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Be Your Own Best Friend

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People who have high self-esteem are their own best friends .They like themselves and have confidence in who and what they are.The don’t beat themselves up!

Imagine,if you were supporting someone with low self-esteem you wouldn’t criticise or put them down. However, it’s amazing how much of a hard time we can give ourselves, constantly berating ourselves for the slightest mistake. Treating yourself how you would instinctively behave towards a friend is a much kinder way to behave towards yourself and far more positive.

Remember: for every mistake that you make, another valuable lesson you learn. So you are building your pot of wisdom. Working on your own self-confidence is key. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence and it is important to be honest with yourself and seek feedback from others. It is also important, however, that you don’t rely on others to big you up and make you feel better. It is important that you learn how to recognise and congratulate yourself when you have done something well. If you rely on others or become so preoccupied with others’ opinions of you, it can create insecurity and paranoia.

There is a wonderful poem called Desiderata written by Max Ehrmann. It is a masterpiece and makes a wonderful creed for life. This extract sums up what happens if you become too preoccupied with other people:

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Imagine having no one to compare yourself with except yourself. What a sense of relief this would bring. We wouldn’t have to beat ourselves up about not performing as well as our colleagues at work.

We wouldn’t have to worry about not looking like the most successful male or female with the smartest mind, the most important job role and the biggest pay packet. We wouldn’t have to worry about our bodies not being the youngest, most beautiful and most sexy.

All we would have to think is: did I do this activity better than I did it last week? Have I moved forward in my own definition of success? Am I feeling peaceful, doing my best for my health? Do I have an attractive mind and healthy interactions with other people?

Many of us would never admit to making comparisons with other people – to do so implies jealousy and small-mindedness. However, everyone has undoubtedly taken a measure of themselves at some point by reference to someone else – even if only subconsciously. We may have moved on from caveman (or rather cave people!), from times of comparing brute strength and hunting skills, but the alpha caveman has simply been replaced by the alpha executive. Now, our strengths are measured by whether we can outsmart colleagues, our status amongst peers and the cars we drive. It is telling, for example, that research has shown that people are happier if they are at least slightly richer than their friends.

But what if we didn’t have friends and colleagues to compare ourselves to? What if our only frame of reference was our personal best? In Neuro Linguistic Programming, broad distinctions are made between predominantly internally-referenced people who are generally better at using their own referencing to measure their success and those who are more externally-referenced, who look for reassurance and confirmation of their abilities from others. Externally-referenced people are more likely to make comparisons with other people as a kind of self-affirmation, but no one lives in a vacuum and everyone has some kind of referencing system to people outside of themselves.

Let me try and put it another way. We all have an actual or imagined audience to our lives that gives our actions meaning.

One of the first steps in improving self-esteem is to learn where we currently position ourselves on the line of continuum between being internally- referenced and externally-referenced. Nobody is entirely one type or the other – different patterns will play out with different people at different times. In the workplace, for example, the quality and nature of the relationships we have with colleagues will be coloured by the degree to which we are externally-referenced and the number and strength of comparisons we make in relation to job roles, personality types and status.

Our behaviour will be determined by these perceptions and a conversation with a team member might be very different from a conversation with a line manager, for example. The outcome of the interaction cannot be viewed in isolation from our perceptions of who we are, the boundaries of our role, who our colleague is, the boundaries of their role and the value of our role compared to our colleague’s role.

In addition, the perceptions we have and comparisons we make will be based on what we see and hear. However, we see and hear only a small range of other people’s behaviour and we need to take this into account when we examine our perceptions.

To pull all of this together, we are making assessments based on a small chunk of information that is internally processed through a system coloured by our own perceptions of self, role, status and personality type! It is no wonder that many people find success a difficult concept to grasp and find it easier to use other people’s measures of success than find their own!

The most powerful place on the continuum is in the middle and most of all to be your own best friend.

The Happy Handbook – A Compendium of Modern Life Skills by Liggy Webb is out this month!

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