Learn to Impress Yourself
Last time we talked about the reasons you might feel sh*t about yourself? They were:
Because you are dependent on the judgments of others for feelings of adequacy.
Because you are programmed to de-prioritise your own needs and your own value in favour of others.
Because deep inside you are a wild animal, forcibly tamed, and unable to express its natural urges.
Because you fail to achieve the better version of yourself that you want to be.
Now let’s move onto step 2: Feeling great about yourself
Here, we are going to start to discuss what you can do to counter and neutralise the above unhelpful factors. Let’s start with our dependency on the judgments of others.
GET SOME: Continence
No, this has nothing to do with toilets. This is about a general sense of self-control. The best and most effective way to squash our dependency on the views of others for our self-esteem is to feel in control of ourselves - to have self possession; self-mastery even! That’s continence.
This is the irony of being cool - if by ‘cool’ we mean individual style, independence and composure. The coolest cool is the cool that doesn’t give a hoot about what is or isn’t cool. It needs no external validation. That is real confidence. And conversely, the cooler a person tries to appear, the more uncool they become.
When you feel in control of yourself, you know you can rely on number 1. You can hold your head up no matter what people think or say about you. It doesn’t touch you.
When you fail, on the other hand, when you feel out of control, when you don’t believe you can rely on yourself - it is then that you will defer most strongly to the views of others to find some reassurance around your value.
Because most people fail, most of the time, they almost always defer to the judgments of others for their self-esteem. This dependence means that people often work very hard to impress others, seeking validation and praise, even when this is not really deserved. By the same token, even if you do ‘deserve’ recognition, you cannot count on others being willing to give you this.
As Nietzsche wrote:
‘The ordinary man still always waits for an opinion about himself and then instinctively submits to it: but this happens not merely in the case of a 'good' opinion, but also in that of a bad and unfair one’
One might even say that those who respect themselves least are the ones who expend the most energy trying to impress others. We must forget impressing others. We must impress ourselves. If we can crack this, the esteem of others is likely to follow quite naturally, though again, caring about this is something to free ourselves from.
Cultivating continence will make you happier too. It has been convincingly evidenced that having an internal rather than an external ‘locus of control’ is associated with more cheerful, more capable, more resilient, more positive individuals.
With an internal locus of control we feel we are in the driving seat and so we are more able to make our own way in the world. We feel that it is our own choices and behaviour that result in good or bad things happening in our lives and we feel capable of changing things to make our lives better. People with an internal locus of control are likely to do better, have more fulfilling careers and even make more money.
Whereas those with an external locus of control feel at the whim of destiny, blown like a leaf on the winds of fate with very little say in what occurs in their lives. This is a vulnerable state to feel stuck in. Your fortune, good or bad, feels down to dumb luck. People with an external locus of control are likely to experience more stress, less success and lower levels of fulfillment.
To rely on others for your sense of personal worth is to have an external locus of control. Good luck with that.
So back to our theme: continence. It means being in control of one’s choices, one’s impulses - having that internal locus of control.
Now consider all the things that make you feel bad about yourself, that fill you with regret: these should be dealt with. Whether that be overeating, too much alcohol, brown-nosing at work, drugs, cigarettes, laziness, not saying what you really think and so on. Reflect on your own failings, create your own list – write them down.
These are the things you must change in order to become continent and, consequently, feel the self-respect that is so essential to freedom from the views of others.
More than this – the next step as it were – you must challenge yourself – get out of your comfort zone. Attempt something you think you are not capable of. Embrace the failures that help us learn when trying new things. Failure provides important data and using this productively is its own kind of success.
But wait. Didn’t we say that it is extremely difficult to make changes to one’s behaviour? Yes we did. But there are very effective, practical techniques that we can use. We will explore how this is done soon.
Next post: Cultivating Self-Reverence
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