Do you feel good about yourself? As Laurence J. Peter (1919 ~ 1990) put it, “Would the boy (or girl) you were be proud of the man (or woman) you are?” That should be our goal, to be proud of ourselves. Of course, I’m not talking about negative pride. I’m not encouraging you to become arrogant, haughty, or snobbish, for those who are alienate others and end up lonely and powerless.
No, I’m talking about the pride we experience after a job well done or the exhilaration we feel after leaping over hurdles or climbing over obstacles that were blocking our way. This form of pride is positive, for our own accomplishments infuse us with confidence. And that confidence flowers into healthy optimism, bright expectations, and an overall positive view of life.
If we are proud of how we do our job, we will be proud of what we are. Whenever we are doing a job, we have a choice. We can do it shoddily or we can do it to the best of our ability. Our choice will determine how we feel. Note that it is not the job, but how we do it that determines whether we are proud or ashamed of ourselves. A hard working toilet cleaner will be proud of his integrity while a cutthroat executive will be ashamed of his double-dealing.
Some are lured into exploiting others for short-term monetary gain. But the price they pay is high. Because of their own dishonesty they don’t trust others and, therefore, cannot develop intimate relationships. But worst of all, they don’t like themselves. Can you think of anything worse or more painful than self-contempt?
On the other hand, those who always do what is right, always feel alright. They accept and respect themselves. Like Charly Heavenrich, they have found “It doesn’t matter what we do until we accept ourselves. Once we accept ourselves, it doesn’t matter what we do.” (Note: For more about Charly Heavenrich, see http://charlyheavenrich.com) We don’t need to receive recognition, awards, and honors to feel honorable, we merely need to know we are honorable.
When we dedicate ourselves to doing the right thing, we win much more than self-respect, we also win the respect and confidence of others. We win allies that make the achievement of our dreams possible. We also win happiness, for as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 ~ 1762) wrote, “You can be pleased with nothing when you are not pleased with yourself.” Also, if you feel good about yourself, you’ll never be alone, for you’ll always have your own good company and you’ll attract the company of others.
Hardly anything feels as good as being a winner or success. We can’t help liking ourselves if we have the power to pursue and reach our aspirations. Yet, some of us find the path to our dreams blocked by self-doubt. You probably agree with Rev. William J.H. Boetcker who wrote, “You can succeed if nobody else believes it, but you will never succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.”
But what do we do if self-doubt, lack of confidence, or low self-esteem is holding us back? Merely repeating, “I can do it! I can do it” won’t be of much help if we don’t believe we can do it. What we need before we can change, then, is not a string of positive statements, but a chain of new experiences (successes) that will establish a new set of beliefs. Virgil (70 ~ 19 BCE) put it this way, “Fired by success — they could do it because they believed they could do it.”
The good news is our lack of faith in ourselves is not hereditary; it is acquired or learned. And anything that is learned can be unlearned or changed. The best remedy I know of is proving to ourselves that we have the power to reach our goals by achieving one success after another. In other words, nothing succeeds like success.
But how do we go about doing that? It’s not as difficult as one might imagine. This is not to say that it is easy, but it is certainly within our power. Here is the procedure. Simply pick a goal and break it down into all the steps you will have to take. Break down those steps further into baby steps that anyone can do. Then start working on the easiest step. Let’s look at an example.
Harry is 26, has a job he likes, and lives alone in an apartment. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. And at this point in his life, his primary goal is to get one. The problem is he never had one, so he has no experience to build on. He is also painfully shy. Several times a week he runs into a girl that lives in the same apartment. He’s never seen her with anyone else and usually spots her in the lobby or elevator of his apartment building. Understandably, he would like to meet her. He is smart enough to realize that the first step he must take is to communicate with her. But he is so shy, he can’t imagine speaking to her. Yet, he desperately wants to meet her, so he figured out the first baby step that even he could do.
If you were Harry, would you be able to figure out a step so simple anyone could do it? Harry could. He decided that the next time he spotted her, he would nod his head as he passed her in the lobby or when she got into the same elevator.
After doing just that, he felt great. Justifiably so, for he crossed an enormous threshold. He changed the relationship from that of a complete stranger to someone he ‘knew’. All with the nod of his head, for it communicated the message, “I recognize you.” And you know what? She returned the nod with one of her own. No wonder Harry was excited. He experienced his first success in communicating with the mystery girl.
After a few more successful attempts, Harry gained enough confidence to boost his communication to the next level. This time, still too shy to speak, he combined a smile with his nod. The message he was relaying now was “Not only do I recognize you, but I’m happy to see you.” Can you imagine how excited he was when she did the same?
Each success led to more confidence and bigger steps. Harry started speaking by saying, “Hi!” Later he progressed to the lengthier, “Hello!” But his big break came when he said, “How are you?” This question changed what previously was merely a greeting into an actual conversation, regardless how brief it may have been. I’m happy to say that Harry and Sally are now boy and girlfriend. It turns out that she was also shy. But looking at them today, you would never have guessed how shy they used to be.
To be truthful, Harry was lucky. Success usually doesn’t come that easy. Sally, for example, could have been engaged to someone else or just not interested in Harry. Even if we assume Harry failed to develop a relationship with Sally, he would not be a failure. Quite the contrary, he was a great success, for he developed new communication skills and is on his way to overcoming his shyness. All he would have to do is continue taking baby steps toward getting to know, dating, and setting up relationships with other women.
I hope the point of the story is clear enough. Just to be sure, let me state it. THE SMALLEST ACTION WE TAKE CAN LEAD TO PROFOUND AND LASTING CHANGE. Can you take tiny, baby steps? Of course you can! If you have some dreams of your own that haven’t materialized yet, it is nonaction that is preventing you from reaching them. Nothing comes about by merely dreaming about it. It only comes about by taking action. So, get up, today, and start taking those itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny baby steps.