Hello everybody its Thomas here with another episode of the Mind Guy Podcast. I’m really excited to share this episode with you. As someone who has struggled with self-esteem and confidence I am really excited to share a new perspective on what these two things are. I have to thank Damon Cart and the late Steven Andreas for bringing these ideas to the forefront, both extraordinary NLP practitioners. Do you know how many books I’ve read on self-esteem and the number of google searches I’ve had around boosting confidence? Honestly just a few books on self-esteem and probably a hundred google searches on the confidence thing.
When I was in my late high school years I stumbled upon success and in a weird way I had this exponential boost in confidence. I felt like a big fish in a little pond. I felt like I was on top of the world. I was an A student, a member of a numerous clubs and I had a vast amount of friends. I won homecoming king my junior year, was a three sport athlete, was voted best all around, most likely to succeed and most athletic. I won countless awards and scholarship’s, got into every school I applied to and thought I was a genius. I also thought I was a really good person and being raised in a highly religious household, morals were a big thing for me.
Even though I had a high level of confidence, deep down I was insecure, had low self-esteem and was delusional about who I really was in life. I hurt people, I skipped 75% of my classes in college which eventually led to me failing out, I made fun of other people behind their backs, and when I went to a big state school all of a sudden I was a little fish in a great lake. I all of a sudden had a lot of evidence that I wasn’t that good of a person and other people saw me as cocky and arrogant.
I was completely blind to all of this. I felt delusional because I developed all this confidence when it came to my accomplishments but deep down I had an extremely low self-esteem. When I realized I wasn’t the person my ego was trying to convince me I was my confidence disappeared as quickly as it formed. I was back to being someone with low self-esteem and low confidence.
There is nothing worse than having this high and mighty self-image of yourself and then all of a sudden having that bubble burst. I thought to myself, “How did I get it so wrong?” When people get their ego’s crushed in that fashion, most people never bounce back from it. I was no longer confident and extroverted. I went back to my introverted ways, being reserved and inhibited. I also experienced a lot of personal shame. I found myself avoiding people because I felt so unworthy around their presence and became the harshest critic of myself. Which ultimately led to my avoidant personality disorder.
I could have never predicted this path I ended up on. After many years of self-help by reading books, online articles and documentaries I was ready to give up. At the age of 35 I made very little progress in alleviating my depression, anxiety, and avoidant personality. I was fortunate to do a 3 ½ day seminar my sister introduced me to in Boston. It was called the Landmark Forum which then sparked this amazing series of events. I quit my job, bought a van, rescued a dog and hit the road. On this journey I ended up at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America in Albuquerque New Mexico.
I remember being blown away by the concepts I was learning at the Academy. It all started to make sense. The place I ended up in life wasn’t really my choice and it was driven by how the mind works. No one ever taught me about the subconscious or unconscious mind. I didn’t know I operated like a machine with subconscious programming running the show. All of a sudden I had a new found hope and I started going to work on the unconscious. I’ve been able to rapidly transform my life in a matter of years.
About a year and a half after the Hypnotherapy Academy I ended up in my first NLP training. NLP standing for Neurolinguistic Programming. NLP is the best representation of how the unconscious mind works that I’ve ever come across. In past episodes I’ve spoken a lot about values, beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and parts that run our behavior. Today I want to talk about one of the most profound principles I’ve learned when it comes to what determines your self-esteem and confidence. It’s all based off of self-concept, categorizing, values and qualities. I will break these four things down separately and then put it all together in the end.
First I want you think about and answer this question, “What is self-esteem?” I bet a lot of you have a good definition for it and in the simplest terms I would define it as how you feel about yourself. You either feel positive or negative feelings when you think about yourself, but it’s also situational. You may feel good socializing with a group of your peers, as opposed to feeling bad about yourself if you go into a room filled with successful millionaires. I’m using a personal example here.
The next question I want you to answer is much more difficult, “What determines your self-esteem?” I’m going to tell you after all the books I’ve read on self-esteem I still could not answer this question. There was nothing I came across that adequately explained to me what determines my self-esteem. Until one day while watching a YouTube video of Damon Cart talking about self-concept.
I need to first define self-concept and sorry for going through this piece by piece. I think chunking it down into pieces will make it easier to learn. Self-concept is how you view yourself. There are a lot of things that define your self-concept and the most important aspect is your identity. It’s the labels or categorizations you have placed on yourself. In every single experience of your life your unconscious mind categorizes that event. It has to categorize events because it doesn’t have the computing power or time to retrieve information based on specific events. The categorization of these events define your identity or self-concept. This is how your identity is created.
Now I want to talk about qualities which is another component that determines self-esteem. When I say qualities I mean characteristics or attributes. Here are some examples of qualities of yourself: friendly, kind, lazy, loving, trustworthy, honest, dependable, ambitious, chivalrous, courageous, mean, humble, and grateful.
I google searched qualities of human beings and you can find lists of hundreds of human qualities. I went through that list and it took me to the letter P to find an attribute that I was 100% congruent with. When I say congruent I mean having a sense of certainty that I am this quality. This is how the categorization works by your unconscious mind. It lumps the experiences of your life into a category that determines your qualities or your self-concept.
For example, I am 100% certain I am punctual, even though it’s impossible for a person to be punctual 100% of the time. There will always be one instance where that person is late and it may have nothing to do with their efforts. I am nearly always on time and the rare occasions I am late it does not hinder my 100% certainty in my quality of being punctual. All the other qualities I was ambiguous with. I was somewhere in between a yes and no with nearly the entire other qualities on the list, which creates an incongruence within the self.
When you are congruent with a quality then you are that quality. That quality shows up in your life nearly all the time and you don’t have to worry about it. I never have to worry about being punctual because I am that and there is no changing it. It’s important to me. So there is another component to all of this and I’ve been slowly trickling the information to you because once I put it all together at the end it will be clearer.
Now I want to talk about values because they play a role in this whole self-esteem thing. Whatever is important to you is considered a value. Values are our biggest driving factors towards our behavior. If you knew how powerful your values are at dictating your behavior you would focus a lot of time figuring out what your values hierarchy is. The reason you are flabbergasted at someone else’s behavior is merely because they have different values than you.
Let’s say you walk past a homeless person on the street and they might look disheveled and smell wretched. You might say to yourself, “Why doesn’t this person take care of their hygiene?” It’s because they have other higher values above hygiene on their values hierarchy. Living on the streets are dangerous so they might value safety above all else, so they are constantly trying to find the next safe place to sleep. Another thing they might value above hygiene are other needs, like where their next meal is going to come from?
If I’m going to be completely candid another value that is important to the homeless is when they are going to get their next high. A lot of people living on the streets are addicted to drugs but not for the reason you might think. A lot of people addicted to substances value feeling good above all else. If you have ever dealt with a lot of trauma in your past, that trauma sticks with you and it’s painful. Also living on the streets creates a lot of fears and anxieties. Drugs alleviate that pain temporarily and not only that, it can give you feelings of euphoria. The value of feeling good would certainly be high on the list of a person’s value’s hierarchy.
Your values are the truest driver of your behavior. Values also change based on context. Every area of life you have different values that are driving your behavior. The six big areas are career, relationships, family, spirituality, health, and personal development. My #1 value for career is freedom and my #1 value for relationship is love. Eliciting your values and ranking them in order of most importance will give you a really great understanding of what is driving your behavior. I try to do this with every client I work with now because it’s so powerful. You can change your values, sometimes first you need to clear the negative emotions connected to some of these values, but changing values is your fastest way to shifting behavior towards something you want in life.
Okay so now I am going to put it altogether so that you understand where your self-esteem comes from. Your values are what are most important to you. Remember what qualities are? They are simply attributes you exhibit in certain situations like being friendly or mean. Now this is where I put it altogether. When you don’t exhibit a quality that is in alignment with a value, you will have low self-esteem. You will feel bad about yourself. When you do exhibit a quality that is in alignment with your values you feel good about yourself.
So let me also explain that you can use the same word for a quality, a value and your self-concept. Let me use the example of friendliness. You might meet someone new and you exhibit the quality of being friendly. This gets categorized by your unconscious mind into a gestalt in which gestalt means a collection of memories and your unconscious mind uses it to define your self-concept which is another way of saying your self-identity. Your unconscious mind categorizes this experience as either friendly or unfriendly which creates a self-concept of ‘I am friendly’ or ‘I am not friendly’ or you think you are somewhere in between. Sometimes you are friendly and sometimes you are not. You may also value friendliness, especially by appreciating when other people are friendly to you.
Just because you value friendliness doesn’t mean you are in alignment with your self-concept. If you are ambiguous about whether you are friendly or not than you will only exhibit that quality part of the time. Now since you value friendliness but for whatever reason you are not friendly in a social situation then you display a quality that is not in alignment with one of your values. This will make you feel bad about yourself, leading to low self-esteem. Is it starting to make sense?
Let me give you another example. There are a lot of people out there that are perfectionists. They highly value perfection. There are often many different qualities that a person can exhibit when it comes to a specific value. Let’s say you have to write a report or a paper for school or work. If you are a perfectionist you will likely put in a lot of effort to make sure the report or paper turns out exceptional. For the perfectionist a quality that is relevant when it comes to writing something is having good grammar verses poor grammar. A person that is ambiguous about this quality will sometimes think they are good at grammar and other times are bad at grammar and will make mistakes.
Someone who values perfection does not like making mistakes. So let’s say you spend a lot of hours creating that report or paper for school or work and your boss or teacher gives you the report back pointing out one obvious grammar mistake. Even though it’s not big of a deal and it doesn’t affect your grade or your job, that person feels really bad about themselves. They are devastated, because they did not exhibit a quality that was in alignment with their most important value of perfection. Does that make sense?
I’ll give you a counter example to better display this. Let’s put another person in that same situation but instead of perfection as their highest value, let’s say having a growth mindset is a value that is most important to them. In that same situation they will have a completely different experience compared to the perfectionist. Instead of grammar being an important quality to them, a more important quality in this situation is learning.
The perfectionist takes their mistake as a failure but the growth mindset person takes it as feedback. They learn from the mistake and implement it moving forward. They are empowered by learning and growing through their mistakes. The value that is important to them is a growth mindset and the quality they are exhibiting is learning. This quality is in alignment with their value so they feel good about themselves.
This also determines your confidence, but confidence is a feeling that grows with repetition. Confidence is incrementally improving at something, but you are still exhibiting a quality that is in alignment with a value, just overtime you get better at a talent or skill and you incrementally increase those good, positive feelings of confidence. I’ll give you an example of how the lack of confidence showed up in my life after I had my ego crushed. Something I value highly is social connection but because of the mistakes I made, I became shy, reserved, and introverted. All of these things were coping mechanisms to protect myself from making the same mistakes from my past.
So even though I value connection, when I’m shy, reserved and introverted it doesn’t always allow me to create connection. My qualities are not in alignment with my value. I would then feel bad after these social interactions and it would lower my confidence. Sometimes I would feel more comfortable around certain people and I would become more open and extroverted. After these interactions I would feel good and it would increase my confidence. So I experience social situations as an up and down roller coaster ride of confidence back to lack of confidence. Never truly allowing my confidence to grow.
I’m actually learning something here in the moment. I just made this discovery while writing this because I still lack some confidence in social interactions. The amazing thing is that I have the tools to re-categorize my experiences so I can become congruent with my qualities and values. I can also shift my hierarchy of values. I can take on social interaction as a learning and growth experience and every time I have a conversation with someone I can get feedback in the moment. The tools for NLP are so powerful. I highly recommend people take on NLP trainings. If you want to learn more about how to shift your self-esteem and confidence by using NLP send me an email at [email protected]. Thanks for listening!