Where does it come from and where is yours?

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“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”

– Henry Ford

“The NUMBER ONE PROBLEM in the world is a lack of self-esteem”

– Dan Pena

Self-esteem is a hell of drug.

Speaking very personally, the thing that I perhaps take MOST for granted in my life is my self-esteem. I don’t know where it came from; one must assume early childhood? I certainly can’t take credit for it. It’s always been there, which is why it was so easy for me to NOT notice it. It’s almost entirely unshakable and unassailable.

I’ve always been VERY aware of so many other gifts I have been blessed with. Objectivity is one of them; even as a miserably depressed teenager I could objectively reason that there were billions and billions of people I would NEVER want to trade places with. Objectively, I am so fortunate to be born when and where I was and into the body I was born with. I’ve always been aware of the myriad advantages I have. I have always known life is NOT fair, and that I’m on the lucky end of the spectrum, for sure.

I remember seeing Dan Pena say the above quote and being very taken aback by it. I had never seriously considered what WOULD BE “the number one problem in the world”, but there was nothing in my worldview that would have ever led me to believe it was a lack of self-esteem. That was a shocking revelation to me!

I also remember taking that nugget of information, Dan’s opinion, and sharing it with my (mostly female) clientele. 100% of them agreed without a moment’s hesitation. I realised I had lived for decades without a CLUE what it felt like to be everyone else.

The level of one’s self-esteem will MASSIVELY affect how one interprets information.

My self-esteem enables me to look at my own luck and recognise it for what it is. I can’t take credit for luck. If I had no self-esteem and felt unaccomplished and like I had nothing to be proud of myself for, I would be very tempted to take credit for good things that are outside of my control, like politicians do! That’s the ego at work, as opposed to self-confidence, built on achievement.

Two people looking at the same information about the same situation will arrive at totally different conclusions if they have radically different levels of self-esteem. Some will look at accomplishment and see luck, whereas I see opportunity.

“If somebody else can do it, so can I”

To me this is an objectively true and obvious statement…but it is only possible with high self-esteem. WITHOUT self-belief, somebody else’s accomplishment only reinforces a worldview of inferiority.

“If somebody else has achieved something I haven’t, it proves that I can’t”.

This is a weak, loser mentality. And unfortunately, it is far more common and extremely toxic!

Let’s assume we don’t know how someone else achieved their accomplishment and we are left to speculate. Let’s also assume there is a binary choice between “they’re lucky” and “they worked hard at a smart plan”.

If you CHOOSE TO BELIEVE (because we don’t know, and we are literally choosing our belief structure) that their success is just luck, you now have ZERO motivation to attempt to replicate the same success in your own life. You have NO information that leads you to believe that better outcomes are possible for you. “Luck” means that you will have less, achieve less and BE less and you will stay that way, unless your luck changes. You bear no responsibility for your situation in life. You suffer no shame for your laziness, no embarrassment for your ignorance and no fear of failure.

If anyone threatens this worldview, they will cause you to feel embarrassed, lazy and stupid. So you will fight them, to avoid that pain. You will encourage more and more people to NOT achieve anything, so that your OWN LACK of achievement is not only comfortable, but normal. You will look for and find excuses and “exceptions to the rule” to maintain your status quo, deflect any personal responsibility and avoid discomfort.

On the other hand…

If you CHOOSE TO BELIEVE that others’ success is because they worked out HOW to do it, and then they sacrificed for it, invested into it, suffered whatever pain and deprivation required for it, worked hard at it and were persistent and consistent and patient enough…then you have opened the possibility that you too can achieve the same thing.

There’s limits, sure; people have a wide variety of physical and cognitive abilities. But that doesn’t change the fact that we now can see and believe in the possibility of success. And that success rides on our own work. We are in control. We have opportunity. It is worth trying.

This worldview hurts! You suddenly realise there are people who are smarter than you, because they worked out how to do something you didn’t. Here you were thinking something is impossible and yet somebody just did it. That’s embarrassing! You SHOULD be embarrassed! And people are making sacrifices, making investments of time/money/effort that you HAVEN’T made. That makes you feel lazy and undisciplined by comparison. You SHOULD feel lazy and impulsive and not proud of your decisions and actions!

When you have high self-esteem, this kind of pain and discomfort are your best friends!!! It’s the EGO that suffers. And it’s the ego that needs to be kept in check. People who can’t handle being told that they are acting in a lazy, ignorant fashion are people who live and die by their EGO, not their self-esteem. If their ego is damaged, there’s no self-esteem to fall back on.

I can still know that I’m awesome and simultaneously NOT live up to my potential. Every subject in school, every semester, every year, every single teacher said the same thing: “Disappointing. Andrew is not living up to his potential.”

Do teachers not say that shit anymore or something?

What do they say now? “Andrew didn’t achieve much, and that’s OK. I don’t expect much from him and he should never expect more from himself either. As long as he had fun and feels good about himself.”

Henry Ford was 100% right: If you believe you can’t, then you’re DEFINITELY right. If you believe it’s possible, then it remains a possibility.

It comes down to a “winner mentality vs loser mentality”.

Choose to be a winner. It hurts WAY more. It’s WAY scarier.

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