performance and our decision making ability. If you have ever been around a person who cannot make a decision because the fear of failure is so great it prevents them from making a decision, it is a reflection of their lack of self-respect. They lack the internal strength to stand up for their convictions and beliefs, because they doubt their own sense of self and security with their own core values. How could they be decisive? The second fear results from the conflict between conditional love and unconditional love. Unconditional love is just the pure giving of love to others without conditions. Conditional love is when conditions are place on the love provided. When a child is exposed to conditional love they develop the fear of not being loved or the fear of rejection. If you have ever been around a person who cannot make a decision until everyone else says okay, it is once again a reflection of their lack of self-respect for the same rational as above. Fear of failure is fear of self, and fear of rejection is fear of others. The key to overcoming these fears is to first understand them in our lives and how they influence our ability to make decisions. They are not harmful things when we understand that they are a catalyst to force us to take ownership for our actions and substantiate an understanding of our own core values. That will provide us the internal strength to be decisive and emotionally strong when challenged with difficult situations and circumstances.
Acknowledge and celebrate the dysfunctions, the stuff, in our lives. Nobody has his or her act perfectly together, and it is life’s journey that can be exciting and rewarding depending on how you prepare for and execute the trip. So pack the stuff you need and discard the stuff that weighs you down. Know that you are the decision maker for you own life. There may be, and have been, influences that push us in certain directions but, it is our self-respect and strength in our core values that stem the tide and allow us to continue on a course that is positive, constructive and fulfilling.
Now go get that Lomi Lomi massage.
During the course of defining, explaining and discussing self-esteem in my training sessions, I actually apologize to my younger audience in regard to this important principle of success. Why? Over the past twenty plus years we (baby boomers) have created a generation of young people who, in many cases, believe it is more important to feel good then do good. When my two children were attending elementary school, I can vividly recall when the new fad for improving education was to provide our students a greater sense of self-esteem. How do you accomplish that, tell them how wonderful they are? I can share with you, enhancing self-esteem is not putting a purple star on a five-year-old student’s forehead and saying, “feel good about yourself”. Those may be tools for encouragement, but it does not instill self-esteem.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, “self-esteem” is defined as “Pride in oneself”. Upon further page turning in the dictionary, “pride” is defined as “A sense of one’s own dignity or value; self-respect.” How does one attain that sense of dignity, value and self-respect in their life? Does some spiritual entity come down from the sky and pronounce you a person of self-respect? I think not. A great excuse I hear often to justify relinquishing ones personal responsibility is, “I have low self-esteem.” In a professional and empathetic way, my usual response is, “What are you doing about it?”
A sense of dignity, value and self-respect / pride in oneself / self-esteem, is not given to a child, or an adult, it is earned. It can only be earned based on day-to-day behaviors. These behaviors should be based on an individual’s understanding, or at least an awareness, of what their core values are. Those core values are established, or not established, in a child by their parents, or the family structure that they are raised in. This is an example of how core values, accountability, and self-esteem are interdependent of one another. It also provides the evidence needed to understand the relationship between ones level of self-esteem and the impact of peer pressure. Without an understating of what I stand for and believe in (my core values), I am less likely to hold my self accountable, more likely to be indecisive when my sense of self is challenged, and as a result, behave in a way that does not reinforce a sense of pride (one’s own dignity or value; self respect) i.e. self-esteem.
A key indicator of an individual’s level of self-esteem in the workplace is their ability or inability to make decisions. Two major fears that all human beings have are the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. Fear of failure is fear of self, and fear of rejection is fear of others. These fears stem from how we were parented (in a later blog). If the fears of failure and rejection are so strong that it prevents an individual from being decisive, it can be a reflection of their lack of self-esteem. Why? The individual does not have the inner strength to stand up for their convictions and beliefs, because they do not know what their core values are, as a result they doubt their own value, and therefore, how could they possibly be decisive.
Instill in your children, and those you influence, that a fulfilling sense of self-esteem is earned and based on behaviors that reinforce their sense of self-worth and self-respect. Those behaviors should be a positive reflection and understanding of their core values. The key benefit to earning self-esteem, for young and old alike, is increased self-confidence, and a greater ability to be strongly decisive when challenged with tough decisions, both personally and professionally.