I just finished reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. In the chapter on self-esteem, the author examines the late 20th century trend to make everyone feel better about themselves about everything: participation awards, trophies, grade inflation, etc. The mantra was “every single one of us can be exceptional and massively successful.” A whole industry grew up around this theory.
Common sense tells us, “maybe not.” The author observed: “adversity and failure are actually useful and even necessary for developing strong-minded and successful adults.” He also posits, “A true and accurate measurement of one’s self-worth is how people feel about the negative aspects of themselves.” If you feel good about yourself, even when you’re messing up everything, you develop a false sense of competency. That is not self-esteem; it’s entitlement.
Not one of us is entitled to anything. We all have room for self-improvement.
Besides: who gets to define success for me? For you?
We can’t all be Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. I do not have the skills or inclination to be a brain surgeon, an auto mechanic, or a plumber. Nor am I suited to be an executive. I don’t need the current definition of success. Every day I see people stressed because their self-esteem can’t take not being “the best”, being on the fast track to…somewhere. Why? So they can eventually relax and retire? I’m all for relaxing right now, while I can still enjoy it. My self-esteem doesn’t need the false glorification of other people’s opinions and decisions.
My goal at this point in my life is to be content.
- I don’t want a corporate career. I had one. I had a very cool one. It went away; I moved on.
- I’ve always wanted to be a published author. Now I am one. While best seller status would be wonderful, it isn’t necessary to make me content.
- I like my day job. Yes, there are frustrations. Yes, there are things I can do better in it. Each time I master a new aspect of my job, I feel positive about my ability to adapt. Frustrations simply mean I’m human, with human responses.
Self esteem shouldn’t be wrapped up in what you are. There’s an update to an old (offensive) saying: “Too many coaches, not enough players.” To which my self-esteem responds: “Hey! I’ll warm the bench.” That’s not low self-esteem talking. It’s the voice of a woman who’s comfortable with herself and has nothing to prove to anyone.