by George Thompson
"‘Why is it,’ Jonathan puzzled, ‘that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?’”
— Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
“If you fired an arrow and stopped it in its flight, and sighted along the arrow, you would see where it was going. If you stop life in its flight and sight along it, you will see that it is headed toward an enlightened planetary civilization.”
— Harry Palmer, author of the Avatar® materials.
I was in the sunroom at our house on Betsy Lane in Houston. Our family had moved in at the first of the summer, but my parents had shipped my brother John and me out of town, first to friends in Kentucky, then to cousins in Virginia, so they could pull up the orange shag carpeting to reveal hardwood floors, and cover dark paint in the kitchen with bright green wallpaper adorned with big yellow and white flowers.
It was 1970, I was 8, John was 6, and my sister Teal was about to be born. Standing in the remodeled sunroom alone, I was excited by a strong but vague feeling that there must be something more to life. I didn’t know what the “something more” was, but I was certain it existed. I knew that something good was coming. I just couldn’t tell you what. It came to me that things could be better than they were, but we would need to work at it. Yet it would be worth our extra effort.
My parents had put their efforts into improving the sunroom, and I feel the parallel between the remodeling and the lovely events I awaited. The sunroom had had cloudy plastic louvered slats all along one wall, that could be opened to let in outside air, but not much light. The house must have gotten central air at some point, because my parents replaced the sunroom louvres with big pane glass windows that gave us a view of the lush greenness of the back patio and flooded the room with stunning gulf coast light. The couch sat in front of these windows, and sometimes cradled my mother’s women’s groups. My dad had built bookshelves across the long room to anchor both ends, and they were filled with volumes about how to improve oneself mentally and spiritually.
In the freshness of that space, I knew instinctively that people could get along better, and love each other more. We could know our common nature, which lay beyond our differences, and underneath our words and actions, and from this new perspective, truly understand each other. Our conflicts could then simply vanish. Back then I could never have told you all this, even though I was feeling it, so I didn’t spend much time pondering what I sensed. It took years to name was that something was.
A remarkable thing about this feeling was how palpable it was. I could feel it surrounding me, surrounding all of us, occupying an expectant present. Its existence was terribly exciting, like the night before your birthday, or Christmas, or a trip to AstroWorld. The peculiar and disturbing thing was that no one else acted like they could feel it. During good times this puzzled me, but when I was not in such a good space, it frustrated me to no ends. Again, I could never have told you this when I was a kid, but it didn’t occur to me that everyone else was blind to the human harmony that was coming. I felt that somehow they also knew this, but were tricking me.
I am not sure how long this conviction continued, but I know that it was still much on my mind five years later. I was in seventh grade, and I wrote poems to try to put this feeling into words. I had grabbed Jonathan Livingston Seagull off a sunroom bookshelf. Jonathan had discovered that there was “more to life than eating, or fighting, or power in the Flock.” He found a way to awaken a least a few of his fellow birds to this new way of living. I bet I have read that book at least 75 times since then. My poems were an attempt to explain to myself that, like Jonathan, I had seen a remarkable vision of a beautiful future that marshaled hope and anticipation. I wanted to explore this growing recognition that I had apparently seen something that other people hadn’t. The vision was important to me, and seemed connected somehow to my purpose for being alive. At the same time, it took all my courage to move toward this experience and examine it, and I worried that even a small setback could make me lose my nerve. I wanted to explain my feelings to myself, so that I could hold them more closely to me.
When I shared the first drafts of my poems with my mother, I took a small step to show the world what I had seen. I was afraid that my mother wouldn’t understand what I was trying to say or, understanding it, would reject it. But the opposite happened. She was so proud of what my poems conveyed that she had her secretary type them up and mimeograph them so she could give them to her friends. I hadn’t told her not to share the poems — I hadn’t even considered that she might like them that much. Still, I wasn’t ready to share them with others; my insights felt too tender and fragile. I was afraid that my mother’s friends, who were all good people, would reject the vision that meant so much to me. Losing control of my attempt to voice that which I couldn’t describe unsettled me, and made me feel that I needed to brace myself each time this feeling came over me. When my parents divorced a short time later, I stopped exploring my vision-feeling altogether. I no longer had the resolve I needed to take in the experience and study it.
Years later, during a summer in medical school, I worked in Paraguay with Amigos de las Americas, a program that could transform the lives of teenagers by training them, placing them with families in Latin American villages, and giving them adult levels of responsibility. I supervised two 16-year-old boys who were in charge of immunizing children from a pueblo of farmers who used oxen to plow their fields. One of the boys was so inspired by his experience that he spent several years with the program, became one of its leaders, and took a national role with a public health organization right out of college. What happened to him felt like what I discovered 15 years earlier.
Chances are, you know someone who oozes confidence. You're familiar with a man or woman who's comfortable in their own skin, walks proudly, and understands their worth -- and it shows.
Is that person you?
If it's not, you're not alone. Men and women around the world suffer from low self esteem, but it doesn't have to stay that way.
Studies show that a girl's confidence peaks around the age of 9, but wanes with adolescence. What if you could recapture that high self esteem from your youth?
Would you ask for that big promotion? Take that next step in a relationship? Let adventure guide you to new and exciting opportunities, rather than letting fear keep you on the sidelines?
The good news is that you can achieve all this and more. Today, we're uncovering a few key ways high self esteem can change your life, getting you closer than ever before to that confident and assured 9-year-old that's still inside.
Ready to learn more? Let's go!
1. Criticism Loosens Its Hold
Criticism has many faces.
Sometimes, it's constructive, as when a boss gently informs you of holes in your performance that can lead to a stronger outcome when addressed. When given in this context, criticism is often helpful and healthy.
Yet, more often than not, criticism appears as a nasty side effect of low self esteem. It can turn spouses against each other, tear family members apart, and ruin relationships.
At the root of it all? Expectations that are not aligned with reality.
When we lack confidence in ourselves, it becomes difficult to believe in others. As a result, we can create unobtainable ideals that even those closest to us can't reach.
When you adopt a mindset of high self esteem, you'll readjust your outlook, giving yourself -- and your loved ones -- some freedom to make mistakes and still receive love.
2. Stress Becomes More Manageable
According to a recent survey, more than half of working adults are concerned about the levels of stress in their lives.
From deadlines to family obligations and every trigger in between, it can become easy to feel overwhelmed by all we have to juggle.
When we lack confidence in our ability to perform, that weight shifts from merely challenging to all-encompassing and often unbearable.
On the other hand, high self esteem helps us muster the energy and determination to face even the most stressful situation head-on.
An added benefit? We're able to stave off some of the negative physical symptoms that result from stress.
From headaches and hypertension to libido loss and depression, stress can play a pretty tough role on our bodies, wearing them down to the point of exhaustion.
Choosing to approach stressful situations with self-assured courage and tenacity can turn even the steepest mountain into a scalable molehill.
3. You Can Express Yourself More Clearly
Is there anything in your life you'd like to try if failure weren't so glaringly an option? Are you itching to say something but aren't sure how?
The answer doesn't have to be as dramatic as, "I'd like to attempt skydiving."
Maybe there's a broken friendship you'd like to patch, but you aren't confident enough to try again. Maybe you're considering a career change, but don't think you have what it takes to go back to school or start over again in the workforce.
That boulder standing in your way? Most likely, it's your self esteem.
High self esteem helps you reach for the things you want, ask for what you need, and speak your mind with more surety.
Studies show that many people, especially women in the workforce, are hesitant to negotiate for a better situation. One of the main reasons why? People often have a tendency to focus on the needs of others over their own.
Building high self esteem helps you turn that attention a little more inward, giving yourself the boost you need to make that important first move.
4. Your Relationships Are Healthier
With high self esteem, you not only treat yourself better. You're also better able to build the healthy, strong relationships you want in your life.
When you're better aware of what you do and don't want -- and better prepared to articulate those feelings -- you attract the kind of positive energy you give off.
As a result, you're also keenly aware of those relationships that are more toxic than uplifting and are better equipped to remove yourself from them if required.
From abusive spouses to jealous, spiteful "frenemies," you'll be able to spot the people whose behavior has been exacerbating your feelings of self-doubt and loneliness.
There's a direct link between abuse (in all its forms) and low self esteem, though leaving isn't always as cut and dry as simply cutting off ties.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline offers a helpful Safety Plan to guide you toward freedom. Here's an article that focuses on rebuilding your finances after escaping an abusive relationship, providing tips on budgeting, building credit and getting back into the workforce.
5. Setbacks Don't Keep You Down
Even with high self esteem, you won't be immune to all of life's inevitable ebbs and flows. The reality is that even with all the confidence in the world, you'll likely still experience setbacks, disappointments, and failures.
The difference? You might get knocked down temporarily, but you'll have the strength to get back up and keep going.
With low self esteem, even the smallest obstacle can feel like a massive blow. When that's the case, every day becomes a struggle.
Choosing to face every situation with self-assurance helps ensure that no matter what hand you're dealt, you'll bravely accept it.
This also gives you that extra confidence boost you need to leap fearlessly into those big, new, and yes, sometimes scary, unknowns.
Want to Build High Self Esteem? We Can Help!
Want to take that next step toward more confidence, assurance, and self-awareness? If so, you've come to the right place.
Our nine-day self-empowerment course is designed to help you discover who you are, what you want, and how to turn your dreams for the future into reality.
Contact us today for more information and unlock your true potential!