Having a hard time, mind your self-esteem

October 30, 2019

Self-esteem is extremely important to be successful in life. Life’s experiences, achievements, failures all affect our self-esteem.

We need to protect our self-esteem particularly during hard times and setbacks. I would like to propose the following five ideas:

1. You may realize it or not but you have several accomplishments. Think about them. It will make you feel good, and will have a positive influence on self-esteem.

2. You can enhance your skills or learn a new skill. Nowadays there are plenty of options, including online learning. Try it, and see the difference it makes to your self-esteem. Set up smaller goals and work on them.

3. Do not bother about what others might be thinking about you. No one has time to analyse you as much as you think. Ask yourself, do you have time to analyze others. You don’t. Likewise, others don’t think much about you too. You are what you think you are.

4. A person with high self-esteem knows his strengths and makes use of them, whereas a person with low self-esteem thinks more of his weaknesses. In one of my earlier posts – How to build a high self-esteem– I had written that being mindful of good things in our life is first step towards building a high self-esteem. During hard times, it is even more necessary to reflect and ponder over what good things you have, rather than what you don’t have.

5. Happiness has a positive impact on self-esteem. You feel good when you are happy. Therefore, find time for your hobbies, spend time with friends and do anything that makes you feel happy. Happiness can be best learnt from children, who are happy with what they have, not with what they would like to have. I have already written – How to be happy: Learn from kids – which has a few ideas.

One bag for you, one for others

July 19, 2018

If you go shopping on Saturdays in June and November in Switzerland, chances are that you will be welcomed by a volunteer at the entrance of the supermarket who will offer you a small bag with a gentle request: As you shop for yourself, please buy something for charity, put it in this bag and give us. You can buy things for poor and leave the bag with the volunteer as you go out.

The effort is organized by a non-governmental organization called Samedi Du Partage (Saturday of sharing). Since 1993, the organization has been organizing collection of non-perishable food and hygiene products in different supermarkets, with the participation of volunteers.

I participated in one such drive on the 2 June 2018. Over 900 volunteers collected items at over 70 stores across the city. Tons of products were collected. Volunteers would now spend weeks in sorting them out before distributing them to the poor people through over 50 charitable organizations.

It was heartening to see the willingness of people to donate. They did not ask questions. They trust the work of ‘Samedi du partage’. They have been doing it for years. During the rush hour, as we could not offer the bag to each person entering the shop, some patiently waited for their turn and asked for the bag. A young student came in and handed me a few things. What he had bought for himself was just a water bottle. When I asked he simply said, “I came to buy water for myself. Saw you guys here and thought of joining this effort.” An old woman made three trips, and each time she donated something, saying she finds it difficult to hold much weight at a time.

I decided to write about ‘Samedi du partage’ as it presents a very good model. It makes it convenient for people to help the poor while doing their daily chores. It is also an excellent example of mobilizing volunteers and reaching the needy in partnership with a large number of charitable organizations. I wish such a model is replicated in different places as well.

I am sure most people will be willing to help if a reputable organization approaches them and makes it easier for them to support a good cause. Even if no volunteer approaches us when we go shopping or eating out, we may consider keeping aside a small amount with the intention of helping others.

Find Your Confidence Triggers

January 30, 2017

Confidence, or lack if it, plays a huge role in our life, in determining how far we go. Our confidence shows in ‘I can do it’ attitude; and this pushes us to give our best shot in chasing our dreams.

Most of us begin well, with the excitement of doing or achieving something but a few initial setbacks change it all, making a dent in our confidence.

What can be done to ensure that setbacks and failures do not shatter our confidence?

We must find what triggers our confidence. Confidence triggers may be different for different people. It can be anything that can be done quickly to divert the attention away from the momentary setback(s) and get a sense of fulfillment.

An Olympian used to watch videos of his greatest wins before a crucial match to boost his confidence. Pursuing a hobby and spending time on sports, music, reading etc. can trigger our confidence. A person who is struggling to get a job can do a short online course and this could be a confidence trigger. A person not getting enough job satisfaction can focus more on the tasks that interest him and get the best out of him. Satisfaction of doing some tasks well gives a person positive energy and this allows him/her to attend to the boring and mundane tasks.

Some people stop socializing in their moments of setbacks. It never helps. It is actually counter-productive. There are people in our circle who are trust-worthy and who can give good advice. They may not be able to offer solutions but listen attentively without being judgmental and help us feel more in control of the situation. They also make us see the problem in a different perspective. Most people actually like when someone confides in them. It strengthens relationships.

Don’t analyse your failures too much. The main thing is to act, and do something. Set yourself short and achievable goals and go for them. Success, no matter how small it is, adds to our confidence.  We must make use of our confidence triggers during the moments of setbacks.

Mark Victor Hansen sums it up well, “Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles, and less than perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.”

How to Stay on Top of the World

August 31, 2016

An interaction with young people during any of my ‘Opening Doors’ workshops is always an eye opener. I learn a lot from their responses, questions and feedback.

I recently did a few sessions with students of Unity College and Unity Mission School in Lucknow, India.

At the outset, I asked students to identify themselves either with an animal, a musical instrument or any other object. They were given options to select from. The student group chose an interesting array of animals and items such as a horse, lion, guitar, tabla and even a cricket bat to turn the spotlight on their individual strengths.

Needless to say, none of the children identified themselves with a donkey, a species considered to be wanting in intelligence. When the students jocularly remarked on this, I shared a well-known story with them:

One day, a donkey fell into a deep pit and struggled to get out. He brayed for hours while his owner tried to figure out what to do. When the owner realized he couldn’t rescue the animal, he gave up and decided to bury the donkey alive. With a shovel, he began filling the pit with soil. Suddenly, he noticed an amazing thing. As the soil was thrown on him, the donkey would shake it off and step on it. With each shovel of soil, the donkey rose higher by simply shaking off the soil and standing on it instead. Eventually, the mound grew high enough for him to jump out of the pit.

We then discussed lessons emerging from the story:

  • Shake off the dirt: Life is going to throw dirt on you. Don’t allow it to affect your self-esteem. Just shake it off and step forward.
  • Learn from difficult situations: Every obstacle, setback and challenging situation provides an opportunity for learning.
  • Never give up in life: With sustained efforts, we can get out of the deepest trouble. Rather than thinking of the problem or people, who pull you down (even bury you alive!), think of what you can do to get out of the situation.

And, when it comes to learning, we can learn from anyone, just by looking at their strengths. A donkey is known for its endurance and stamina but people have always looked at it as an object of ridicule, overlooking its strengths and usability. I hope my young friends will remember these lessons and put them into practice.


Failures don’t reduce your worth

February 28, 2015

In an ice-breaking session of one of my training programmes, I asked participants to identify themselves either with an animal or with an object while introducing themselves. There were interesting answers and explanations but one answer stays with me till date.

A participant said, “I am like a tennis ball. I bounce back every time I am dropped on the ground.” Everyone applauded on such a positive attitude.

I wish we all develop such an attitude because failures and setbacks are part of life. Not getting a job despite several attempts, not getting admission in a university of one’s choice, not getting good marks in an exam, broken relationships etc. can shatter people. It is not easy to stay positive in such situations. But we must. There is no other option. Can we allow such instances- which will soon be forgotten any way – to affect us? The good news is that the day you achieve success, your previous failures are forgotten.

We need to find a way to deal with the such unpleasant moments of our life. The most important thing is that we should not let failures or rejections affect our self-esteem.

I would offer the following three tips:

1. Don’t take failure as a sign of some flaw in you.
2. Learn from the experience and try harder.
3. Tell yourself: The next opportunity will be better.

You may have failed any number of times but your real failure is when you stop making efforts. Bounce back like a tennis ball! Harder someone hits it, higher it goes.

Let me share the following to conclude this post:
“Life consists of two days, one for you and one against you. So when it’s for you don’t be proud or reckless, and when it’s against you be patient, for both days are test for you.”
― Hazrat Ali Ibn Abu-Talib A.S.

Do you like yourself?

August 31, 2014

Everyone needs to pause for a moment and reflect upon this question. If you don’t like yourself – which actually means you are not comfortable with yourself – you have a low self-esteem and you don’t deliver your best.

How can we become more comfortable with ourselves? Here are five ideas that might help:

1. No one is perfect. We often make the mistake of looking at the lesser parts of ourselves – physical appearance, relationships, possessions – and feel miserable. Let’s get into the habit of looking at the glass as half full rather than half empty.

2. Make a list of things that make you uncomfortable about yourself. Reflect upon each. Discuss with a close friend. You will end up dropping many from the list as they may not be real or may just be insignificant. Only you may be thinking about them while others may not even notice them. Dropping the unnecessary baggage always makes sense.

3. You may be left with just a few issues that make you uncomfortable. Ask yourself a question. Am I the only one facing this/have gone through this or there are others as well? You will find that you are not the only one and this will make you feel lighter. But also think how have people worked on their shortcomings rather than living with a feeling of self-pity. You can also do the same.

4. Do things that are good for self-esteem. Pursue a hobby like a sport or music, upgrade your knowledge and skills by doing some short term courses.

5. Take care of your health. Eat well, sleep well and be regular with your exercises. Don’t we feel better the day we have had a good workout in the gym, had a good game of tennis or just had a long walk?

Finally, Like yourself but don’t take yourself too seriously. Very often, this becomes the root cause of our level of discomfort about us.

Bank on your strengths, multiply your net worth

March 31, 2013

I recently conducted a short session with a group of young people. The topic was ‘How to improve self-esteem’. It was a lively discussion. My young friends were able to identify what they needed to do to better themselves. Building confidence emerged as a recurring theme amongst the group. The group’s expressed need for greater confidence reminded me of a story I had read on the internet some time ago:

A man’s business was running into losses. One morning, as he sat on a bench in the park, he met an old man. After polite greetings, the old man said, “I can see that something is troubling you.” The man sighed deeply, looked at the old stranger and then poured out his woes. The old man nodded silently. Then, after a pensive pause, he opened his cheque book.  He wrote out a cheque of $500,000. “Take this money,” said the old man, as he stood up to walk away, adding, “…meet me here exactly a year from today. You can pay me back at that time.”

The businessman looked at the cheque. The signature read: John D. Rockefeller – one of the richest men in the world. The businessman felt the money would come in handy in revitalizing his business. However, he decided against using the money. The mere thought of the cheque in his cupboard gave him renewed optimism. Within months, he was out of debt and back in business.

 As promised, a year later the businessman returned to the same spot to return the cheque. The old man appeared again. But just as the businessman was about to return the cheque and share his success story, a nurse came running up and grabbed the old man by the arm. She said to the businessman, “I hope he hasn’t been bothering you. He often escapes from the rest home and tells people he is John D. Rockefeller.” Then she led the old man away.

The businessman was stunned. He looked at the signed piece of paper in his hand and smiled. He suddenly realized its true value: his new-found life was certainly a consequence of the cheque – not the value of the cheque but rather of the confidence that the cheque had instilled in him.

We all need to find such “confidence triggers” in our life to multiply our net worth. In our short session, the youngsters discussed a few such triggers: remembering good things in our life; constantly working on our strengths and talents; and making a consistent effort to improve upon an identified area. In short, bank on your strengths, multiply your net worth.