Self-Esteem Can Be Taught
What is self-esteem? To find out, close your eyes and ask yourself three questions: 1. What is it that I like about me? 2. What is it that I respect about me? 3. What is it that I love about me? First notice how good it felt to answer those questions. Telling the truth about ourselves as you have just done—that we are attractive, able and giving, does work and it makes us feel good. Too often we are telling ourselves what doesn’t feel good—such as: “How can I be so stupid? I know I’ll fail! I can’t do anything right”. These negative statements only serve to lower our self-esteem.
Now notice the categories that your answers fell into. For example, some of you liked the fact that you look good or that you have nice things. This is the first category, that of our physical presentation. It is the least important category, however, many young people have noticed only their physical presentation.
Some of you found that you respected your ability to perform as a teacher, athlete, or student. This is the second category, that of performance. We learn early on the advantage of being skilled in a. academics: using our minds; b. sports: using our bodies and c. activities of life: cooking, repairing, sewing, creating art, organizing, public speaking, performing arts, etc.
Many of you had qualities that you loved about yourself that dealt with your personality, which is the third and most important category. This includes such attributes as being trustworthy, being a good friend and being respectful of others and ourselves. Developing these qualities gives us a feeling of self-worth and value.
Notice that the physical things you thought of in the first group are all things you have nurtured or acquired. The performance activities of the second group are also things you have learned. You were not born knowing how to type 100 words a minute or knowing how to play an excellent game of golf. In the last group are personality traits that you have fostered, such as being a responsible person, having a good sense of humor or being reliable. Note that these are all areas you have developed and have accomplished by yourself!
Why is self-esteem so necessary? We must like, respect, and love ourselves before we can have those feelings for others or their property. Notice that a persons’ self-esteem is in direct correlation to their professionalism. That is, a person’s ability to represent themselves appropriately, perform on the job and be a person with whom others can relate is an indication of their success in whatever station of life they have selected!
Think of those with whom you work, who do their job with excellence, and yet look unkempt and sloppy. Now think of those who look the part and are perfect in their grooming yet are flakes on the job. Now think of those who look the part, do their job well and are rude, mean or offensive to be around. Professionalism requires balance just like our self-esteem.
Schools have concentrated on the academic and athletic performance facets of instruction. They have almost ignored successful performance in day to day living, personal presentation and the personality requisites to acquiring a job. Young people have not been trained how to feel good about themselves, and therefore cannot look into the eyes of a potential employer, dress appropriately for the job or situation, or take responsibility for doing the best job possible.
What is instruction in appropriate presentation? It includes posture, carriage, grooming, dress, voice and diction, diet, exercise, gestures and knowledge of body language. Presentation has always been an area of judgment. 1st Samuel 16:7 states “for man judgeth by the outward appearance…” The decision to hire or not is often made in the first 30 seconds: this visual decision is based mainly on the garments worn, in that clothes cover 75% of the body. We can manage the cleanliness of our bodies and what we wear and therefore effect what judgment is made of us. Beach clothing is only appropriate if applying for a job at the beach, not in an office. And likewise, formal clothes look silly on the beach. Our clothes can work for or against us just as our carriage and our voice.
Successful performance in day-to-day living includes knowledge of how to: set goals, how to communicate clearly and concisely, how to shake hands, read a map, how to use correct etiquette in social and professional situations, how to keep accurate financial records, write checks, balance a statement, organize your things and your files, how to keep a schedule, create a resume, interview for jobs, write or print legibly, spell or be able to look up the word, and how to understand real estate, banking and insurance basics.
Now let me give you a performance example, a “how to” that will make you feel confident when meeting people and shaking their hand. You may already know how to give a professional and warm handshake but many people do not. Find a friend to play this game. Shake their hand as “Felicia Fingers” would. Grasp your partner’s fingers lightly and feel how weird that feels. Now hold your partner’s hand and let your wrist go limp as “Willy Weakling” would. That doesn’t work either. Now be “Captain Crunch” and crush their fingers together so that their ring feels like it will transfer to the next finger. Notice that none of the above handshaking methods encourage your wanting to engage them ever again. Now be “Kent” or “Kathy Confidence”: fit your hand firmly and securely into your partner’s palm, all the way to the flesh at the base of the thumb. Look warmly into your friend’s eyes and tell them in words and feeling that you are glad to meet or see them. That works and will work for you from now on. You will always be confident when shaking someone’s hand because you have learned how to do it.
Appropriate personality is knowing what works in each situation and being able to pull forth the personality which will enable you to be, do and have what you desire. Subjects useful in creating a healthy personality include how to have positive personal communication, how to be respectful to yourself and others, to communicate with and relate successfully to others, how to be responsible for your choices and actions, how to keep a commitment (do what you say you will do when you say you will do it), how to visualize and affirm what you desire, to tell your truth in the moment and how to listen to your inner voice.
Choice in learning is of utmost importance. Self-esteem can be taught. However, we will only change or grow in areas we wish to grow in or change. Let the students (of any age) know that all of “life is a lesson”. Teach them that if they want to change, they can do it.
Give the self-esteem courses a glamorous name appropriate to the students. “Intermediate Grooming” is boring. For young students, use names like—Looking Good, GQ Style, Independent Living, Star Techniques, Champions’ Workshop, Winners’ Workshop, Introduction to Show Business, Fashion Modeling, Basics of Acting, Little Prince or Princess, young Men’s Pro, or Commercial Acting. For adult course names, use titles like Professional Techniques, Raise your Self-Esteem and Increase your Income, Look Smart, Do Well, Feel Good, etc.
Use teachers from your own school, company or organization that choose to be on your self-esteem training team who excel and demonstrate that facet of professionalism. For example, those teachers whose personal appearance is impeccable should teach subjects dealing with cleanliness, grooming, carriage, body language and personal style. Those who are most efficient, responsible and professional in their performance should be teaching time management, organization, job interviews and independent living. Or in the workplace, use those employees to train who are trainers or those best at performing the specific job to be done. Teachers or employees who get along best with students, faculty, co-workers and management should be teaching and modeling those qualities of positive thinking, caring, interpersonal relationship, negotiation, visualization, commitment and integrity.
Results of the lack of self-esteem have been well documented. Quoting from the Vasconcelllos Bill, AB23, that was passed in both houses of the California State Legislature in 1987, “Low self-esteem can have a wide ranging negative influence on individual conduct, the cost of which both in human and societal terms are manifested in a number of ways, many of which convert into significant expenditure of state monies. These human costs and costs to government can be reduced by raising the self-esteem level of our citizenry.” Low self-esteem, as stated in the bill, is at the foundation of the behavior that leads to violence, crime, drug abuse, welfare dependency, teen-age pregnancy and alcoholism.
Confidence is not something that can be turned on and off. It shows in appearance, speech, movement, and behavior. It is a composite of many factors. Self-esteem training covers them all. We know why self-esteem should be taught. So where in your school, business or organization can these subjects be useful? Perhaps in consumer education, physical education or in home economics—wherever it will work in your school. If you are in business, teach self-esteem at your continuing education or employee training workshops or retreats. If you are in organizational development, use this as your theme for conferences or fund-raising events. When should self-esteem training begin? It should begin as soon as possible. Start in preschool and kindergarten. Habits of successful living should begin in our formative years, however it is never too late to start feeling good about yourself or to build your self-esteem.
How can the curriculum be obtained? I have created a curriculum people paid for since 1963. You are welcome to use it. In addition, there are workshops, books, tapes, and even games that teach self-esteem that are now on the market.
The bottom line is integrity, which means the integration of body, mind and soul—the physical, performance and personality. All three must be sending the same message: I am and I like what I am. Our personality, what we know to be true about us, that we are kind, loving people who want to make a positive difference in our world, must be validated and supported by our physical presentation and our performance in order to live a successful and balanced life.
The results of self-esteem training are apparent. As we care for our physical presentation (body, things and space), we grow to love them. With love comes the energy and desire to perform and with performance comes the need to share our knowledge and love with others. Our growth in self-esteem results in “the inner treasure”: peace of mind. With this peace comes the ability to live peacefully with others.
Our self-esteem comes from taking responsibility for our body, mind and soul. Peace of mind comes as a direct result of knowing we have done the best we can do with the talents we have been given. How we perceive ourselves is not inbred but learned through society. When we feel good about ourselves, we feel good about others. Harmonious living is learned behavior.
In summary, you have seen that self-esteem is necessary. We have proved that it can be taught. You have the teachers and the curriculum is available. Self-esteem can be taught to anyone, at any age, with very little money. We need to be teaching it in our schools, businesses and organizations.
This was a talk given to the Principles of the Santa Barbara Junior High Schools by Betty Hatch in 1985.