DOES STRONG SELF ESTEEM = PEAK PERFORMANCES?
Our society encourages us to think in terms of winners and losers, success and failure, champions and underachievers.
Experts tell us to:
“Think like a winner!”
“Winners do this!”
“Losers do that!”
If you get hooked by the story you’re a winner or a success there are definitely short term benefits.
You will feel good about yourself for awhile.
Especially if you compare yourself to some “loser,” “failure” or “quitter.”
How long does that last?
Our minds inevitably locate another person to compare ourselves to and then our minds call us the loser or failure.
Very common among successful professionals and athletes is a “fragile self-esteem” or fixed mindset.
You believe it is your skills and talents that make you great.
If you achieve your goals, then you believe the “I’m a winner” story and you feel good about yourself.
But the moment your performance drops or you fail, then your story changes to “I’m a loser.”
So the winner/loser mindset creates a desperate need to achieve, fueled by the fear of becoming a loser or a failure.
These leads to chronic stress, performance anxiety and burnout.
THE SELF-ESTEEM MYTH
We were taught to believe that having a high self-esteem make us happier, healthier and more successful.
If you believe that is true, then you probably believe the following statements are true:
- Boosting your self-esteem will improve your performance.
- People with high self-esteem are more likable, have better relationships and make a better impression on others.
- People with high self-esteem make better leaders.
The American Psychological Association actually commissioned a study to find out if the claims above were true.
What did they find?
All 3 were false!
They found high self-esteem correlates with:
- Egotism, narcissism and arrogance.
- Prejudice and discrimination.
- Self-deception and defensiveness when faced with honest feedback.
Then what is the alternative?
Self-acceptance, self-awareness and self-motivation are far more important than self-esteem.
Why is self-acceptance so important?
Because when we step out of our comfort zones, things don’t always go as planned.
You will make mistakes and screw up.
That is a fact of life and if you have fixed mindset you make it mean there is something wrong with you.
In a growth mindset, you understand that making mistakes is an essential part of learning.
However when mistakes actually happen, our minds are not so agreeable.
The mind’s default setting is to beat yourself up.
DOES BEATING YOURSELF UP WORK?
Flogging yourself for “failure” is largely a waste of time.
It saps your strength and energy and makes it hard to grow and learn from the experience.
A far more empowering response is self acceptance, which basically means letting go of judgment.
ACCESS YOUR ACTIONS
When you make a mistake or things go wrong, its important to access your actions.
Reflect on what you did and your results.
When you consider the results you ask yourself, “Is what I did working to give me a rich and fulfilling life?”
This is very different from judging ourselves.
Here is an example:
THE WINNER/LOSER MINDSET
Assessing your actions: “When I got caught up in worrying about the shot and lost my focus, I threw poorly and missed the basket.”
Judging yourself: “I am such a lousy basketball player.”
LETTING GO OF SELF-JUDGMENT
Self-acceptance does NOT mean you do not pay attention to the way you behave and the impact of your actions, it just means you let go of the judgement.
This is difficult to do since it is a pattern you probably started in childhood.
But what you can do is unhook yourself from self-judgment.
HOW TO UNHOOK
If your mind is telling you how deficient you are, notice it and name it JUDGMENT.
Even if your mind is telling you how wonderful you are name it JUDGMENT. You don’t want to hold on tightly to the positive or negative self-judgment, you want to let them all go.
You can also be lighthearted with your naming.
For example, when you notice positive self-judgment, you could playfully say to yourself, “That’s a wonderful compliment. Thanks mind!”
And when you have a negative one, you could say, “The ‘I’m not good enough’ story. Thanks mind!”
JUST A STORY
Whether your mind’s description is glowing praise or a scathing criticism, the words it uses are nothing more than words.
You get to decide if the words are helpful and lead you to a fuller and happier life.
You probably notice your self judgments change by the day and even by the minute…
I’m a loving mother or I’m a horrible mother.
I’m an amazing coach or I’m a lousy coach.
I’m a winner or I’m a loser.
I’m successful or I’m a failure.
See the word for what they are – just a story.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
What matters most in life is what you do, what you stand for and the way you behave.
This is far more important than the stories you believe about yourself.
At your funeral, do you want people saying, “What I admired about him was that he was really there for me when I needed him, he supported me and encouraged me” or “What I really admired about him was his high opinion of himself?”
“One important thing I have learned is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and taking one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous.” ~ Margaret Fontey
POINTING THE FINGER
Are you quick to judge others? To label them as quitters, losers or failures?
If you want to let go of judging yourself so harshly you have to do the same for others.
Life is easier if you recognize there are no such people as quitters, losers or failures.
They are just human beings – who like you – sometimes quit, sometimes lose and sometimes fail.
Just like there are no such people as winners, champions or successes.
They are humans just like you and me who sometimes win and are successful in certain areas of their lives.
Now your mind might be saying, “Yes, but others succeed more than I do or I fail more than others.”
Come back to the question, “If I hold tightly to those thoughts, will it help me be who I want to be and do what I want to do?”
AFFIRMATIONS DON’T WORK
This is very different from repeating positive affirmations. “I completely accept myself.”
The self esteem research shows that when people with low self esteem made affirmations of self-acceptance they usually felt worse.
It got them thinking of all the things they couldn’t truly accept about themselves.
Perfectionism is when you bully yourself with thoughts like, “I have to be perfect. I can’t make mistakes. If I can’t do it well there is no point in trying.”
If you let those thoughts boss you around you become reluctant to try anything new and probably feel stressed most of the time.
You feel continually disappointed, because you don’t live up to your own high standards.
You replay and dwell on all your past failures.
Again you need to stop yourself and ask yourself: has this thought hooked you and pulled you away from living the life you want.
Your thoughts are a choice.
You can notice them, name them and neutralize or change them.
HOW TO CHANGE
Do you need help learning how to notice, name and neutralize your thoughts?
Click on the graphic below and lets get you clear on what is holding you back.