If we look in the mirror, what do we see? More often than not, we are self-critical rather than see the true person we are.
I love the image of a kitten looking into the full-length mirror and seeing a lion looking back, because this is what is inside all of us, the lion heart within. We may feel like a ‘pussy cat’ at times but overcoming feelings of ‘inadequacy’ will augur well for our general wellbeing.
It is the same in the workplace, we often underestimate our abilities, especially when the pressure is on. We constantly talk about gaining the necessary skills to enable us to be competent in our current role or gaining stronger attributes to move forward in our careers. It’s true that skills are important, however what is also important is having the confidence in ourselves to take up the challenge.
Self-esteem and confidence go hand in hand, and one wonders where this attribute comes from. Are we born with it, or does it develop throughout our formative years? Can we ‘learn’ how to be confident and build our self-esteem?
Self-doubt, self-sabotage are terms that tell the story, but why do we self-destruct, when all we want to do is achieve something worthwhile in our careers, our lives? Are we ‘conditioned’ to think that we are not ‘good enough’ to do something? We are all human beings, and perhaps ask too much of ourselves.
Is it the way we were brought up? For Baby Boomers, perhaps that is the case. This generation are known as ‘old school’, where children were under strict parental control and in some cases, were ‘seen and not heard’, unlike the generations that followed. I think it depends on the generation you were born into, as to the level of confidence each one of us possess.
Being born in one country and emigrating to another is a huge emotional journey, as anyone who has undertaken such a journey will tell you. Although the transition opens new doors of opportunity, it can also leave us with a feeling of not quite fitting into the new environment. That is how it was for many migrants.
Being the new girl or boy on the block can be unsettling when not initially being accepted however, building a tough exterior to protect oneself whilst working through a phase of ‘fitting in’. Anyone’s self-confidence would have been ‘rattled’ from the word go. However, life goes on, and although the assimilation process may take time, at the end of the day, every migrant had to make their mark in the world, and in Australia that was always a possibility.
Children in today’s world grow up having a great deal more freedom and one would hope that freedom instil a much higher level of self-worth and hence self-esteem. So why do we underestimate our capabilities? Why not take on a challenge just to see where it will take us?
Personally, it has taken a lifetime to become confident in who I am and my capabilities. Even though I have achieved so much that I’m proud of in my life, I have never thought that I was a ‘success’. Strange isn’t it. I think perhaps it is because we put so much pressure on ourselves to be ‘perfect’, to be the best at everything whilst wearing multiple ‘hats’ in both our personal and professional lives. Whether this is attributed specifically to women I cannot say, but sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
Life really is for living and living means that we have to take care of ourselves in body and mind. We need to be realistic about what is possible and that will depend very much on the number of responsibilities we have at the time. This is especially significant as people try to find the equilibrium between home and work.
Both my career and self-esteem took an upward turn when I was offered the ‘dream’ job that I felt I had always aspired to, Secretary to the General Manager of an Insurance company. I was 39 years of age. It came about through an opportunity to take on a temporary assignment that became permanent. There really is something about the adage of ‘right place, right time’.
My career in the demanding and ever-changing field of the professional EA, has covered many fields of industry, from Insurance to the Medical arena, as EA to the Director of Nursing; EA to CEO of various organizations including the now defunct Rugby League team, the Adelaide Rams; and then into the Public Service, where I worked with the executive team within a South Australian agency for over fifteen years. In each role I have been enriched both personally and professionally.
I am continually amazed and never would have believed, how much personal growth occurs when you constantly aim at being the best you can be in your chosen field. It certainly takes commitment, but when you have a passion for what you do, it comes naturally to offer a high level of service.
My message is to be kind to yourself, achieve what is achievable at any given time in your life, strive to be the best you can be, and enjoy the experience of learning something new every day. Self esteem is within all of us, we just need to set it free, so that we can exude confidence in everything we do.