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The Counterproductive Frustration of Trying to Build Self-Esteem


Good morning.  I think that it is wise to question widely held beliefs.  Today, I run a risk of offending some people.  All I ask is that you lay aside your emotional attachment to this issue and find this interesting.

 

     As a coach, I find it counterproductive to try to build up a client’s self-esteem as way to improve results.  My definition of self-esteem (for the purpose of this article) is that inward feeling and belief in oneself; a view of one’s own personal worth.

 

     My observation is that most people’s biggest obstacle to moving forward is that they don’t look objectively at results because they don’t want to feel bad about themselves.  They avoid taking an honest look at their current results and are at some level of denial concerning their situation. 

 

     Strong self-esteem advocates would say that low performers basically need to feel better about themselves, love themselves more, and be fully accepting of their current performance.  In fact, many in the self-esteem camp are opposed to objective measurement of performance and establishment of standards.  Thus we play games with no score so that everyone can feel like a winner!

 

     In my world, such a philosophy creates business owners and managers that dislike goal setting, budgets, and performance indicators.  All such tools expose how they are “falling short” or not achieving at an established level of performance.  It is very difficult to improve what you don’t measure.

 

     So how do I help underachievers, failing businesses, discouraged managers, and individuals that are falling short of the result that they desire?  It begins by fully recognizing and accepting the current situation.  Once a person clearly sees where they are, they can move through dissatisfaction and toward a new and better outcome.  They can logically create a new practice and approach and get into action.  It feels great to get moving again.

 

      A sustainable feeling of confidence doesn’t come from telling myself stories of my worthiness.  They come from the experience of learning and changing and moving toward a new level of performance and results.  It is certainly good and appropriate to be reminded of past accomplishment to engender encouragement.  The point is that true encouragement comes from achieving objective results, not internal affirmations and mantras that obscure reality.

 

     In my world, the best way to improve results is to get clarity about what’s happening now and then help my client create new and exciting projects to test and measure.  No psychobabble of self-esteem and worthiness needs to be added to this process.  It’s just running experiments using new ways of doing things (systems) until we find one that is effective.  The key is to continue to practice and assess the result as the process of improvement.  The good feelings come from the satisfaction of achievement.  It’s learning how to play a better game through practice. 

 

     It’s your choice.  If you’re not getting the results you want, you can waste time and create some frustration trying to whomp up a positive self-image, or just get honest about your current results and try a new practice and system.  If you want help from that point of view, call me!

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