Give Yourself a Pat on the Back: It's the Law
Even if it's a little physically awkward, it's good for you.
Have you ever walked around with your head hanging low, not feeling like you're making any significant contribution to the world? Feeling (or even telling yourself) that you don't really matter, that the little "good" that you do doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things?
If so, watch out. The Self-Esteem Police are out to get you. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do...
It's perhaps high-time for you to give yourself a pat on the back, especially if you're not accustomed to doing so. It may be uncomfortable for you if you're anything like me.
As far as I'm concerned, I don't like to praise myself, give myself compliments, or think of myself more highly than I ought to. After all, I reason, "Compliments are for others to give me, when I deserve them. Other people are unbiased observers of everything I do, and they're thus better able to judge me objectively. And pride can't be a good thing, right? I'd much rather reap the benefits of being humble and unassuming. By not thinking very highly of myself, it'll be a pleasant surprise when others do recognize my value."
Now, don't get me wrong...humility is a good thing.
In fact, it should be a feature of your character...it makes you more appealing in many ways. But there's a few problems with the aforementioned line of thinking.
1. Humility can be taken too far. Sometimes you have to have a backbone and stand up for yourself. When others don't vouch for you, you have to be able to vouch for yourself and assert your value if you want to get your due. And that brings us to...
2. Other people aren't good stewards of your self-esteem. You just can't trust any other person--your parents, your siblings, your friends, your lover--to provide self-esteem for you. Sounds harsh? It's meant to be. If you're depending on others to feel good about yourself, then your good feelings will constantly ebb and flow, wax and wane.
We all need to learn how to give ourselves a pat on the back. I'm not necessarily talking about the physical maneuver, either. Sometimes it's as simple as mentally saying to yourself, "Hey, you know what? I am a pretty cool person." Why, you ask? "Benny, I hear you man, but I'm still not trying to make a big fish out of myself in the...small pond that is my life." Well, there are a few things to consider.
It's not "wrong" to feel good about yourself and what you do
If you've been in the world for any length of time, chances are you've made a few good impressions on other people along the way. Perhaps you've done a few good deeds in your time. Maybe you've helped a kid with their homework, helped an elderly person across the street, or ran errands for a family member who was unable to do them himself or herself. Maybe you've helped friends out with personal problems. Maybe for some of the good things you've done in your life, you weren't even thanked, but you felt fine anyway. (And if you haven't done any selfless deeds lately, you can have confidence in your ability to do so, and comfort in the fact that it's never too late to start.)
It's a good thing to reflect on who you are, and come to the realization that, "Hey, I'm not such a bad guy/girl after all." Sure, you're not perfect--nobody is. But if you're a generally decent, empathetic person and a law-abiding citizen, you're not so terrible.
It's a renewable source of fuel for your benevolence
Even the good people of the world suffer burnout. Especially if you're in a service-related profession or volunteering position (or really, any job in which you feel compelled to do a great job for a company you like), the joy of the work itself is at first can fire you up and keep you going...but then it starts to feel like work, and it can get overwhelming.
And you have to realize that that's OK. It just means you're human.
We all need a little reprieve from what we constantly do with our lives--and no, we don't have to wait for vacation time. We have a great, sustainable, renewable source of energy that we can tap into, that will get us back up and back in the fight: it's called self-esteem. When you're feeling a little worn out, remember to give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while, realize that you're doing something worthwhile, and you just might notice you feel empowered to keep going.
No matter how unimportant your job seems--it's important
Some people might look down on certain types of work, wishing that they had a "better" job, one that earned them more respect, social status, and of course, money.
Every job, as long as it doesn't involve dishonesty or undermining peoples' quality of life, has inherent honor and is worthwhile. Not only that, every job, even the most menial of occupations, is important. Whether you realize it or not, whatever you "do," you're helping this big, blue world of ours turn. And that, my friend, is nothing to be sneezed at.
If you're a garbage collector, you're helping to keep our city streets and roads clean and pleasant to travel on. If you're a bus driver, you're helping people get to work on time, make important appointments that they have no other means of making, and connect with family and friends. If you're a waiter at a restaurant, you're a part of somebody's dining experience and you're helping create a nice evening out for others (and when people feel good, they're more inclined to do good things). If you're a janitor or a sanitation worker, you're making work environments safer, healthier and more pleasant, which fosters maximum business efficiency.
Even if you're a student in high school, college, vocational or trade school--whatever the venue may be--you're acquiring knowledge and skills that, if used dutifully and proactively, will help make the world a better place for yourself and everyone else.
Every job is a big deal, especially in these uncertain economic times. Even if you feel like it's a thankless gig, know that someone, somewhere out there is depending on your service. And that makes you important.
Who says you have to overdo it?
If you're not the arrogant type, I'm not exhorting you to become such. You don't have to exclaim your excellence all day long, everywhere you go. That kind of behavior might lead you to foolishly conclude that you're somehow inherently better than others, which leads to taking undue advantage of others, which will lead to your ultimate downfall. It's the wrong kind of stupid.
What I'm talking about is appreciating yourself, feeling comfortable in your own skin, and recognizing that you're "OK." That is, not better or worse than anyone else, but "just right." You know, like you like a good cup of coffee or hot chocolate--not too hot, not too cold, but just warm enough to give you comfort and let you indulge in the experience.
If you're a productive member of society, you fit right in with the rest of the human race, and that's what you should realize. You don't have to constantly remind yourself of how awesome you are, but doing it every once in a while should provide a welcome and surprisingly effective boost to your self-confidence and optimism.
As you read these words, your arm should be raising slowly, moving over your right (or left) shoulder, and your back should be bracing for impact...
Do it! The physical action. Give yourself 3 good pats, and say to yourself (aloud), the following:
You know what? You're all right.
Say it in your natural speaking voice, as if you were saying it to a good friend. And let it sink in for a few seconds.
Don't cheat. I dare you to do it.
And then, tell me how it feels.
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