By Brian Tracy
Psychologists today generally agree that your level of self-esteem,
or how much you like yourself and consider yourself to be a valuable
and worthwhile person, lies at the core of your personality. Your
level of self-esteem determines:
Your level of energy and the quality of your personality how
much you like other people and, in turn, how much they like you
your willingness to try new things and to venture boldly where perhaps
you have never gone before the quality of your relationships with
others-your family, your friends and your coworkers and how successful
you are in your business, especially if you are in sales.
But before you begin enjoying the wonderful effects of high self-esteem
in your life, you have to learn to accept yourself unconditionally.
And even before you achieve self-acceptance, there are other steps
you have to take.
Self-acceptance begins in infancy, with the influence of your
parents and siblings and other important people. As a child, you
have an overwhelming need for love and approval and acceptance from
the important people in your life. A developing child requires this
emotional support the way roses need rain. Healthy personality growth
is absolutely dependent upon it. A person grows up straight and
strong and happy to the degree to which he receives an abundance
of nurturing in his formative years, prior to the age of five.
Someone once said that everything we do in life is either to
get love or to compensate for the lack of love. Almost all of our
problems, as both children and adults, can be traced back to ï¿½love
withheld.ï¿½ There is nothing more destructive to the evolving and
emerging personality than being unloved or unaccepted for any reason
by someone whom we consider important.
As adults, we always strive to achieve what we felt we were deprived
of in childhood. If you grew up feeling, for any reason, that you
were not totally accepted by your parents, you will be internally
motivated throughout your life to compensate for that lack of acceptance
by seeking it in your relationships with other people. To the growing
child, perception is reality; reality is not what the parents feel
toward the child, but what the child feels that the parents feel.
The childï¿½s evolving personality is shaped largely by his perception
of how he is seen and thought about by his parents, not by the actual
fact of the matter. If your parents were unable to express a high
degree of unconditional acceptance to you, you can grow up feeling
unacceptable-even inferior and inadequate.
Itï¿½s quite common for a youngster to grow up in a household where
he or she feels a lack of acceptance by one or both parents, especially
the father. When the young person becomes an adult, the psychological
phenomenon of ï¿½transferenceï¿½ takes place. The individual goes into
the workplace and transfers the need for acceptance from the parents
to the boss. The boss then becomes the focal point of the individualï¿½s
thoughts and feelings. What the boss says, how the boss looks, his
comments and everything that he does that implies a feeling or an
opinion about the individual is recorded and either raises or lowers
the individualï¿½s level of self-acceptance.
Your own level of self-acceptance is determined largely by how
well you feel you are accepted by the important people in your life.
Just as the Law of Correspondence says that your outer life tends
to be a reflection of your inner life, your attitude toward yourself
is determined largely by the attitudes that you think other people
have toward you. When you believe that other people think highly
of you, your level of self-acceptance and self-esteem goes straight
up. However, if you believe, rightly or wrongly, that other people
think poorly of you, your level of self-acceptance will plummet.
The best way to begin building a healthy personality involves
understanding yourself and your motivation. Toward this end, Iï¿½d
like to introduce what is called the ï¿½Johari windowï¿½ and explain
its effect on your personality.
The Johari window provides a view into your psyche. According
to this theory, your personality can be divided into four quadrants,
like a square divided into four smaller squares.
The first part of this window is the box in the upper left-hand
corner. It represents the part of your personality that both you
and others can see. This is the open part of your personality. The
lower left-hand box of this window into your psyche represents the
part of your personality that you can see but that others cannot
see. It is a part of your inner life.
The upper right-hand box of this window represents the parts
of your personality that others can see but of which you are unaware.
You have somehow blocked these parts from your consciousness.
Finally, the lower right-hand box represents that part of your
personality that is hidden from both you and other people. Itï¿½s
the deeper, subconscious part of your personality that represents
urges, instincts, fears, doubts and emotions that are stored away
below a conscious level, but that can exert an inordinate impact
on the way you behave, often causing you to feel and react in certain
ways that sometimes even you donï¿½t understand.
One of your goals is to develop a fully rounded personality,
to become a fully functioning human being with a sense of inner
peace and outer happiness.
A measure of your maturity is often manifested in the way you
treat different people. When you are at your very best and your
self-esteem is at its highest, youï¿½ll find that you are genuinely
positive and friendly toward everyone, from the taxi driver to the
corporation president. When your personality is completely together,
you treat everyone with equal respect.
The way to move toward a higher level of personality integration
and, therefore, a higher level of peace and personal effectiveness,
is to expand the area of your personality that is clear to both
you and others. And you do this through the simple exercise of self-disclosure.
For you to truly understand yourself, or to stop being troubled
by things that may have happened in your past, you must be able
to disclose yourself to at least one person. You have to be able
to get those things off your chest. You must rid yourself of those
thoughts and feelings by revealing them to someone who wonï¿½t make
you feel guilty or ashamed for what has happened.
The second part of personality development follows from self-disclosure,
and itï¿½s called self-awareness. Only when you can disclose what
youï¿½re truly thinking and feeling to someone else can you become
aware of those thoughts and emotions If the other person simply
listens to you without commenting or criticizing, you have the opportunity
to become more aware of the person you are and why you do the things
you do. You begin to develop perspective, or what the Buddhists
call ï¿½detachment.ï¿½ You can stand back from yourself and your past
and look at it honestly. You can ï¿½disidentifyï¿½ from the intense
emotions involved and view what has happened to you with greater
calmness and clarity.
Now we come to the good part. After youï¿½ve gone through self-disclosure
to self-awareness, you arrive at self-acceptance. You accept yourself
for the person you are, with good points and bad points, with strengths
and weaknesses, and with the normal frailties of a human being.
When you develop the ability to stand back and look at yourself
honestly, and to candidly admit to others that you may not be perfect
but youï¿½re all youï¿½ve got, you start to enjoy a heightened sense
One of the keys to happiness is to ï¿½live in truthï¿½ with yourself
and others. And one of the ways to live in truth is to stop trying
to be perfect and to see yourself honestly, as you really are. Attempts
to achieve needless perfectionism, and an intense, often unconscious
desire to impress people with how good you are, are real time wasters
and energy killers.
There is a joke that cuts to the heart of this issue: ï¿½When you
are in your 20s, you are very concerned about what people think
about you. When you are in your 30s, you donï¿½t really care that
much about what people think about you. And when you get into your
40s, you discover the real truth: Nobody was even thinking about
you at all.ï¿½ A valuable exercise for developing higher levels of
self-acceptance involves doing an inventory of yourself. In doing
this inventory, your job is to accentuate the positive and minimize
the negative. The real difference between optimistic people and
pessimistic people is that optimists are always looking for the
good in every situation, the opportunity in every problem, while
pessimists are always looking for the down side and the problem
in every opportunity. When you honestly analyze yourself during
this inventory, you will be amazed at how extraordinary you really
are and how incredible your potential is for accomplishing the thing
s that you really desire.
Begin your inventory by recalling your accomplishments. Think
about all the things that you have achieved over the course of your
lifetime. Make a list of them. Think of the subjects you passed
and the grades you received. Think of the awards and prizes you
won. Think of the people you have helped and the kind things that
you have done for others. Think of the adversities that you have
triumphed over. Think of the goals that you have set and achieved.
Look at the material parts of your life; think about all the things
that you have managed to acquire as the result of hard work and
Now, to increase your level of self-acceptance, think of your
unique talents and abilities. Think of your core skills, the things
that you do exceptionally well that account for your success in
your profession and in your personal life right now. Think of the
results that you have achieved by applying yourself to the challenges
of your world. Think of your earning ability and your ability to
accomplish your goals. Think of your ability to make a contribution
to your company and to your family and to the world around you.
Think about all the things that you have to offer to your world.
Finally, to boost your level of self-acceptance, think about
your future possibilities and the fact that your potential is virtually
unlimited. You can do what you want to do and go where you want
to go. You can be the person you want to be. You can set large and
small goals and make plans and move step-by-step, progressively
toward their realization. There are no obstacles to what you can
accomplish except the obstacles that you create in your mind.
Hereï¿½s an important fact to keep in mind when it comes to self-acceptance.
What we work for more than anything else is respect. The British
author E. M. Forster once explained, ï¿½I write to earn the respect
of those I respect.ï¿½ Almost everything that we do, or refrain from
doing, is somehow associated with gaining, or at least not losing,
the respect of the people whom we respect the most. And only when
we feel that we are respected by those we respect do we accept and
like ourselves to a great degree.
One way to raise your level of self-acceptance, then, is to pick
a role model, someone you admire and look up to and want to be like,
and then pattern your life and your work after that personï¿½s. Many
businesspeople have become top executives by selecting a role model
who had already reached the top and then patterning their lives
along the same lines. Everything you do that you feel is consistent
with what someone you admire would do increases your level of self-acceptance.
A second way to assure a higher level of self-acceptance is to
develop good work habits and to work efficiently and effectively
toward the accomplishment of high-value results. The most respected
people in any organization are those who can get the job done. Your
level of self-efficacy, in other words, your belief in your ability
to do what is expected of you, has an incredible effect on how much
you accept yourself as a good and valuable person.
A third way to increase your level of self-acceptance is to be
very aware of your image and the way you appear to people. If you
want to be respected and admired by others, you need to act like
a person who is worthy of respect. And remember, everything counts.
Everything you do or donï¿½t do can either contribute to or take away
from your image and the impression you are making on others. When
you know that you look absolutely excellent on the outside, your
level of self-acceptance shoots up.
A fourth way to raise your level of self-acceptance is to take
complete responsibility for the various parts of your life. Refuse
to make excuses or to blame other people. Never complain; never
explain. Volunteer for assignments and responsibilities, and then
carry them out without comment.
The key to achieving a feeling of mental well-being is having
a sense of control, a sense of self-determination and internal mastery.
This sense of self-control is tied directly to your willingness
and ability to accept full responsibility for every part of your
life. When you criticize others, or you make excuses for things
that you did not do well or complete on time, you actually feel
more negative about yourself, and your sense of self-acceptance
declines. When you take charge of every part of your life, you feel
terrific about yourself, and your level of self-acceptance and self-esteem
goes up. A fifth way you can build up your level of self-acceptance
is by interpreting events in a positive way. Dr. Martin Seligman
of the University of Pennsylvania calls this your ï¿½explanatory style.ï¿½
He concludes that high-performing men and women have a tendency
to talk to themselves in a positive way and to explain things that
are happening to them and around them in a way t hat allows them
to stay optimistic.
Look for the silver lining in whatever cloud may be hanging over
your head right now. Look for the lesson or opportunity in each
obstacle or setback. Look for reasons to excuse others and let them
off the hook, rather than becoming angry or upset. Play mental games
with yourself to keep your thoughts on the things you want and off
the things that you fear or that make you unhappy.
A sixth way to raise your level of self-acceptance is to become
a habitual goal setter. Write down clear goals and a plan for what
you want to accomplish and then work your plan every day. Develop
of clear sense of direction for your life. Work on track and on
purpose. Know exactly who you are and where you are going. Each
step that you take toward the accomplishment of a predetermined
objective raises your self-esteem and improves your level of self-acceptance
at the same time.
Finally, a seventh way to raise your level of self-acceptance
is to practice the Law of Indirect Effort, or reverse effort, and
realize that everything you do or say to another person rebounds
and causes the same effect on you. Whenever you are warm and friendly
and courteous to another, you improve your own level of self-respect
and self-acceptance. Whenever you do something nice for another
person, you tend to feel better about yourself. Whenever you do
or say anything that causes another person to like himself more,
you find yourself liking yourself more as well.
One of the great riches of life is the self-acceptance that leads
to self-esteem and maximum performance. By being aware of and practicing
these recommendations, you can increase your self-acceptance to
the point where you can confidently move forward toward the realization
of your full potential.
Brian Tracy is the most listened to audio author on personal
and business success in the world today. His fast-moving talks
and seminars on leadership, sales, managerial effectiveness
and business strategy are loaded with powerful, proven ideas
and strategies that people can immediately apply to get better
results in every area. For more information, please go to www.briantracy.com.