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Challenging the Negativity in Your Head

One of the Lifework assignments for those in Leadershift last week was to listen to the famous “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. Most people have heard this speech at least once- or at the very least have heard that phrase… “I have a dream!” As students began sharing their take on re-listening to that speech, some of their comments stood out to me:

“Dr. King seemed fed up!”

“He had incredible courage to say what he said.”

“It emphasized the urgency of now. To strike while the iron is hot! It’s a message of hope.”

“Now is the time to do what you need to do. This speech is filled with passion.”

There are so many powerful takeaways from this speech, but the point these students made was that when we see something that needs to be changed, we need to have the courage to stand up with haste and do what needs to be done.

That takes confidence, doesn’t it? Confidence and conviction.

When I personally listened through the speech earlier this week, I had to stop and ask myself, “How confident am I in pursuing my dreams?” My answer- “Not confident enough.” Self-esteem can be a touchy subject, because everyone can have a different idea of what that looks like- in fact, self-esteem can be portrayed entirely different from one person to the next. What is true for everyone though, is that at the root of self-esteem is what one thinks of him or herself. To know yourself is one thing, but what you really think about yourself is always going to influence your behavior. Someone may say that they are a “people person” and a major extrovert and that they’re all about the social scene. This same person may deep down always be comparing themselves to those they are surrounded by, living in a constant state of “striving” – striving to earn the attention and popularity they so desperately believe they need. Or there may be someone who works in the automotive industry. He knows he’s a “car guy” and the go-to person for any automotive related question. He knows himself, but perhaps what he thinks about himself drastically feeds his ego- “I’m the best there is.”

There is danger in both low and high self-esteem—both possessing the ability to do a whole lot of damage. With high self-esteem, you’re in the clouds. You may often times feel untouchable because you are just “that” good. If you think so highly of yourself that you’re unable to learn from others, you’re treading on thin ice. One way to keep yourself in check is to ask yourself, your colleagues, and your loved ones if you are teachable. If you aren’t teachable, you’ll never grow, and if you don’t grow, you’ll never be able to lead well.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, and the one I’m going to hone in on, is low self-esteem. As Mike says, “Low self-esteem comes from how we spend time in our heads.” What are the messages you keep running through your head? Are they filled with doubts?

  • I’m not good enough.

  • I haven’t been trained well enough.

  • I’m not equipped.

  • Someone else could do it better.

  • I don’t deserve this.

  • I’ll never actually succeed.

  • I won’t be able to finish what I start.

  • I’m a failure.