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    JOHNTJ1   72,428
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When Self Esteem is Over Rated

Friday, March 15, 2013

I listened to a lecture one night last week about the prevalence of self-criticism in our society. I was prepared for the usual observations and advice: Positive affirmations, positive goal setting, creating self-perspective…… I could go on but you’ve heard and read them yourself. But in the back of your head, from time to time, that nagging little voice questions a behavior or a value. It happens to us all. We are all constantly evaluating ourselves as we race towards the finish line of “feeling good.” When we don’t get there in record time we perceive something is amiss. Usually that something is us. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have improvement areas but it’s not good to be picking out bridges to jump off of when we don’t reach them as quickly as the latest self-help book says we should. The supposition is that back in the old days, the 70’s and 80’s, we created a feel good society that asked us to feel good all the time. When we did, viola, we had attained self-esteem nirvana. Question for you: Anyone here feel completely and totally happy and joyous 24/7? If you are can I come and live with you?

We began to believe we should be humming “We Are the World.” If not something was wrong and oh-oh, it HAD to be something wrong with US because Lord knows everyone else has perfect pitch. We did what we always do, instead of examining the issue we reinforced it. Instead of acknowledging failure as a natural part of our development, we changed the rules. No one gets cut from the team, everyone gets a trophy, no one flunks and one school system in the eastern USA even out lawed red ink in grading papers and tests. They felt it negatively affected a student’s self-esteem. Whether we believe it or not; some days are supposed to suck. That’s the natural order of things. Some days, through no fault of our own, don’t go as planned and it’s not our fault. As a friend of mine put it means “We are in recovery from life!!!”

I met with a client last night and I could tell when he walked through the door something was wrong. We chatted for a bit and I asked him how his day had been. It hadn’t gone well. Someone had gotten killed at work. While he wasn’t directly responsible he was at level where he had to answer a lot of questions. We talked for a bit and I asked him why he hadn’t called me to cancel our appointment. He said he didn’t want to disappoint me and it had been a few weeks since we’d met. Pain, failure and grief are all parts of life. I told him that he shouldn’t head for home this evening expecting to hum “The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow.” Someone he knew was killed and killed horrifically.

I did the only thing I could. I stopped being a coach. I poured us each a cup of coffee and sat back and became a sympathetic ear. There were no questions, no powerful motivations or reassessment of goals, just a hand extended in friendship for a half-hour or so. I listened and at the end of our session we both were a bit choked up.

There is a powerful antidote for fear and loneliness and the failure that is apt to occur in our lives. That antidote is friendship. I’ve discovered that on the days I’m feeling down or lonely or whatever negative emotion comes into play at the time, reaching out to someone else reassures me we are all in this together. It engenders someone reaching out to me and really, isn’t that what we’re all about anyway?

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
SIMONEKP 4/3/2013 8:54AM

    I wouldn't say it's overrated but I agree that this "everyone's a winner and get s trophy" culture is setting our children up for failure and the inability to deal with such failures in real life.

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NASFKAB 3/16/2013 2:00AM

  thanks for pointing the importance of friendship your blogs are so thought provoking

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CARTOONB 3/15/2013 10:51PM

    I would love it if all of my Spark Friends lived close to me...or I lived close to them. Friendship is critical.

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REGILIEH 3/15/2013 9:42PM

    Thank goodness he kept his appointment with you as he couldn't have been with a better person in dealing with his grief and horror! He was a blessed man! emoticon

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ONEKIDSMOM 3/15/2013 7:23PM

    Yes, some days / weeks / parts of life *do* "suck"... but how else would we see how good life is the rest of the time? Spark on my friend. And thank you for being a friend to your client! It's amazing how much good we can do "in the course of a day", simply by being open to it.

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ANATASHIKI 3/15/2013 4:26PM

    lol, I'm living in the opposite type of environment. we only smile if we feel like to and God knows that lately the reasons to smile are not too many. so I hear all day something like this- why do you laugh? are you stupid? can't you see what it happens? this country is going to ruin. we're going to starve , die or whatever. the planet is dying , mankind is going down. so? how was that song? it's my party and I cry if I want to? and I laugh if I want to. I'm not happy 24 H but after I get rid of work I feel really good usually emoticon emoticon

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SLIMLEAF 3/15/2013 4:10PM

    I like your blogs, John. You manage to be honest and yet not sound utterly miserable when going through difficult things.

I don't usually blog and that's mostly because I don't want my Spark Friends to see the negative stuff I write, expressing the difficulties, struggles and disappointments of my efforts to Spark well, lose weight and achieve my goals.

Your attitude seems so much healthier than mine. I hope I can learn from you.

God bless

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LYNMEINDERS 3/15/2013 4:08PM

    A big AMEN to your blog John....
I well remember the 70's & 80's and the airy fairy feel good that went with it.....
Kinda ruined society....

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POPSY190 3/15/2013 3:38PM

    Cc3833 - I couldn't agree more and I am a former teacher. I and many of my colleagues were under constant pressure to be "positive" when marking work and on reports. I felt it was far better for students to become aware of their strengths and weaknesses while still at school where they had the support of parents and teachers and time to work on things than let them find out in the adult world, when they were supposed to be independent, that they were inadequate in basic skills. And the adult world doesn't pull it's punches. It must almost destroy some people.

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AJDOVER1 3/15/2013 3:13PM

    Somewhere in the past couple years, I've just started to get comfortable with being me. Much to my surprise, there are amazing people who seem to like me the way I am. Those are the people who are going to like me tomorrow, too.

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    It is so nice that you could offer comfort to this man. I find that many people who don't experience death in their lives on a continuing basis take it hard and they end up with unresolved grief issues from not knowing how to deal with it.

I found myself feeling more than a little guilty reading this blog though because I am one of the people who is fairly happy almost all of the time. LOL. Yes. I know most people aren't happy much of the time, my husband included but I want to be and make an effort o be. Bad things happen to me jut like they do everyone else. As a critical care nurse I had to watch a lot of people suffer and die and not integrate it into my personality. I had a duty to go home and give a little boy a good life. I've lost 3 friends this year already - yesterday I found out that a close friend died. I was his first love and he was single when he died. I'm not that thrilled with my health right now and not overjoyed with my husband's actions either but I am still determined to be happy. Maybe people who are happy have experienced such unhappiness that they can appreciate the lack of that enough to perceive their current state as happiness. God absolutely wants us to always be happy regardless of your situation so I will do my best.

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SHERIO5 3/15/2013 12:30PM


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GEEMAWEST 3/15/2013 12:09PM

    You are the kind of coach everyone should have. emoticon

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BEATLETOT 3/15/2013 10:59AM

    AWESOME, EXCELLENT post. Lots of food for thought here. Thanks, John.

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CC3833 3/15/2013 10:57AM

    Love this blog. I hate the no child left behind. You aren't helping the child by passing him along... Someone I know got passed along and he couldn't really read. Now at 22 years old he and I consider him illiterate. How did those teachers help him? He can not read and in the society that doesn't work. And he doesn't want to learn. He is ashamed. How did that help? Sorry kind of a sore subject with me.

You are completely right through failing you learn. It's crazy but I really didn't learn that until this site. I used to get very depressed when I failed now I don't. It is okay to fail... like you said it's natural

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TALEENA 3/15/2013 10:48AM

    Wow is all I can say. That is so awesome that you spent time with your client, just listening and being a friend.

It's so true that we can't be happy all the time. I try to trick myself into being happy at work all the time and when I'm not I feel guilty. But days that suck are real and I agree that reaching out to a friend is a really good solution.

I will try not to hum we are the world even though it is Friday LOL.

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