For most of human existence, self-esteem was an unheard-of notion akin to the theories of those heretics who believed the world was round. The term “self-esteem” - defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “pride in oneself; self-respect” - made its way into the common public awareness during the ‘60s and ‘70s as a catch-all term to describe the essence of parenting problems. The “old ways” of parenting were pronounced barbaric and damaging to the budding self-esteem of our youth, and many parents fearful of raising unhappy, ill-adjusted children took advice that led to a generation of children with high self-esteem...so high it eclipsed personal responsibility and created a “me-first” mentality.
On the other hand, most of us are taught that thinking highly of ourselves is a vain, selfish and undesirable trait. Advice telling us to feel better about ourselves and occasionally put us first seems counterintuitive at best. After all, isn’t self-love the first step on the road to Ego Central? Many people want to feel good about themselves, but guilt too often rears its ugly head and stops healthy self-esteem from developing.
Because of these conflicting viewpoints, self-esteem is a tricky little emotion to manipulate. It’s important to strike a balance between modesty and greed. It takes practice to convince yourself that you are a worthwhile and deserving person, while at the same time keeping in mind that you’re not the centre of the universe. Though it may sound impossible, it’s actually simple to accomplish.
Where do you rate on the self-esteem-o-meter? The following quiz will help you gauge your feelings and identify areas that need improvement.
Me-ology: The Self-Esteem Dipstick
To rate your self-esteem, choose the answer that most closely reflects your likely reaction to the following situations:
1. You know you’re good at creating databases. Your boss asks you and several co-workers for a volunteer to organize a new client information database, and another volunteer to write a company newsletter- which you have no idea how to do. You:
A. Volunteer for both, because you’re so brilliant you’ll be able to figure it out - even at the expense of embarrassing the company the first few times you write a terrible newsletter.
B. Volunteer for the database- and when Fred Jones also volunteers, gently point out that you’ve had more experience, but would be happy to teach him what you know as you go along.
C. Remain silent. Someone else is surely better at it than you, and the boss would never pick you anyway.
2. You’re out with friends and you’ve just passed gas noisily in the middle of a restaurant, so you:
A. Immediately blame a passing waiter or someone else at your table. You are completely serious in your accusations, and there’s no way anyone will be able to pin it on you. If they even think about it, you’ll let them have it.
B. Crack a joke about that four-bean salad you had for lunch.
C. Attempt to crawl under the table, then excuse yourself and head to the bathroom. You can’t face any of them for the rest of the night, and you consider paying the entire check right now and leaving before they notice you’re gone- if they notice you’re gone.
3. When you watch Jeopardy or play Trivial Pursuit, you:
A. Laugh at the other players when they get the answers wrong. You know them all, and if you ever went on Jeopardy you’d clean them out.
B. Have a blast. You know some of the answers and try to guess at the rest. You love to learn new things.
C. Don’t watch Jeopardy or play Trivial Pursuit. You’re not smart enough for stuff like that.
4. You’ve decided to go after that promotion at work. You:
A. Make a bunch of other people look bad so there’s no way you’ll be passed up.
B. Let your boss know you’re interested in the promotion, and then put in some extra effort to prove you’re good for the position.
C. Decide on the drive to work that you’re not going to go for it after all. You won’t get it no matter what you do, so there’s no point in trying.
5. When making a tough decision, you:
A. Choose the option that sounds best for you at the moment, and then stick to your decision no matter what, even if it turns out to be the wrong one.
B. Weigh your options and think about the advantages and disadvantages of each one before deciding on your final choice, but remain open to change if it turns out there is a better way.
C. Decisions? You can’t make decisions. You always pick the wrong thing and wind up making everyone miserable. You’ll get someone else to decide.
6. You’re faced with an entire evening alone. You:
A. Gloat, because you don’t have to spend time in the company of those miserable cretins who think they’re your friends, but can’t hold a candle to your brilliant and sparkling personality. You know they’re all sitting around wishing they could hang with you, anyway.
B. Take the time to do something you enjoy, like take a long bath, read a good book, or fix yourself your favourite dinner. It’s nice to relax once in a while and be alone with your thoughts.
C. Resign yourself to being miserable all night. You might as well go to bed early and hope someone’s around tomorrow.
7. When performing a task that requires your full concentration, you:
A. Don’t. Whatever it is you’re doing, you could do it in your sleep. You don’t have to bother concentrating on things.
B. Are able to tune out most distractions and complete the task to the best of your ability. You are determined to put your best foot forward.
C. Can’t. You’re too nervous about screwing things up to concentrate, so you tend to work on projects in short bursts and often end up finishing things late because you’re so distracted.
8. A friend introduces you to someone new. You:
A. Prove that you’re a better person by saying something witty or clever that lets them know your friend is paying attention to you right now, not them. If the new person is worth knowing, they’ll make the effort to get to know you.
B. Greet him or her warmly, introduce yourself and ask an open-ended question such as “What do you do for a living?” or “Where do you live?” You’re prepared to actually listen to the answer and will reserve judgment until you get to know the person better.
C. Mumble “hello,” and then slink off in search of a friend who’s not talking to someone you don’t know. Whoever the new person is, they wouldn’t want to get to know you anyway.
9. You walk in to your house and you’re greeted by an awful stench: the refrigerator is unplugged, and everything in it is spoiled. You:
A. Immediately assume someone was screwing around with it and launch an investigation to find the culprit.
B. First plug it back in to find out if it still works, and then try to figure out what happened. If someone else was responsible for unplugging it, they can help you clean it out. In any case, you’ll do what’s necessary to correct the problem.
C. Decide you must have done something wrong, and now it’s coming back to haunt you. You grumble under your breath as you clean out the refrigerator and wonder why things like this always have to happen to you.
10. Your supervisor calls you into the office to compliment you on the tremendous job you’re doing on your new project. You:
A. Thank him outwardly, all the while thinking it’s about time he noticed how great you are. Maybe now you’ll get the respect you deserve.
B. Are sincerely flattered, and tell him so. You also ask if there is anything you could be doing better.
C. Insist that you’re not really doing all that well, and try to hurry him along so you can escape. You don’t deserve praise.
11. You have to talk to your boss about a recent event that is affecting the way you and your co-workers perform your job. You:
A. Act as though you and your boss are best buddies, and demand that she do something to fix the problem. After all, you could be running the show just as easily as her, and you’d probably do a better job.
B. Approach the matter professionally and with confidence that a solution can be found. You offer any suggestions you might have to correct the problem, and ask if she has any ideas about what should be done.
C. Would never presume to talk to your boss. There’s a reason she is the boss and you’re not. You might send her an anonymous e-mail or ask one of your co-workers to talk to her.
12. This weekend you have a hundred little projects at home that have to be tackled, and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. You:
A. Attack several things at once, starting with the easiest ones. You might not manage to finish any of them, but you can always insist that someone else pitch in, because you have more important things to do.
B. Decide which projects need to be completed first and take them on one at a time. By taking things step by step, you will finish what needs to be done. If anyone else is available at home, you’ll ask them to help out.
C. Bemoan the unfortunate twist of fate that ruined your weekend. There’s no way you’ll ever be able to finish everything. You don’t ask anyone else for help because they have better things to do than perform favors for you, and you wouldn’t want to be a bother.
13. The opportunity arises for you to pursue your dream job, but it would mean leaving your current, stable position right away. You:
A. Drop everything and go for it. Who needs a safety net?
B. Weigh your options, and plan out what you’ll do if the new opportunity falls through. If you have a spouse, you discuss the decision with them and create a backup plan. If it’s possible, you’ll find a way to make it work.
C. Stay right where you are. Why risk disappointment? You just know it won’t work out.
14. You have five minutes to get to an appointment, and you’re stuck in a seemingly endless traffic jam at a dead stop. You:
A. Curse, fume, and honk your horn repeatedly. Don’t these people realize you’re in a hurry?
B. Are frustrated, but you know there isn’t much you can do change the situation. If you have a cell phone, you call to let them know you’re going to be a little late. You use the unexpected time to relax and listen to your favorite radio station, or just to think.
C. Want to die. Things like this always seem to happen to you. It just isn’t fair. You’re so worried about being late you’re feeling sick, and there’s no way you’ll be able to relax until you’re out of this mess.
15. A co-worker reviews one of your projects and tells you a few things that aren’t pleasant, but they are valid points. You:
A. Thank him through clenched teeth, but insist that you know what you’re doing. He has a lot of nerve criticizing your work, and his opinions don’t really matter anyway.
B. Are grateful for the opportunity to improve your work. You thank him for his insight and go back over the project with his suggestions in mind before turning it in.
C. Give up. You can’t do anything right. Maybe your co-worker should have been in charge of this project instead of you. You’ll just turn it in and hope you don’t get fired for incompetence.
Results: Tally up all your A, B, and C answers to find out where you rate on the self-esteem dipstick:
Put Down That Mirror, Narcissus. Your tank overfloweth. You may not be aware of it, but you have far more confidence than you need. While confidence is a good trait to possess, too much of it can make you appear arrogant, rude or unapproachable. Try to take more notice of others’ feelings, and you’ll get much further.
Join the Circus, You Have Perfect Balance. You have a healthy level of self-esteem tempered with empathy and concern for others. You’re probably the life of the party or the person everyone comes to for help, and you’re glad to give it when you can- but you know when you need time for yourself.
If You Dig Any Deeper You’ll End Up in China. You’re a few quarts low, and you could use a self-esteem top-off. You may think you can’t do anything right, but with a little confidence and some positive thinking, you’ll find you are worth far more than you believe. If you answered C to everything, it’s time for a complete system flush and refill.
Copyright 2007 Mark J Holland.
All Rights reserved.