When it’s not about pride
Often attributed to the hubris of the ancient Greeks or to the sin of pride as Christianity calls it, the self-promotion of our own assets is discouraged in many Western and Eastern societies, while humility is highly praised. Rightly or wrongly, the result is that from earliest childhood, ignorance – or even non-recognition or denial – of one’s own qualities is reinforced, with the corollary of a lack of self-confidence and a difficulty blossoming. We are so used to looking up that we forget to look at ourselves – selfies aside – and as a result, we miss out on realizing just how beautifully and perfectly imperfect we are.
So, in a world where competitiveness is a reality and is constantly increasing, identifying one’s strengths, talents or positive differentiators stimulates self-confidence. It also helps to find or regain a rightful place in the social setting, a space where one can evolve and feel sufficiently at ease to have an equal exchange with peers.
A self-coaching tool
Put another way, the question is about how to build a sustainable balance between excessive pride which doesn’t support fruitful exchanges and self-depreciation which is an obstacle to growth. There are a number of techniques that can be used to boost self-esteem. The « Role Model » is one of them, suitable to all ages, genders, social levels and cultures.
First of all, identify two or three people YOU particularly admire. Here, by « people » I mean any real or imaginary individual, known personally or through any kind of media, admired for their acts, their impact, their attitude or their values. This could be your grandmother who is a war survivor, your godfather who achieved a brilliant career, a teacher who traveled the world, a politician who fearlessly faced his own party, a revolutionary artist from the Middle-Ages, or even a cartoon hero or a character from a sci-fi novel who protected their planet.
Maybe you will need to think back to when you were adolescents or children, at an age when your dreams were still vivid.
Actually, it doesn’t matter so much who those idols are, so long as you have sincere thoughts such as « If only I could be or act like X ». What’s more, it doesn’t matter whether the reasons for this admiration match with reality or not. It matters even less if others share the same opinion or not. What counts here is that you are able to verbalize the reasons or rather the components of your deep admiration and pinpoint the underlying values, strengths and talents. What makes these heroes so appreciated? What inspires you? What is behind these acts or behaviors that makes them so admirable for you?
In fact, starting from the principle that we can only appreciate what we have already experienced and in contrast to the externalizing conversations used in psychotherapy to help patients dissociate themselves from their problems, this is an internalizing technique, aimed at allowing you to realize the treasures you have inside of you, especially if these treasures are ignored or unused.
From observation to ownership
Once you have identified the ‘components’ of admiration (e.g. courage, creativity, resilience, kindness etc.) divide them into two categories: those you possess, even if only in part, and those you believe you don’t possess. In the most extreme cases – if you feel you have none of these qualities – just make a ranking. In this way, you will bring in a gradation in your own judgment.
The next step is to find both what to capitalize on and what to develop, as the key is to remember that what we admire in others is often already in us without being aware of it. Then a double dynamic develops.
By working on the characteristics already possessed, illustrate them using as many concrete examples as possible, recent and less recent. List actions, highlight experiences where you successfully expressed these values. You need to realize and feel that you are not starting from scratch, that you already have a base to draw from, a base for growth. This will be the stage where the foundations of improved self-esteem are built or strengthened.
Then, in the range of attributes you consider not to possess, choose those that are most desirable to attain or develop…while keeping in mind that an envied characteristic may hide a latent need. To admire someone for his or her sporting victories can express a deep respect for strength of character or express the need for recognition…and therefore love. Listen to yourself and possibly detect the wisest doors to open. The aim is to open the field of possibilities.
From ownership to action
Finally comes the stage of generating ideas as to the different ways in which these dreamt characteristics could be experienced, or how these strengths could be developed. How can you express these characteristics, how could you behave more like your role model? However seemingly insignificant or ambitious the acts, attitudes or rituals, it doesn’t matter. Start small, very small. Progress step by step. What could you put in place? What could you stop doing? What can you do differently? What can you do instead? How can you slowly incarnate your role model?
The action plan to develop is then very simple: choose the first of these actions to implement in your daily life, then a second, a third and so on according to a program that induces a positive spiral and moves from admiration to incarnation. And keep momentum.
The objective of the exercise described here is first the revelation, and second the appropriation of your desired values. What is sought is the embodiment of personality traits as a simple stage of your development without being an end in itself because the development of your personality necessarily passes through the acceptance and appreciation of your own uniqueness.
So, who are your role models?
“There is an innocence in admiration: it occurs in one who has not yet realized that they might one day be admired.”