Perhaps a bit of a rhetorical question, but I assure you there is no catch.
Our sense of value and our value system are both complex entities, arising from our life history. Most of us have had knocks of one kind or another: bereavement, redundancy, failure in achieving something we were aiming for, family breakdown, work pressure … the list is very long.
Thankfully, many of us can recover from these blows, some more quickly than others. However, for some people a combination of blows arrives at the wrong time (childhood, especially adolescence) or too close together. In those cases the impact can be catastrophic. Someone full of hope and confidence one day can turn into a shy recluse with no sense of direction the next, whilst others kick out at anything and anyone who gets in the way or tries to help. Their world has literally been shattered. I remember a good friend at school who for no apparent reason started picking on anyone and everyone, eventually causing total classroom disruption resulting in suspension. We thought he was an idiot. It was only years later that we discovered he’d come downstairs to breakfast one morning to find his mother packing the car to leave. Bang! Just like that: out of the blue without warning. The emotional cost took years to repair and included many broken and dysfunctional relationships along the way. We were also forced to think about our lack of response.
Sadly, my friend’s situation is mirrored with alarmingly increasing frequency today.
But I also remember another couple of other friends who always seemed so confident, almost cocky, about their life and where they were going. And they did go! Both became very successful in their respective fields; one as a scientist, the other as craftsman. Why were these two so different? I think much of it came from what was being fed into their lives. Their parents were always encouraging them to try something new, go for something they couldn’t achieve. And if they failed? They could always have another go.
Now I know it is naive at best to simplify all situations to a single formula, but it is generally well accepted that a person’s self-identity is forged through their life experiences and relationships. Repeated criticism or comparison with other people results in loss of confidence and unwillingness, often through fear, to try something in case we fail. It also leads to the perception that ‘I am worth nothing.’ The opposite is true, with those receiving encouragement (including correction) achieving a more balanced and fulfilled lifestyle. And success is often thrown in there too.
It is also accepted that what we practise at school becomes a lifetime habit. Our businesses are plagued with people who continue to play out their school scenario, as bullies and manipulators, or as doormats. They have a misguided sense of self-importance or self-value; either too high or too low. Self-confidence is a good attribute when held in balance with other life skills. But too much or too little can be disruptive and at its extreme, devastating.
And the problem extends further into society, where we see the impact of people who are unable to respond to their circumstances or surroundings.
The great news is that we all have intrinsically equal value and worth.
The bad news is that others, or we ourselves project a value which then puts us on a sliding scale, based on what we can do, or our cash value in terms of income or cost to society. These false measures need to be clearly delineated from intrinsic worth and value. Of course, when we enter into a job or role, there is a basic need to be able to perform that role competently, and hopefully bring something extra as well. But that has to do with our value to the employer: it does not affect our value as an individual.
So where am I going with all this?
Our childhood influences adulthood, in terms of how we think and how we act towards ourself and others. That childhood will have been influenced by positive and negative inputs which will also have influenced our perceptions. Those perceptions, in turn, influence how we operate at work, at home or with our friends. However, these perceptions and responses are habits formed through the practice of life and like any other habit, they can largely be reshaped and changed into new habits. We don’t really have an excuse for, ‘Well, that’s me and that’s the way I am [forever and always shall be].’
We each have a responsibility to look at ourselves and see how, where and if we need to change these habits: thought patterns, attitude to others, attitude to ourself, emotional response.
And therein lies another issue; we are generally very poor at emotions!
Most of us have gone through life with the good old British stiff upper lip, being afraid to engage, let alone express our emotions for fear of what we may discover. And our education system does nothing to help, effectively switching off emotional engagement by the age of 11, leaving many ill-equipped to handle life. I know I’ve used the analogy before, but it’s like an athlete who only trains one half of their body for a 100m sprint final. It’s absurd to even consider, yet we do that everyday with children from as young as 3 or 4 years old, up until they are 18 or older and then we are surprised that they can’t handle life.
So it is little wonder that poor self-worth and low self-esteem are cancers in today’s world.
Thankfully, creativity allows re-engagement with our emotions and therefore, provides a safety valve for when pressures and trials arise. It is something we all possess and something we can all discover and apply. I believe that passionately and it is one of my key motivators and driving forces.
And by applying that creativity across our businesses, in practice, planning and development, implication, sales and marketing, management structures, team structures … through the people we have, the future, as one mobile company proclaims, is bright. Our who business benefits:
- Within the business, our people will feel more fulfilled, more engaged, more appreciated, they will be more willing to contribute, more willing to work harder and longer hours (if required), the atmosphere will change for the better
- Outside the business, our customers will notice the change and the wider social net will benefit.
On a scale of 0 – 100, we all score 100 for worth, but sadly, many score less than 20 when it comes to self-worth or valuing others. And that must stop.
Until next time …
Postscript: Wouldn’t it be great if our governments actually believed in the concept for our education system; not for political gain but for the good of the nation, and empowered those with the appropriate skills and vision to make it happen!