Some Holiday Soul Food: Master Self-Esteem, Change Your Life

I remember that period of time in my life like it was yesterday. In the span of three weeks, I totaled my car, lost my job, and broke up with my girlfriend. I had no option but to move back in with my parents and as a recent college graduate, I felt like a complete failure. I had been told my entire life to go to college to be successful and all of a sudden, my undergraduate degree from Penn State was just not enough. I felt stuck. I had my back against the wall and for the first time in my life, I did not know what to do next. After sending my resume to countless companies in Rochester, New York and not even getting one interview, that little voice in my head began reminding me of all the reasons I was not good enough. It would take a dozen motivational talks from friends and family and finally landing a new job for me to finally get my self-esteem back.

You see, at that point in my life, I did not realize that I am in control of both my worthiness (belief in myself) and my competence (how smart I can become). Professor Christopher Mruk’s book Self-Esteem Research, Theory, and Practice does a great job of laying out a framework for how you can think about your self-esteem and in turn informs how anyone can begin building high self-esteem today. See the framework below:

  1. Low Self-Esteem: Poor belief in your competence and self-worth
  2. High Self-Esteem: Positive belief in your competence and self-worth
  3. Worthiness Based Self-Esteem – Base their self-esteem on how they or others view them (worthiness)
  4. Competence Based Self-Esteem – Base their self-esteem on their achievements (competence)

With this framework in mind, see three actions you can take today to begin building your self-esteem back up in time for Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Get Smarter Everyday (Competence)
    • By any means necessary get smarter every day. If you have any kind of commute audio books and smart podcasts are a great use of time. If you have a few hours before bed skip the Netflix series and pick up a book (unless it is Stranger Things, then you should binge watch one night and then get smarter the next day J).
  2. Create Belief in Your Future (Worthiness)
    • Every day you are either poisoning yourself with negativity or emboldening yourself with belief. Changing your internal talk track by reimaging your personal story from tragedy to triumph is the single greatest thing you can do to build your personal self-worth. In the words of Norman Vincent Peale, “Change your thoughts and you can change your world.”
  3. Work Your Plan Everyday (Self-Actualization)
    • A direct byproduct of growing your competence and worthiness every day is a crystallization of potential opportunities that surround you. Take the next step and aggressively work toward a personal life goal. Stop saying I want to write a book or travel the world and put pen to paper on a flight to the pyramids in Egypt.


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