What to do when low self-esteem gets in the way of personal success
15 Minutes of Dame #5, By Dixie Laite
“Walk tall, or baby, don’t walk at all.”—Bruce Springsteen
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had what magazines and Oprah term low self-esteem.
An inveterate self-loather, I’ve encountered countless books and articles bemoaning my sad state of affairs and explaining that if I were promiscuous, frigid, too aggressive, too passive, shy, aloof or the life of the party, this pesky low self-esteem was to blame.
These pros listed all the things, people and events that might shepherd one down Low Self-Esteem Lane, and I could easily tick off each one and marvel at how I hadn’t become a serial killer.
Experts of every stripe gave me license to feel mighty sorry for myself and to patiently tolerate with all my insecurities and anxieties that made so much inevitable sense.
But one day I’d just had it.
What people with healthy self-esteem may not realize is how incredibly exhausting it is being insecure. Suspecting strangers dislike you, confident friends and family despise you—all that negativity is positively draining.
Riding the subway one morning 15 years ago, sheepishly averting my gaze from the throngs doubtlessly ridiculing my appearance behind their sleepy faces, the obvious dawned on me: I was a complete douche.
My epiphany made clear that there is no greater narcissism than hating yourself. My perception of my complete lack of value still had me dwelling on my value, not the wealth of value to be found all around me.
Though some people’s self-hatred extends to the rest of the human race, mine was of the everyone-else-is-better-than-me variety. “Well, then,” I thought. “Let’s go with that.” If other people are so wonderful that’s a pretty good half-full perspective on which I could focus.
You know, self-loathing and insecurity are not modern afflictions, but a century or so ago, the problem was more sensibly addressed. Low self-esteem (I believe the Latin is Self-Conscious Numbskullus) was addressed not as the inevitable product of familial or societal flaws, but as a lack of confidence and positive thinking, both of which could be learned and practiced. (I’m looking at you, Dale Carnegie.)
It’s Not All About You
It’s said one “suffers” from low self-esteem. I think that’s kinda bullshit.
As painful as all the insecurity and terror can be, at the end of the day, it’s still all self-obsession. The shyness and fragility may not feel like self-centeredness, but that’s what it is. “Everyone is staring at unlovable, ugly me!”
So here’s what I learned:
1. Be interested in other people; stop being interested in what they think of you!
2. Use your vulnerability as an asset, not a liability. Use it to think about how other people are feeling. It’s much more important—and fun—for me to see other people blossom under my attention than worry about my own wilty petals.
So, what does all this have to do with personal branding?
Marketing guru Seth Godin recently wrote that while being judged can be uncomfortable, the flipside has its price:
“Snap judgments, prejudices, misinformation…mean you will inevitably be misjudged, underestimated (or overestimated) and unfairly rejected. The alternative, of course, is much safer: to be ignored.”
Yes, in life you’re going to be misjudged, misinterpreted and ridiculed. (Especially when you’re a bit of an odd duck like me.) But you can’t allow self-consciousness and insecurity to keep you out of the game—and most importantly, away from your teammates. We’re all on one big team, and we’re all here to help each other and have a good time.
In other words, don’t let you get in your own way—and get out there and have some fun!
This is the fifth episode of “15 Minutes of Dame,” a column to help you create, develop and promote the living crap out of your personal brand. Dixie Laite has been putting the “broad” in broadcasting for over 20 years, working in television, online, print and marketing for a variety of household name brands. She’s currently Senior Editorial Director for TeenNick and also freelances as a writer, speaker and digital content strategist. Dixie’s column is published every other Wednesday on diybusinessassociation.com. Follow Dixie @DameStyle, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and post your suggestions in Comments below.