Erase Your Limits

Every time you make a mistake, don’t bring up everything that’s wrong with yourself; tell yourself that you’re paying the price for growth and that you will learn to do better next time. Every positive thing you can say to yourself will help.

This week we share a message from leadership expert, John Maxwell. John’s message shows us that we may need to boost our self-esteem to unleash our potential.

The Law of the Mirror

You must see value in yourself to add value to yourself.

Often have I heard my friend Zig Ziglar say, “It’s impossible to consistently behave in a manner inconsistent with how we see ourselves. We can do very few things in a positive way if we feel negative about ourselves.” Ziglar has a very practical, common-sense wisdom that he has shared with people for years. But experts in the field agree with his assessment. Nathaniel Branden, a psychotherapist and expert on the subject of self-esteem, says nothing is more important in people’s psychological development and motivation than the value judgments they make about themselves. Every aspect of their lives is impacted by the way they see themselves, Branden adds.

I’m well-known for teaching the Law of the Lid from The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Imagine that you want to do something great in your life that impacts a lot of people. Perhaps you want to build a large organization. That desire, no matter how great, will be limited by your leadership. It is a lid on your potential. Well, your self-esteem has the same kind of impact. If your desire is a 10 but your self-esteem is a 5, you’ll never perform at the level of a 10. You’ll perform as a 5 or lower.

We need to understand that the value we place on ourselves is usually the value others place on us, too. One of my favorite stories is about a man who went to a fortune-teller to hear what she had to say about his future. She looked into a crystal ball and said, “You will be poor and unhappy until you are 45 years old.”

“Then what will happen?” asked the man hopefully.

“Then you’ll get used to it.”

I’m sorry to say, that’s the way most people live their lives—according to what others believe about them. If the important people in their lives expect them to go nowhere, then that’s what they expect for themselves. That’s fine if you’re surrounded by people who believe in you. But what if you’re not? You shouldn’t become too concerned about what others might think of you. You should be more concerned about what you think of yourself. If you want to become the person you have the potential to be, you must believe you can!

To build self-esteem, apply the following suggestions.
1. Guard your self-talk.

Whether you know it or not, you have a running conversation with yourself all the time. What is the nature of yours? Do you encourage yourself? Or do you criticize yourself? If you are positive, then you help to create a positive self-image. If you’re negative, you undermine your self-worth. Where does negative, critical self-talk come from? Usually from our upbringing. In their book The Answer, businessmen-authors John Assaraf and Murray Smith talk about the negative messages children receive growing up. They write, By the time you’re 17 years old, you’ve heard “No, you can’t” an average of 150,000 times. You’ve heard “Yes, you can” 5,000 times. That’s 30 no’s for every yes, creating a powerful belief of “I can’t.”

That’s a lot to overcome. If we want to change our lives, we have to change the way we think of ourselves. If we want to change the way we think of ourselves, we need to change the way we talk to ourselves. And the older we are, the more responsible we are for how we think, talk and believe. Don’t you have enough problems in life already? Why add to them by discouraging yourself every day with negative self-talk?

You need to learn to become your own encourager, your own cheerleader. Every time you do a good job, don’t just let it pass; give yourself a compliment. Every time you choose discipline over indulgence, don’t tell yourself that you should have anyway; recognize how much you are helping yourself. Every time you make a mistake, don’t bring up everything that’s wrong with yourself; tell yourself that you’re paying the price for growth and that you will learn to do better next time. Every positive thing you can say to yourself will help.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others.

When I started my career, I looked forward to my organization’s annual report, which showed statistics for each leader. I’d immediately check my standing and compare my progress with the progress of the other leaders. After about five years of doing that, I realized how harmful it was. What happens when you compare yourself to others? Usually you either perceive the other person to be far ahead of you and you feel discouraged, or you perceive yourself to be better than the other person and become proud. Neither is good for you, and neither will help you to grow.

Comparing yourself to others is a needless distraction. The only one you should compare yourself to is you. Your mission is to become better today than you were yesterday. You do that by focusing on what you can do today to improve and grow. Do that enough, and if you look back and compare the you of weeks, months or years ago to the you of today, you should be greatly encouraged by your progress.
3. Move beyond your limiting beliefs.

I love the old comic strip Shoe by Jeff MacNelly. In one of my favorites, Shoe is pitching in a baseball game. In a conference on the mound, his catcher says, “You’ve got to have faith in your curveball.”

“It’s easy for him to say,” grumbles Shoe. “When it comes to believing in myself, I’m an agnostic.”

Unfortunately, that’s the way a lot of people think about themselves. They don’t believe they can accomplish great things. But the greatest limitations people experience on their lives are usually the ones they impose upon themselves. As industrialist Charles Schwab said, “When a man has put a limit on what he will do, he has put a limit on what he can do.”
4. Add value to others.

Because people with low self-esteem often see themselves as inadequate or feel like victims (which often starts because they actually have been victimized in their past), they focus inordinately on themselves. They can become self-protective and selfish because they feel that they have to be to survive.

If that is true of you, then you can combat those feelings by serving others and working to add value to them. Making a difference—even a small one—in the lives of other people lifts one’s self-esteem. It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when you’re doing something good for someone else. In addition to that, adding value to others makes them value you more. It creates a cycle of positive feeling from one person to another.