Sometimes our self-esteem can take a bit of a dive. It is natural for it to fluctuate, but we all need a base level to get the most out of work and life generally. So, what is self-esteem and how can we boost it when we need to?
Self-esteem is all about how we think about ourselves: it indicates, as Stanley Coopersmith said, ‘the extent to which the individual believes he or she is capable, significant, successful and worthy’. Generally we are unaware of our self-esteem; when we are unaware of it, that is because our self-esteem is adequate at that time and our main focus is directed outwards – in other words, directed not at ourselves but at other people or things. Naturally, we would not want our self-esteem to be too high, as this would give us unhealthy characteristics of being self-satisfied, smug, insensitive and blind to our own faults and shortcomings!
Self-esteem is very closely linked to confidence. There is a model template for achieving and building balance here, known as the TEST model.
T = Tolerating Uncertainty. This has to do with being relaxed about not knowing what will happen with certainty and/or relaxed about not knowing exactly what to do in a given situation. This is a skill. One of the ways of building this skill is first to write down the absolute worst that could happen in that situation; then the absolute best that could happen; and finally, and most importantly, what is really most likely to happen. This helps to diminish the use of our imagination (or rather the misuse of it) to forecast negative or even catastrophic outcomes – that kind of forecast will overarouse our emotional brain and limit access to the thinking brain.
E = Emotional Balance. Being calm and in control of our emotions rather than our emotions taking control of us keeps us in balance so that we can retain full access to our intellectual and thinking brain and exercise good rational judgement. Rehearsing successful outcomes in our minds about particular situations which we are going to experience is incredibly helpful here. Mental rehearsal is beneficial when in a state of calm, in order to set a template of how we want to be in that given situation.
S = Skills. Are there any particular skills we need to deal with a particular situation? Interview, presentational or social skills perhaps? If so, we need to read up on these, have training and practise. Practising both in our minds by way of advance mental rehearsal and for real. This is the only way to learn effectively. If things don’t go as well as we wanted, we can think about other ways of going about it and practise those in advance for the next time.
T = Thinking Styles. It is helpful for us to be aware of our own thoughts and thinking styles. Observing these dispassionately and considering whether any thoughts ought to be challenged to put things in proper perspective.
Most importantly, expect the best!