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Self-confidence and self-esteem – the real way to get it

do-your-best-boycroppedHow many books on self-esteem and self-confidence have you read? Most of them tell you the same thing only using different words or different illustrations to make their point.

The Huffington Post carried an article titled, “9 Self-assuring Affirmations For When You Need a Little Boost.” I clicked on it hoping I might learn something new. I didn’t.

It was only a series of nine little pictures with clever sayings on them. The “writer” provided no content beyond a short introductory paragraph that ended with these two sentences: “If you’re looking for a little encouragement, check out the self-assuring affirmations below. Then take on the world with the knowledge that you’re capable of anything.”

My first thought was, “who doesn’t need a little encouragement? I know I do from time to time.”

My second thought was that I am NOT “capable of anything.” Heck, I proved that on Friday when I played basketball with a bunch of seniors and tried to jump to get a rebound. I can’t jump much over one or two inches anymore. No more jumping up and grabbing the rim like I did in college. Those days are over. I think I could affirm myself able to slam-dunk the basketball from here to eternity and it simply ain’t gonna happen.

Once I got over the grief of aging, I decided to read the affirmations because by now, I really did need a little encouragement. As I read the affirmations two words stood out to me – I and ME. One of those two words was a part of every affirmation.

Could it be that all the self-esteem gurus and all the confidence building techniques we have been taught are upside down? Do we really get self-esteem by talking to ourselves or do we get self esteem from doing something, accomplishing a goal, working hard on something that is important, maybe by helping others?

So here’s what I did. I took each of the nine affirmations that were supposed to give us a boost and I turned them upside down. By so doing, I may have made them right-side-up.

The first affirmation said, “This challenge will bring out the best in me.”

No doubt challenges bring out the best in us. When we are pushed beyond what we think we can endure or beyond what we think we can accomplish, we have to do our best and we often surprise ourselves at what we really can accomplish given the opportunity and the motivation to get it done.

But I want to turn that affirmation up-sided-down. Instead of saying, “This challenge will bring out the best in me,” why not declare, “How can I help you with the challenge facing you?”

Do you see the difference? It’s a huge difference. One focuses on me and my challenges and the other focuses on how I can help someone else through their difficulty. Now which one of these really creates the most self esteem? The one that is only a declaration about me, or the one that gets me involved in someone else’s life?

The second affirmation was “I will see the best in myself.” Once again I understand the affirmation and the problem that many people have always putting themselves down.

When you turn that affirmation up-side-down it takes the focus off of me, myself and I and puts it on the other person. Instead of “I will see the best in myself,” start declaring, “I will see the best in every person I meet today.”

What if you said something nice to every person you met today? What if you handed out compliments to the people you do business with or the neighbors next door or the people who wait on you at the mall?

The next affirmation that needs turned up-side-down is this one: “I know I can do this!” It’s a great affirmation and there is no question we need to have this idea in our minds and hearts because we all too often sell ourselves short.

Now let is turn it up-side-down. Let us go from “I know I can do this!” to “I know YOU can do this.” What if you started encouraging everyone in your family: your mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister, everyone? What if you became famous for being an encourager of others? Would your self-esteem go up or down? I say it would go up without ever having to say to yourself, “I know I can do this!”

Another affirmation said this: “I will thrive when life throws me a curveball!” That certainly is better than saying, “I will bawl like a baby when life throws me a curveball.”

Turn it up-side-down and it would say, “I’m here to help you when life throws you a curveball.” Don’t you think your self-esteem will rise when your life is about serving others rather than just serving yourself?

The fifth affirmation said, “I love who I am becoming.” Whoa. Wait a minute. Wouldn’t falling in love with “who you are becoming” depend a little bit on “who you are becoming?” I can recall some times in my life when I was becoming a real jerk and NOBODY loved that, especially me. So let’s just forget that affirmation altogether.

The sixth affirmation said, “I am worthy of this opportunity.” Like the previous affirmation, that would depend on the opportunity. Fact is we have all been offered so-called opportunities that were really traps or frauds or snake oil. Now, I do like the focus on opportunity rather than the popular focus on entitlement or privilege that some people think they have because they are a certain color or age or profession or rank or member of a certified victim class.

The seventh affirmation said, “I have the power to achieve my goals.” Well aren’t you special. I have one question for you, “Have you ever used your power to help someone else achieve their goals?” That might bring you a great big surge of pride, self-esteem and self-confidence – not because you achieved your goal but because you helped someone else.

The eighth affirmation said, “I have so many good qualities to share with the world.” Do you see what I mean about how these affirmations? They seem so “I, me and my” focused that they are starting to make me ill.

The ninth affirmation we are supposed to start using to give ourselves a boost is this: “I am always growing and developing.”

OK, so here’s what I’m going to recommend on this one: Grow and develop a sincere interest in other people and stop gazing at your naval. Get out of you cocoon, get involved in something that focuses NOT on helping you become all that you can be, but rather helps someone else do the same thing. You will find more joy, more satisfaction, more self-esteem in focusing on others than you will ever find by focusing on yourself.

Artist and art critic John Ruskin who lived in the 1800s seemed has a sentence that summarizes the danger of focusing only on “I, me and mine”. He said, “When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.”

To read the article that precipitated this blog posting, CLICK HERE.

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More Stories By Ron Ross

Dr. Ron Ross is a publisher, author, speaker, radio personality residing in Loveland, Colorado. He is the author of two published books and several e-books. He is the host of Tidbits Radio on 1310KFKA-AM and on CastleRockRadio.com. He writes a weekly motivational and inspirational column that is published in a variety of newspapers.

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