Seeds of Greatness: Roots & Wings
Course 2 – Core Values – Positive Self-Esteem
Please listen to the audio file first in each section as it contains greater detail than the written text. Then follow the instructions, if any, at then end of each lesson.
Lesson 1: Healthy Self-Esteem
Healthy self-esteem is a deep-down, inside-the-soul belief in your own worth, regardless of your age, looks, ethnicity, gender, religion, background, or status. It encompasses the idea that you have potential for success and fulfillment, and that you are worth investing in, learning, gaining skills, and performing a valuable service to society in your own, unique way.
Self-esteem gives you permission to believe you can improve and better yourself, and becomes your passport, allowing you the freedom to journey as far as you dare, to seek a destiny worthy of your highest aspirations. It embraces where you want to go, rather than where you are coming from. It allows you to feel deserving of a new, healthier environment or lifestyle, instead of being a mirror or victim of your early or current circumstances. It is one of the most important roots in the healthy growth of every human being.
Parents and children in today’s global society have a confused concept of self-esteem. The messages from all forms of media suggest that self-esteem is having a big ego, and being able to assert ourselves as important in a celebrity-oriented, materialistic culture. Many people wrongly assume that self-esteem is the way we look, how much money we have, and how popular we are. In other words, the essence of self-esteem is lost and mixed up with self-indulgence and self-absorption. Instead of non-material, inner value, the concept of self-esteem has become narcissistic, hedonistic and more associated with external “lifestyle” rather than feeling worthy of happiness and fulfillment.
Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves and our potential, regardless of our status in society. Healthy self-esteem is one of the most important and basic qualities of a winning human being. We want to be able to say, “I like myself. Given my parents and my background, I’m glad I’m me. I realize I may not be the best-looking in the group, but I always look my best in every group. I’d rather be me than anyone else in the world.” This is the self-talk of a winner. Winners have developed a strong sense of self-worth, regardless of their status. They weren’t necessarily born with these good feelings, but they’ve learned to like themselves through practice.
Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we should view ourselves in terms of our own abilities, interests, and goals. We can begin by making a conscious effort to upgrade our attitudes, education, habits, and personal development skills. We always project on the outside, how we feel on the inside. Self-acceptance, as we are right now, is the key to authentic self-esteem—seeing ourselves as worthwhile, changing, imperfect, growing individuals, and knowing that although we aren’t born with equal mental and physical uniforms, we are born with the equal right to feel deserving of excellence according to our own internal standards. A healthy challenge is to accept ourselves as we are today and also form an image or vision of the person we are becoming. This future projection in no way detracts from having positive feelings about ourselves at this moment but gives us the inspiration to constantly improve and become as fully actualized as possible.
Authentic self-esteem relates to our core values. Core values radiate like rings, as when a leaf falls in a pond. Individuals who are self-absorbed or self-centered constantly seek approval from and power over others. They try to impress others with their worth, rather than express concern for others’ well-being. Their outward appearances usually involve ways to hide their real thoughts and intentions. There is a paradox here: While we should feel worthy of the best, we should not feel more worthy than the rest. In other words, we were born with every right to experience success, but being our best doesn’t mean we are superior to others.
Those with authentic self-esteem, who are value-centered, rather than self-centered, give of themselves freely and graciously, constantly seeking to empower others. Open and modest, they have no inclination or need for conceit, the opposite of core value. Feeling comfortable about who they are, and not needing to constantly talk about their victories or line their walls with associations with celebrities or their awards, people with core values spend much of their time “paying value” to others. When praised, they accept the value paid and share the spotlight. When they make mistakes, they view them as learning experiences and accept responsibility for their actions.
Authentic self-esteem can’t be bought, won in an arena, measured by a stock portfolio, or in a fashion model’s figure or an entertainment star’s profile. Self-esteem is a belief that you deserve to be happy and successful. It is as necessary for human development as oxygen, as basic as the carbon from which diamonds are formed. While some people think diamonds are so coveted because of their glittering, brilliant appearance, their intrinsic value lies in the fact they are very rare, almost indestructible, and hold their value indefinitely.
The simple truth is that if you have no internalized feelings of value, you have nothing to share with others. You can need them, depend on them, look for security in them—but you can’t share or give feelings of love and value to anyone else unless you possess those feelings yourself. The diamond is inside, at your core, as an uncut gemstone of priceless potential, waiting to be mined, shaped, and polished.
Lesson 2 – Low and High Self-Esteem
Feelings of low self-esteem lead people to spend a great deal of time and effort trying to run away from and avoid pain. Unfortunately, they often turn to drugs, alcohol, and other destructive behaviors to mask their feelings of unworthiness. Such escape responses, of course, don’t solve problems, but only magnify them. As Freud observed, low self-esteem creates an inner dialogue that says, “I can’t do anything right.”
Individuals with low self-esteem find it difficult to value themselves. Terrorists, criminals, abusers, bullies, and thieves express their inadequacies by victimizing others in an attempt to feel powerful. Children with low self-esteem put themselves down and speak in negative terms about how things are going in their own lives and about life in general. They have a strong need for recognition and approval. Because they feel inferior, they are very self-conscious about other people’s opinions of them and are very vulnerable to criticism. Often they will join a gang or negative peer group to gain attention, even if that attention is in the form of ridicule or punishment.
Other telltale signs of low self-esteem include boasting, exaggerating, and lying; using aggression to demonstrate their presence; being overly impressed with material things and popular culture; being resentful, complaining and rebelling against authority and displaying bizarre dress codes and poor personal hygiene as defiance against society’s normal standards.
Healthy self-esteem helps us adapt to the challenges of everyday life in a volatile, insecure world, where change is the rule. It gives us strength to deal with stressful situations and unforeseen problems. The more we build our authentic self-esteem, the less we view ourselves as victims of change or fate. Instead, we build the foundations for the future as individuals with strong core values who can deal effectively with almost any situation.
Healthy self-esteem in kids can help them make positive decisions in school. If they are interested in a certain field of study, they feel worthy of the challenge in learning something new, even though they may struggle in the beginning. It can help them decide to sit in the front row, ready to participate and interact, rather than hoping to blend in, unnoticed, somewhere in the back of the classroom.
Children with authentic self-esteem are more able to:
- Admit mistakes and defeats, without feeling inferior
- Take differences of opinion, without feeling rejected
- Accept compliments or gifts by saying “thank you,” without self-critical excuses and without feeling guilty or obligated
- Laugh at their awkwardness and errors, without being self-ridiculing
- Feel free to express their opinions, even if they differ from peers, teachers or parents
- Enjoy spending time by themselves, without feeling lonely or isolated
- Let others be right or wrong, without always attempting to correct them
- Appreciate others’ achievements, without being jealous or spiteful
- Tell a story or converse with others, without bragging or trying to be the life of the party
- Smile often and remain cheerful, regardless of daily setbacks
Research has shown that individuals who develop authentic self-esteem go after their professional and personal goals with enthusiasm and tenacity. They are not road-blocked by people or circumstances. They tend to seek and find more demanding careers, that challenge them and require constant skill building and continuing education.
There is no doubt that our inborn talents, personalities, and other genetic characteristics influence our self-esteem. There is also compelling evidence that our early childhood experiences set the stage for our values and belief systems. However, it is also true that some people who are raised in a seemingly ideal environment, with much nurturing and love, grow into insecure adults who are unsuccessful and unhappy in their lives. Conversely, others who grow up in bleak, unhealthy, and impoverished conditions, can mature and develop high self-esteem and fulfillment.
The message here is encouraging. No matter what kind of environment in which we live, we can continue to learn to value ourselves and our potential, and strive to create new environments that are worthy of our highest expectations. After years of studying human behavior and interacting with parents and children of all ages and circumstances, we are convinced that one of the secrets to successful parenting lies in understanding and developing your own authentic self-esteem. Although parenting is an occupation we are thrust into with no previous experience or formal education, the kind of home environment we create for our children will influence their self-esteem and success.
Lesson 3 – The Four Legs of Self-Esteem
Think of self-esteem as a four-legged chair, where each leg is necessary to give the chair balance. If one leg is missing, the chair tips or is unsteady. Like the legs of a chair, there are four basic feelings which constitute our self-esteem, and all are interrelated.
The first leg of self-esteem is a sense of belonging. We all have a deep-seated need to feel we’re part of something larger than ourselves. This need, which psychologists call an affiliation drive, encompasses people, places, and possessions. Our instinct for belonging—for being wanted, accepted, enjoyed, and loved by close ones—is extremely powerful. It explains the bond of an extended family, friends, and teammates. It also explains why some adolescents join gangs. They want to belong, even if it’s wrong. Children should be proud of their family heritage in a home where they feel safe, loved, and welcome. Home also should be a place where children want to bring their friends, rather than a place they want to leave as soon as possible.
Children especially need to feel important to those they belong to and that they have rights which will be respected. They need to know that their opinions can be expressed in an open way and will be met with warmth, understanding, and acceptance. Parents have the most important influence in this relationship but other family members, friends, and teachers, all play a vital role in helping children feel accepted and loved. If children don’t feel accepted, they’ll start manipulating and maneuvering to get noticed, often resorting to bad behavior. They can get attention this way, but what they really need is for those they look up to to show an interest in them and really make them feel that they belong and that they’re loved. It’s a very cold and isolated feeling, to be on the outside looking in.
Belonging involves being on a winning team, while not belonging leads to being an outsider or a loner in a relationship. At first, of course, the significant relationships for children are with their parents; but as they grow older, it’s important for them to feel a part of any group or relationship which makes them feel wanted or desired. Children who don’t feel like they belong early in life, grow up as followers in gangs or cults and fanatic cultural groups as adults. They also may become loners later on; but children who belong comfortably in their family, grow up participating in civic clubs, social clubs, school groups, athletic teams and other relationships, with people that involve warmth, caring and a sharing of feelings. We all need to have our own place or space that is recognized and respected by others. During the toddler stage, we parents are anguished and amazed, when our cuddly, clinging infants within the first three years of life, seem to suddenly exhibit the need to be separate, private and possessive of their own things and places. When others respect that personal place or space, it reaffirms children’s individual identity and worth. It doesn’t have to be an entire room but it needs to be a place, large or small, where children can keep things without someone else taking that place away or straightening it up, even a corner of a room or a desk or a drawer, that belongs to a child, can help develop this feeling. An attachment to a place can hold very strong feelings for us emotionally.
Do you remember your special childhood spot, when you felt safe from the world? Maybe it was under a dresser or in a tree but you could always retreat there when human relations became a problem. It gave you a sense of belonging. Objects can also provide a sense of security and belonging. We’re all familiar with the security blanket that Linus has in the world of Charlie Brown. Maybe as a young child, you grew up with a teddy bear or a stuffed animal that you slept with. If there has been a divorce in the family, more than likely the child will choose an object that was given to him or her by the non-custodial parent and use this as a security blanket, when times get tough or when the child is especially lonely for the missing parent. The child gives the stuffed animal or other object, the love he or she is unable to express to the absent parent. If you’re a single or remarried parent, resist the temptation to be jealous of the things that the other parent gives your child, to which the child attaches special affection. The child isn’t taking sides, just naturally substituting an object for a missing, loving relationship. Other commonly collected items are rocks and shells, anything the child can possess which really belongs to him or her. Children need to belong to somebody and they need to have things which belong to them exclusively.
Children develop self-esteem by loving relations with significant others and by others respecting their place and object attachments. If they can’t get closely involved with the people and receive the necessary feeling of love, they’ll turn to objects and places to a greater extent and if they grow up with this handicap, it expresses itself in excessive materialism or extreme frugality. Our sense of being loved and belonging is established when we are infants. As needs are met and discomforts lovingly taken care of, the baby feels loved. The earlier it is experienced and the stronger it is felt, the better the development of the child’s self-esteem. Children need many relationships with people, places and things, to trust in the goodness of life and the depend- ability of people. The more they have, the better adjusted they will be and the happier life they will achieve.
The second leg, which complements the sense of belonging, is a sense of individual identity. No human being is exactly like another, not even an identical twin. We are all unique combinations of talents and traits that never existed before and will never exist again in quite the same package. (This explains why most parents believe their children came from different planets!). This feeling of identity communicates to others how we see ourselves and often implies a value judgment. We might consider ourselves talented musicians, average students, good athletes or trusted friends. Other labels can include special skills or talents or appearances such as being overweight, lazy, industrious or clever. For kids the labels might be cool, gross, lame, dork or awesome. These are just a few examples of what people say about themselves or others but these labels really can’t adequately describe us.
Most people attempt to establish their identity through status or external standards of success. Some individuals feel that their identity includes everything they call their own or that their possessions become extensions of themselves. Undoubtedly, you know people who take great pride in basing their worth on possessions, such as their homes, their automobiles, designer clothing, occupation, personal appearance, ancestors, travel schedule, bank accounts, investment portfolio, degrees or even their spouse or children. It’s natural to feel good about the outward signs of success. However, when one’s self-worth is based upon these things, all is well while the individual prospers; but if things get rough and the individual loses some of the possessions, then self-worth suffers also.
We all want to feel important, respected and admired by others but our real sense of identification should be based upon inner qualities and values. One of the best things you can do for your children is to instill in them a sense of being special, regardless of whether or not they can dress like the other kids at school or live in the biggest house on the block. The external possessions give us a sense of material reality to our feeling of identity but when we lose the possessions, we can lose the security. Inner approval and worth continue, as long as we live by our values and our convictions. Give your children lots of support and approval for being unique and special. Help them express their differences in many ways. Every child should realize that he
or she is unique and that there has never been anyone else quite like him or her before. It’s our mission as parents to help our children expand and grow to maturity, becoming at the high end of what they are capable of becoming and could fully choose to be. Children should be observed as they grow and play: their learning styles, what they love to do in their free time, and discovery of their unique positive talents so these can be nurtured into skills. Report cards don’t necessarily measure talents. They often are a measure only of discipline, memory, and attention span.
The third leg of self-esteem is a sense of worthiness, the feeling that I’m glad I’m me, with my genes and background, my body, my unique thoughts. Without our own approval, we have little to offer. If we don’t feel worth loving, it’s hard to believe that others love us; instead, we tend to see others as appraisers or judges of our value. This is why children, especially, need to experience unconditional love and to learn to carefully separate the doer from the deed, and the performer from the performance. The message: “I love you no matter what happens, and I’m always there for you” is one of most important concepts in building a feeling of worthiness or intrinsic value in children. After every reprimand they need to know parents love them.
Before they go to sleep at night, they need reassurance that, regardless of what happened that day, they are loved unconditionally. Worthiness depends mostly on self-approval. Even if others think we’re great, if we have violated our own conscience or values, we don’t feel very good about ourselves. Worthiness relates to our ideals and conduct and whether or not we live up to our own values and standards. It involves doing right and being right. We can lose our sense of worthiness, by listening to criticism or complying with the requests of others, especially when they go against our own desires and morals. If someone else’s opinion of us is so important, that we go against our own feelings in order to maintain their good will, we lose self-respect.
To make up for a lack of worthiness, people react in many different ways. These reactions can take the form of telling some- one off or giving advice when it isn’t asked for, trying to control or conquer or other aggressive behavior. Some people become compliant and give into others, rather than risk losing more by confronting and defending. Worthiness is decreased in individuals who continually conform to others. They are forever asking others what they think and become dependent upon the opinions of others. These individuals find it very difficult to make their own decisions in life. Once we’ve established a good sense of worthiness, we can handle criticism or praise in the right way.
Individuals with healthy self-esteem can accept or reject the opinions of others but don’t depend upon them for their sense of worthiness because this is already within them, as a basic part of their self-concept. What others think of us does influence our sense of worthiness but the key factor is what we think of ourselves. Make sure your children understand your moral, your ethical and your religious principles. Their sense of worthiness depends to a large extent, on whether or not they abide by these morals or these values. There are many reasons why few individuals currently in middle school, high school and college believe they were born to win. The supportive extended family—in many cases, even the nuclear family—is disappearing. Role models are increasingly unhealthy. The commercial media bombards young senses ever more insistently with crime, violence, hedonism, and other unhealthy forms of escape. But whatever the explanation, constructive citizens and leaders in society can- not emerge and develop without the creative imagination that serves them like fuel—which is why the apprehension, frustration, and hesitation we see and hear in the younger generation is cause for concern. At the moment, the future they imagine will help drive neither happiness nor success.
The chair’s fourth leg is self-control, a functional belief in your ability to develop the competence to control what happens to you in a changing, uncertain world. To achieve this, individuals must feel confident that they can perform in a manner necessary to reach their goals. It’s a feeling of confidence, that we have the strength to face the daily problems of life, with the feelings of adequacy, courage and hopefulness. A sense of control does not imply manipulating others. It involves knowing that while we are God-created, life is basically a do-it-to-myself program and that we have the mental, physical and emotional ability to achieve our aspirations if we will put in the honest effort.
If our achievement approaches or meets our aspirations in a valued area, it will result in authentic self-esteem. If there is a wide difference, it results in low self-esteem. Our feeling about ourselves depends upon what we set as goals and what we believe we can do and be. Our values are the crucial part of this self-judgment. Children need feedback to know if they are making progress in this area. They need to feel encouraged that they are making progress and they need to be given constructive examples of how they could improve if they are not. They always want to know how they are doing and how they could do things better, if they try again. If they are taking the wrong approach, no feedback is only reinforcing the wrong methods. Schools give feedback on children’s performance and parents should also. It doesn’t have to be grades or stars or rating on a scale of one to ten but it should give them some idea, how you view their abilities, their skills, their knowledge and their progress.
As children grow older, they’ll realize that most of their feelings about themselves are based upon their ability to perform. Society places a lot of emphasis on performance and too often, performance determines how others feel about individuals as well. Feed- back is important in learning competencies, as we can have more control over our own lives. By developing skills, we’re afforded more opportunity to make choices about our own life and can take responsibility for our own decisions. By experiencing success at a young age, children develop the confidence that they can do what they are trying to accomplish.
Lesson 4: Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem
So let’s help our children build self-esteem, by giving them feelings of being wanted and loved, the feeling of belonging. Let’s encourage their being unique and special, the feeling of identity and let’s help them build a sense of worthiness, of being acceptable to others—but more importantly to themselves, just as they are, right here, right now. And let’s help them gain a sense of control of their outcomes, by taking charge of the many decisions and choices they have in life as soon as they can make decisions reasonably and safely. Armed with a view of failure as a learning experience, children can develop an early eagerness for new challenges and will be less afraid to try new skills. Although they appreciate compliments, they benefit most from their own belief that they are making a valuable contribution to life, according to their own internal standards. Do you think your child believes he or she:
- has more good traits than bad?
- is essentially lovable?
- can succeed when he or she tries something new?
Parents can do more than anyone else to promote a child’s self-esteem. Your words and actions have an enormous impact. But you must use good judgment and good timing. For example, avoid inflated or inappropriate praise. Children who hear how great they are regardless of their behavior receive conflicting messages. So being overly lenient and passive on the belief that to do otherwise would be to injure the kids’ self-esteem is a fool’s game. On the other hand, a kid who is called responsible when he exhibits responsible behavior likely will end up as a responsible adult (providing his parents also model responsible behavior.) In short, we can have a significant impact—though not total control—on who our children become.
Take charge of your own self-esteem, too. Talk aloud about your feelings and the way you cope with problems. For in- stance, you might say, “This situation at work has been gnawing at me. I’m feeling a little blue. I think I’ll take a walk after dinner. Go to the park maybe. Then I’ll feel better.” That sends the message that individuals can have some control over how they feel and how they think about themselves. Don’t just tell your children how to live, show them. Show your kids how you derive pleasure and satisfaction from refining your character, performing acts of kindness, taking responsibility for your- self, and seeking wisdom and truth. Show them how you support right over wrong. Show them, for instance, by cheering as loudly for the person who visits the nursing home as for the quarterback who throws the winning pass. Shower more kudos on the person who gets control over his emotions than he who fires off a nasty note or makes a sharp verbal thrust. Show them by supporting those who fight for a good, if losing, cause and those who do what’s ethical even if at great personal risk.
Show them by spending time on activities that have meaning and purpose, that really affect the world and the people in it. Celebrate not just warriors but peacemakers. Make as big a fuss about your kid’s acts of loving kindness as you do about his “A” in math.
Do you think your child has:
- pride in who he or she is?
- the ability to tolerate frustration and negative emotions?
- the temperament to act enthusiastically and independently?
No one feels good about himself or herself all the time. And positive self-esteem does not happen overnight; in fact, true self- worth is developed over a lifetime. But if you put some of these principles into practice, your child is likely to feel better more of the time. You’ll be giving him or her a head start on having a better self-image. Take delight in your child, and that delight will fuel his or her self-esteem. Because, in truth, children, like adults, are gluttons for praise. Feed that hunger—but feed it honestly. Insincere or superficial praise is probably worse than none at all; it just teaches your child to doubt your every utterance. Strive to be more of a coach than a cheerleader. A coach uses praise to foster growth and instill self-worth; a cheerleader just throws hoorays out to the universe. Love and respect your children, and the benefits will multiply. As they see how careful you are with their sensitive souls, they will learn to also be careful with themselves and others.
Lesson 5: The Inner Winner
After devoting most of our careers to investigating the well-springs of personal and professional success, we’re able to make the following statements with great confidence: You need to feel love inside yourself before you can offer it to anyone else. Your own sense of value determines the quality of your performance. Performance is only a reflection of internal worth, not a measure of it.
The less you try to impress, the more impressive you are. What you show the world on the outside is a mirror image of how you feel on the inside. If your success depends on external possessions, you’ll be subject to constant anxiety. When your peer group cheers one of your accomplishments, you’ll feel good for a while, but then you’ll wonder if they’ll cheer as loudly the next time. If they’re critical, you will feel hurt and threatened. The truth is, you can never win over a long period of time if your concept of success depends upon the perfect performance or the placing of a gold medal around your neck. It’s obvious that talent, looks and other attributes aren’t equally distributed, but we’re all given an abundance of value—more than we could use in several lifetimes. The game of life certainly isn’t played on a level playing field for each of us in terms of education, a supportive home life, and other circumstances beyond our control, but we can assure you that you were born with the qualities of a champion. That’s what we mean by value.
There’s a phrase we like to use—The Inner Winner—that describes the kind of person who recognizes his or her internal value, and who is able to use that recognition as the foundation for achieving any goal. The secret of wearing the gold medal around your neck in the external world is that first you must be an Inner Winner. You must recognize that you’re already an Olympian Within.
Lesson 6: Fundamentals of Self-Esteem
Fundamentals of Self-Esteem
- Authentic self-esteem, or the lack of it, is at the root of most behavior, both positive and negative.
- Self-esteem is a combination of self-worth and self-trust. Self-worth is being glad you’re you, with your genes, your body, your background, and your potential. Self-trust is the functional belief in your own ability positively and effectively to control what happens to you in a world of uncertainty. The first gives you a feeling of optimism. The second gives you empowerment.
- No opinion and no judgment is so vitally important to your own growth and development as that which you hold of yourself. The most important conversations, briefings, meetings, and lectures you will ever have are those that you mull over in the privacy of your own mind. When you talk to your- self, speak as if you were encouraging your best friend. Talk to yourself with all due respect!
- No eyes will ever critique a video of you, a photo of you, a reflection of you in a store window, or a full-length view of you in the mirror as you step out of the shower, as sharply and critically as your own eyes. Make an effort to feel good about your physical self, including what you eat, how you exercise, your grooming, how you dress and how you think. If you don’t feel good about any of those things, take control and join a support group with similar goals to make positive changes. Engage in a self-improvement program for at least six months before you expect major results and prepare to stay involved for at least a year to two years. It takes over a year for a new habit to be imbedded strongly enough to overcome old destructive behaviors.
- You have a choice of being your own worst enemy, or your own best friend.
Realize, once and for all, you hold the key to your personal success and happiness. You should believe that you and your children are as worthy of happiness and success as anyone. You are worthy in your own way, regardless of how you may differ from others. And you must learn self-trust, which is the ability to feel positive, responsible, and in control of what takes place as you try to test your limits. You do this by dedicating yourself to a lifelong journey of knowledge and skill development as we move through the most exciting millennium in history. By building your own authentic self-esteem you will be a worthy role model, coach and leader, to set the example for your own children.
Seeds of Greatness: Roots (5 Courses)
Seeds of Greatness: Wings (5 Courses)