Women and self esteem, a perennial issue. Almost every survey on why women don’t progress to the highest echelons at workcomes back to confidence (amongst many other things). I was having a discussion on this the other day with my good friend, Christine Webber. Her book, How to Get the Self Esteem Habit, is published today (Congratulations, Christine!) so it seemed a good moment to ask her to expand and share her thoughts with you.
Jane, there is such a need for your website. I have lost count of the number of women who have come to my consulting room over the years who have grossly undervalued themselves. This is often just because it’s a female characteristic! But it can also be because, as children, we girls weren’t encouraged to believe that we had a right to succeed in our chosen career.
Whatever the reason, really great women frequently accept much lower pay than their male counterparts. They also tend to believe that they don’t deserve a good job. This makes them very anxious when they land a promotion or get appointed to a senior But it also means that if anything goes wrong – for example if the company makes them redundant – they are convinced that they’ve been let go because they were not good enough. In my experience this is rarely the case. This story from the book is typical.
Excerpt from Get the Self-Esteem Habit by Christine Webber
I once had a patient whom I’ll call Carol. She came to me when she was depressed after having been made redundant. She believed that the redundancy proved she was ineffective and not very clever – and also that it was all her fault. But there was no evidence for her belief. Her company had shed jobs world-wide and she was just one of a large number of casualties of the cuts.
We worked together for two or three weeks. She turned up on time and did the homework we agreed on, but she kept me at arm’s length. She was obviously feeling very sad but – somewhat unusually – she never cried.
Then, one day, after she’d been going on for about a quarter of an hour about how hopeless and stupid she was – and how she must be a weak person to be so sad – I interrupted her and asked her to stop saying what was bad about her and instead to tell me all the things that were good.
She looked at me as if I was mad. It was obvious too that she thought I hadn’t been listening to her laundry-list of self-criticism.
So, I asked her again. Eventually, with her eyes firmly gazing at the carpet, she told me that she couldn’t think of anything.
I talked to her for a while, gently pointing out that totally selfish people and even murderers had some good aspects to their personalities.
It took a moment or two for her to digest this, but eventually, she opened up and told me how in her previous company every year, she had taken all the junior members of staff out for a Christmas lunch. She explained that she had not actually been the head of the department, but that the guy who was the boss had a renowned mean streak. He never so much as bought a bunch of flowers for his own secretary let alone acknowledged the hard work of any of the rest of his team.
‘I thought it was awful that these people were never thanked properly, so I began to take them out myself, once a year, near Christmas.’
‘And were they pleased?’ I asked.
‘Yes. In fact, they were amazed – at least, the first year. We always had a lively and happy lunch and they seemed grateful. In fact, they clubbed together every year and bought me a little present to thank me.
At this point, Carol began to cry.
‘They must have liked and valued you very much,’ I said, quietly. ‘And they must have been very grateful that you took it upon yourself to show that someone appreciated them and their work.’
Carol didn’t answer because by now she was crying so much she couldn’t speak.
That was a definitive moment. Carol’s harsh, self-critical and miserable veneer was melted by her own goodness, and she became much more in touch with her kinder, softer, more vulnerable side.
There is kindness and decency in us all. And, for us to enjoy a habit of good self-esteem, we need to recognise this goodness in ourselves.
If you’d like to get hold of Christine’s book (and I recommend that you do), this link will give you all you need.
RenewYou, a one day course which will definitely raise your self esteem! Find one near you here.
Posted on September 3rd, 2015 by Jane