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Insights: Self-Worth
September 02, 2008


“I don't know the key to success,
but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

- Bill Cosby

Does your perception of your own worth come from the inside - or from what others say about you?

Some while ago I wrote a newsletter titled ‘Living Life from the Inside Out’ which dealt with the subject of one’s inner voice and learning to be directed by that rather than one’s environment or other people.

I thought I’d take up this subject again today but with a slightly different emphasis.

A wild week-end

This week-end saw a return to the depths of winter. Nature struck with a vengeance as she unleashed gale force winds, driving rain and surging seas on an unsuspecting Mother City, looking forward to the advent of Spring.

My wife and I did what South Africans do best when the weather gets nasty – we got together with good friends, put a few extra logs on the fire, dusted off the potjie and opened some good red wine!

Rugby takes a back seat!

Regular readers will know I am an avid follower of Springbok rugby and may be surprised to hear that on Saturday, I chose to socialise ahead of watching the live broadcast of the game against Australia. Of course, the subject of rugby came up during the afternoon with friends but their general consensus was that we were doomed to lose for the third time in a row.

Earlier in the morning I had pored over pre-match reports of the game in the week-end papers and couldn’t help feeling dismayed by the outpouring of negativity towards the new Springbok coach and his attempts to bring about a new style of play.

All the rugby doom and gloom mongering led me to reflect on something that David Campese (former Australian international turned Super Sport commentator) had said before the previous week-end’s game:

“Who the hell in their right mind would want to coach the Springboks?”

Two questions leapt into my mind:

  1. Why is it that the South African public and media are so incredibly intolerant of failure?

  2. How does the Springbok coach cope with such a barrage of criticism and still keep focused on his job?

Coping with criticism

While I would love to delve into the collective South African psyche and offer some suggestions as to why we are the way we are, I’m guessing that some reflection on the second question would be of more relevance to readers, in their individual capacities.

So, let me ask you straight. How do you handle criticism?

More interesting to me than a graphic account of what you would say to your advocates and detractors, and how you would say it, would be an understanding of how their criticism makes you feel on the inside?

Do you positively brim with happiness when someone says good things about you?

Do you sulk with resentment or quickly turn to anger when someone says something that you regard as unkind or negative about you?

Does the feeling stay with you for an extended period or does it disappear quickly? Do feel obliged or inclined to return the favour to those who say nice things and do you feel the desire to ‘get back’ at your detractors?

An issue of self-worth

You see, the way you handle criticism – both positive and negative – gives away a lot about the degree to which you respect and value yourself.

Those people who have high perceptions of their own self-worth – in other words they feel comfortable in their own skins, have positive self-belief, a realistic appreciation of their own capability and a generally positive outlook on the world and their contribution to it – will tend to be far more ‘measured’ in their reaction to criticism (both positive and negative).

People with high self-worth will also tend to be far less obsessed by the need to please others or to be seen to please others.

Does this mean that people with high self-esteem are more selfish, tending to care less for other people?

No, not necessarily.

In fact, very often the contrary is true. People who feel more comfortable with themselves, are generally inclined to be more authentic in their dealings with others.

In other words, they will be more inclined to ‘say it like it is’ and reflect on - rather than react to – criticism they may receive. (Whether they manage to do that with the appropriate grace and subtlety, however, will depend on other qualities they may or may not have!)

Looking inwards not outwards

The key difference between those with high – and those with low – self-worth can be traced to the tendency to look inwards for inspiration and motivation as opposed to the tendency to look to the external world for recognition of their relevance.

Believe it or not, an obsession with material things is often a sign of low self- worth. I say ‘believe it or not’ because the external world has conditioned us to think the opposite – that the flaunting of material possessions is a signal that someone is successful and in control of their life.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having – or aspiring to have nice possessions. But when possessions are acquired with the sole or primary purpose of impressing others, you should know that this is simply an appeal to the external world for recognition of that person’s relevance.

We're all equal

We all know intuitively every single person on this Earth is as valuable, credible and relevant as every other. What really counts is not so much how others perceive us, but how we perceive ourselves (i.e. our self-worth).

The good news

The good news is that a person’s opinion of their own self-worth can be raised very quickly with the right tools, techniques and insights. A person can be taught how to look inwards rather than outwards for the strength, inspiration and growth that they crave – and the results can be nothing less than dramatic in the effect this has on that person’s level of happiness.

OK, by now I’ll bet you’re wondering what all this has to with the Springbok coach?

Well, whether you love or loathe Peter de Villiers, I think you’ll have to agree that the man, like his predecessor, just has to be endowed with a high level of self-worth to absorb such manic criticism so soon after taking the job - and still stick to the approach that he intuitively knows is right.

…and boy – after watching the recording of the game yesterday – and the record win the Springboks posted – I have new regard for his intuition!

Providing the tools

At New Insights we pride ourselves on offering people the tools to improve their self-worth. Our life coach training programme teaches aspirant coaches how to recognize and develop their self-worth – unlocking the door to personal freedom, confidence and growth – and how to use their new found skills to make a profoundly positive difference to the lives of their clients.

If you feel you are life coach material, if you’re looking for a full or part-time career that’s both fulfilling and very rewarding, then please - contact us today!

With warm regards


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