This was first published on KSL.com
A coaching client recently asked me, “What does it really mean to have high self-esteem or low self-esteem? When is high self-esteem arrogance? And how do you have high or good self-esteem but make sure you aren’t arrogant?”
Self-esteem has been defined as how you generally feel about yourself and your value as a human being. In my opinion, it goes deeper than that. Your self-esteem also shows how emotionally healthy, mature and self-actualized you are.
Are you growing and thriving, or stuck and floundering? People with low self-esteem tend to function in fear and are more ego-driven, while people with high self-esteem tend to function from fearlessness and are love-driven.
Arrogance is an ego-driven judgment that sees some people as less valuable, good, or worthy than other people. I find arrogance to show up more often in people with low self-esteem. That may come as a surprise, but as I explain what low self-esteem is, you will see that only people who doubt their worth need to see others as less than themselves.
People with high self-esteem have less fear of failure and, generally, feel safer in the world. One of the hallmarks of high self-esteem is the ability to acknowledge your flaws and faults, and then take on the work to improve them. You can only do this if you have a solid sense of intrinsic worth that doesn’t change.
After almost 20 years in personal development, I have found only one thing that raises a person’s self-esteem: seeing their intrinsic value as a person (and the value of all human beings) as unchangeable, infinite and absolute.
Below, are my observations of common characteristics found in people with low, medium and high self-esteem. See if you can tell where you function most of the time.
People with low self-esteem:
People with medium self-esteem:
People with high self-esteem:
I find that when people have low self-esteem and are always scared they aren’t good enough, their ego steps in to compensate for that with all kinds of immature, self-absorbed, needy, attention-seeking behaviors. If this is you, thank your ego for trying to protect you but let it know it’s services are no longer needed.
Remember, your value can’t change and you are safe. No matter how you perform or look today, you still have the same value as everyone else. The more you practice this and choose it as your belief or rule on human value, the higher your self-esteem will go — but you won't be arrogant because you'll see everyone else as the same as you. This is the beginning of real self-worth.
You can do this.
Coach Kim Giles is a popular local executive coach and corporate people skills trainer. She is the CEO and founder of www.claritypointcoaching and www.12shapes.com
This was first published on KSL.com
When you get triggered by someone or something that makes you feel mistreated, taken from, insulted or unsafe, your body automatically shifts into a sympathetic nervous system response. This is the way your body prepares to flee or fight danger.
In this state, your vision narrows, your heartbeat rises, and your frontal lobe (the part of your brain that is logical, practical, wise, and mindful) shuts down. This happens, because you need all the energy your body has for fleeing.
The problem is that narrow vision and frontal lobe shutdown may have served our ancestors because their troubles were trying to chase and eat them. But today the things that make you feel scared or upset are often just people problems, arguments, or conflicts — all of which would go better if you used logical, practical and wise thinking.
When you are in a fight-or-flight state, your subconscious programming and stress — not your conscious brain — drive your behavior. You aren’t thinking clearly enough to make a thoughtful decision about your words or behavior. You are just reacting, and this type of reaction is not always wise or loving. You are more likely to say something stupid you will regret later.
It's my experience that when people get mad, upset or fearful, they also get selfish. This happens because they are afraid, and fear is all about you. Think about the last time your child did something wrong that made you freak out. Chances are you were feeling fear of failure as a parent and fear of loss around your child’s life and safety. In this place, you might have triggered your fight-or-flight response. This means your entire focus was on saying or doing anything that would make you feel better or safer.
As long as you are a fear-driven, fight-or-flight state, you can’t see anything but your own need to feel safe again. As a parent, you might, therefore, punish the child in whatever way makes you feel safer. You will completely miss what your child needs at this moment. This happens because your fear made you selfish.
You need to learn how to get your brain, logic, love and wisdom back before you respond to any situation or problem. Here is a procedure to follow that should help you avoid acting stupid or selfish when you are mad:
1. Call a timeout
Set up a rule with the people in your life who most often trigger you: Agree that if either of you calls a timeout, you both agree to stop talking and walk away, for about 10-15 minutes, so you can calm down and handle the conversation in a more balanced, logical and unemotional way. As soon as you can tell that you or the other person is getting unbalanced and upset, call a timeout. Use this time to do some of the suggestions below.
2. Do some diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing means taking slow, deep breaths and pushing your stomach out (as fat as you can) on every in-breath, and sucking in your stomach while you breathe out. Do this for 5 minutes or until you feel calmed down.
3. Focus on personal value and belief
Remember that your value is infinite and absolute. No one can diminish you. You are the same you, no matter what anyone says or does. Remember that your life is the perfect classroom journey for you and every experience is a perfect lesson.
4. See the equality
Make sure you see this other person as the same as you. They are also a work in progress, just like you. Don’t talk down to them or see them as wrong or bad. You might not have done what they did, but you have other faults.
5. Think of the other person
Can you see what the other person is afraid of? Are they afraid of loss or afraid they aren’t good enough? Understanding the fear driving them right now will tell you what they need. Are they tired, hungry or incapable of mature behavior because they haven’t had the opportunity to learn a better way? What has happened in their life, that affects their current behavior?
6. Develop a plan
What are some possible responses to this situation? Think of many, and write next to each option what you think the outcome of choosing that option would be. Figure out a fear-motivated attitude in each response, as well as a love-motivated attitude.
For example, if one option is not to say anything about the offense, a fear-based attitude would be to not bring it up because you are scared to do so. A love-motivated attitude might be to see the other person's fears and realize the offense isn’t about you, then just forgive them and let it go. Which would be healthier? Cross out all the fear-based options and choose a love-based response that feels healthy to you.
The next time you find yourself in a fight mode or feeling angry or upset, ask for a timeout to get balanced, calm and smarter before you continue. Then pull this article out and run through every step. Once you have done this a few times, it will start to be your go-to procedure for smart responding. Fighting smart (instead of emotional, selfish and stupid) will be a game-changer in all your relationships.
Still, you cannot control other people. Sometimes their fear keeps them in fight-or-flight mode, and you can't fix that. Giving them lots of validation and reassurance may help quiet their fear enough that you can have a productive conversation with them. However, if they are badly fear-triggered and can’t get themselves under control, or are abusive or mean, enforce a boundary and don’t communicate with them until they can do it respectfully.
You can do this.
I love your column and appreciate what you say about fear being a problem, but isn’t there some fear that motivates us and keeps us safe? I can think of some fear situations that help me avoid danger or be more motivated. (I) just wondered what you would say to that.
Fear of being physically hurt can prompt behavior that makes you safer, and fear of failure can motivate you. The question is, can you be too afraid of danger and does motivation require fear? Is being fear-motivated healthy? Would being passion- or love-motivated be better?
I will concede that fear for your safety serves to protect you on occasion, but you don’t want to live there. That would be miserable. Being in fear can be motivating, but I believe being motivated by love and passion is better. Sometimes fear is more paralyzing than motivating. However, there is another way that some fear serves you and ensures the survival of the human race.
I write often about seeing life as a classroom and how this mindset helps you to see every single situation, emotion, challenge, process or feeling you experience as existing to serve your growth in some way (and this includes feeling fear). Fear is in your life to serve you.
I actually believe fear is biologically necessary, even critical to our growth because it keeps us in a constant state of dissatisfaction and insecurity — which motivates us to keep growing, innovating, evolving and striving to survive. If we didn’t have any fear, we would get too content and might stop improving, growing and evolving, which could lead to the decline and eventual end of the human race.
That might seem a little extreme, but growth, change and improvement are what push our species forward. We must stay somewhat dissatisfied and insecure so we will do the things necessary to grow. If you were totally satisfied with where you are and who you are, all growth would stop. This might be the reason that as soon as you get comfortable, the universe throws a curve ball your way. The classroom of life requires challenges to keep us growing.
But too much fear is also a problem. Too much fear can have the opposite effect and might hold you back from taking risks, pushing your limits, and reaching new goals because it simply feels safer not to. You might, at this very moment, feel safer playing small in some area of your life.
Too much satisfaction means you are drifting
In his book "Outwitting the Devil," Napoleon Hill says drifters are people who are neglecting growth and mindlessly reacting to life with the same old patterns over and over. He claims that 98% of us fall into this category at times in our lives.
“Those who do little or no thinking for themselves are drifters. A drifter is one who permits himself to be influenced and controlled by circumstances outside of his own mind. … A drifter accepts whatever life throws in his way without making a protest or putting up a fight. He doesn’t know what he wants from life and spends all of his time getting just that.”
The universe doesn’t want you to be too satisfied with the status quo. It wants you to learn and grow and keep changing your life. That is what you are here for.
But too much dissatisfaction is also a problem.
Too much dissatisfaction makes you anxious
You could get caught up in a never-ending pursuit of perfection or getting something else. You may develop the mindset that if you could just get this, or get that thing, or accomplish that goal, and get there, then you would be happy. This leads to a life of stress, controlling others, and pushing everything and everyone to meet your expectations.
This type of action is hard on your relationships because your focus is selfishly on you and getting what you want or need to feel better. This is also a miserable way to live. The problem with too much dissatisfaction is as soon as that goal or task is accomplished, you already need something else.
Finding the sweet spot mindset
You must find the sweet spot in the middle, where you are dissatisfied and driven to keep growing while also feeling satisfied and at peace about where you are now. The key to finding that spot is managing your fear instead of letting it manage you. Here is how:
1. Choose the mindset that your life is the perfect classroom journey for you all the time. Understand that every experience is here to serve you because your purpose for being here is growth. This will help you to set aside any anxiety around things not being done or right. It will eliminate the excessive dissatisfaction behind your anxiety and let you feel more peaceful and content. It will help you let go of your expectations and feel satisfied because where you are is perfectly where you should be at this moment. You can still set goals and strive to change and improve the future, but where you are now is perfect for now.
2. Choose the mindset that your value can’t change. No matter what you do, you will always have the same intrinsic value as every other person on the planet. This means you can take risks, try new things, speak up, stretch yourself and risk failure while at the same time feeling safe. This mindset takes failure off the table. You were drifting because you thought it was safer; with this new mindset, you can take risks and still feel safe. You can engage in the classroom and shoot high without fear.
So, fear, dissatisfaction, and insecurity do serve you, but only in that sweet spot where you push yourself to take risks to grow. At the same time, know your value and your journey are perfect, so fear doesn’t take over and make you anxious. It’s all about balance.
I still believe you can protect yourself from physical danger using wisdom and love for yourself instead of fear, and you will be more motivated by love and passion than fear ever made you. But I will concede that some fear is useful for our evolution and growth because, without it, we wouldn’t get the opportunity to learn to rise above fear and choose trust.
You can do this.
I read your recent article about how to tell loved ones you are leaving the family religion. I am having a hard time understanding how my family thinks if someone leaves their religion they are automatically going to be a bad person, who will end up in Hell. What is it about religion that makes people judge others and determine their worth or worthiness, instead of the kind of person they are? And how come we tend to see people with different beliefs as the wrong or bad ones, and think ours are the only right?
It will help to understand some things about human behavior. All human beings (without exception) struggle with some fear that they aren’t good enough. We all compare ourselves with others, worry, and stress about our appearance, property, and performance. Since we naturally struggle with insecurity, our subconscious minds have been working, since we were children, to figure out ways to quiet our fear and feel safer in the world. Here are some of the ways we do this:
Psychologists call this practice of creating “us” versus “them” groups, othering. We see us as good and those other people as bad. This requires us to see the world in a very binary way. There are only two options, us and them, black and white, good and bad, righteous and evil, taller and shorter, or thinner and fatter. This binary, black and white thinking forces us to remove the grey area (where we might not be enough) and clearly put ourselves in a good group. By yourself you might not be good enough, but this group is good enough, even though you only think that because you are seeing the other guys as worse.
The dangerous thing about this human tendency is, it can be used against us. Advertisers know if they can present a cool identity that you could claim just because of the cool people who use their product, you will buy it because you need the self-esteem boost.
Any organization that wants to keep you buying it’s products or in its ranks, can subtly use this tendency to make you see them as the only good one and everything else as bad or evil. The truth is no person is ever all bad or all good (except maybe a few like Hitler, I will give you that). The rest of us are all grey, and purple, or blue striped, and totally diverse and different from everyone else. So, though othering (dividing yourself and joining groups) can provide a temporary boost to your ego, and quiet your fear, there is a cost.
The cost comes to your relationships. It’s hard to have mutually validating, safe relationship, if you tend to see everyone outside your group as bad or wrong. But that is what you need to do to get the self-esteem boost that being in the group provides.
This is the catch. How can you get the benefits of being in a special, elect, amazing group, yet be able to interact with “them” and not make them wrong, bad, un-elect or evil? There is a way, but let me explain about religion first.
The reason religion creates more fear than any other type of grouping is the beliefs are of eternal consequence (at least thats the belief) and God himself is involved in it. Religion makes us more scared and in this fear state, we are going to be less loving, tolerant, and open and more threatened. The more the other religious group insists they are right, they are obviously saying you are wrong, and that makes them a threat.
What you didn’t ask me was, How can you have safer, less threatening conversations and relationships with people, who have different religious beliefs or who see your beliefs as wrong?
The answer lies in removing the fear. Here are some ways to do that:
You can do this.
Coach Kimberly Giles is a sought after human behavior expert and speaker. She is the founder of 12shapes.com and claritypointcoaching.com and provides corporate team building and people skills training.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.