Friday, November 23, 2007


I would like to share to you some collective insights that I have learned which may have an impact in ourselves and in our organizations as well.

After years of working with organizations, I have concluded that a positive self concept – self esteem is the bottom line, the key to increasing productivity and the quality of the organization. From my vantage point, self-esteem advocates exactly right. Self-esteem is, indeed the heart of the matter.

Self esteem is the feeling I have about my self concept. When what I want for myself matches what I perceive myself to be, I have a positive self-concept, which in turn helps me feel as alive, self-determining, self-aware, significant, competent and likable as I want to be. Self esteem comes from choosing successfully to be the type of person I want to be.

Self esteem is both conscious and unconscious. It begins in childhood, and it is developed as I create my self concept through internalizing or rejecting messages about me that I receive from both my parents and others, and from my own experiences of what I cannot do and what I am and am not. I compare myself to others, or to an idea of the type of person I want to be or to other’s definition of an ideal.

I am not aware of my self-concept. I choose them to be unconscious because I am uncomfortable with them, or I feel I cannot do or do not want to deal with them. For example, I may have assumed that I was basically a bad leader, therefore not loveable by those who knew me well. I made this feeling of being unlovable unconscious: it was too painful to acknowledge. To hide this feeling from myself, or to defend myself against having to experience it, I may become arrogant; that is, I exaggerate my own importance, or I brag about my accomplishments or I act too ingratiating. This behavior arises out of unconscious low self-esteem and unconscious low self-respect. I demonstrate self esteem by being flexible, able to express myself fully, in charge of myself, and having accurate perceptions and learning to make all my perceptions conscious.

To the degree that I experience myself as being like my ideal, and as being unlike the self I want to avoid, I have positive self esteem. Similarly, the more I fall short of my ideal, the more disappointed I am in myself, the more anger I feel toward myself. Feelings of disappointments in and anger with myself reduce my self-esteem. Why do I feel inadequacies in my self-concept? How can I heighten my self-esteem? The answer to these questions lies in the concept of choice: I assume to choose my feelings and behavior because, ineffective as they may seem, I believe they will lead to pay-off. When I choose low self-esteem, it is because I get a pay-off for it.

For example, suppose I want to be funny or not. I am dour and ponderous. What do I get of being humorless? On reflection, I find that it feels safer to me. I suspect that people are laughing at me anyway, and I fear that if I take something as a joke when it means to be serious, I will be caught off guard and feel hurt. Therefore, I assume that everything is serious, so I can avoid surprises. My fear prevents me from being the humorous person I want to be, and that lowers my self-esteem.

When I am not feeling good about myself, compliments and support from other people are pleasant to hear but do not make me feel better for very long, if at all. I dismiss compliments because I believe complimentors do not know my faults, all the thoughts and feelings I have and all the things that I have done. If they knew, they wouldn’t feel the same way about me. There are other pay offs for choosing not to like myself more: “It is arrogant to like myself..If I appear modest, people will like me better..People will not expect much of me if I appear unsure of myself. I will not be impertinent enough to think that I am better than my parents…I would be ridiculous to like myself no one else did.

How can the organization make use of self-esteem?

Here is a new twist on an old saying: If I give a hungry woman a fish, she won’t be hungry. If I teach her how to fish, she’ll never be hungry. But, if I create conditions within she teaches herself how to fish, she’ll never be hungry and she may have enhanced self-esteem.”

Self esteem is the heart of all human relations and productivity in organizations. Since productive and efficient functioning depends on high self esteem, the organization can capitalize by enhancing self esteem. From this standpoint, the goal of the ideal organization is to bring about the greatest self esteem for the largest number of members. If all members have high self esteem, the organization will inevitably be productive and successful.

But the organization cannot give people self esteem. Providing perks, food, money is sometimes equated with increasing a person’s self esteem. Virtuous as these acts are, they are not necessarily related to increased self esteem. A hungry man given food is no longer hungry, but does not necessarily have any better feeling about his own ability to feed himself. This is not say we should not be generous. It is only to point out that these acts do not inevitably lead to increased to self esteem.

For the individual, the goal is to continuously enhance the aliveness, self determination, self-awareness, significance, competence and likeability. For the organization, the goal is to create an atmosphere that fosters all employees’ self esteem by participation, freedom, openness, recognition, empowerment and humanity.

In these changing times, you may want to reaffirm your capability to learn new skills. Recognize that learning is not task to be completed but a process to be continued.

A few guidelines and “personal ad campaigns” you may want to keep in mind during these changing times.

  • Recognize that you are beautiful and unique just the way you are- the one and only and the very best there ever was.
  • Get away from believing that you have to stack up with others. You are only in a competition with your own best self. Competing with others is not the key to mediocrity, it can also be damaging to one’s esteem level.
  • Recognize that your own self-worth is innate and not determined by actions and decisions. You may lose in the election, but you are not a failure. You may fail to be the president, but you’re not a loser.
  • Accept 100% accountability for your choices and decisions. Recognize and accept the fact that you create your own tensions, positive or negative, with your reactions or responses to what is happening in your world. Circumstances and other people do not make you tense; only you can make you tense.
  • Recognize that mistakes are stepping stones for achievement. If you are laid off or displaced from your post, give yourself the opportunity to make and learn from your mistakes as you seek new organizations.
  • Perhaps it would be wise to adopt the attitude of Thomas Edison when asked if he felt like a failure after 25,000 unsuccessful attempts to store electricity in a box, which was ultimately to become the electrical storage battery. His response was, “ We never perceived ourselves as failing at Edison’s Inventions Inc. We have false starts, temporary setbacks, learning mistakes. Basically, our approach to these 25,000 attempts is that we’ve discovered 25,000 different ways not to store electricity. We must be getting close to a breakthrough.” That attitude will bode you well.
  • Enjoy each day at a time, recognizing that life is a journey to be embraced moment by moment. There are twin thieves that will rob you of your effectiveness today and damage your esteem. Those thieves are (a) yesterday, which is ancient history, and (b) tomorrow, which is a promissory note and guaranteed to no one. Learning to live in the now and celebrating each day with an attitude of gratitude is very esteeming. Mark Twain once said, “Live each day in such a way that if you were to die today even the undertaker would be sad”. Stop and smell the roses.
  • Give yourself plenty of praise for the effort. Praise pays even when things are not going well.

If you are in the period of transition, here are some additional guidelines:

Talk to yourself gently with affection.

  • Trust your inner voice and intuition
  • Be committed to developing your full potential and creativity.
  • Forgive yourself. Get over that guilty feeling
  • Have fun. If you don’t feel like smiling, smile anyhow. You’ll think of something
  • Take in the affection and compliments of others. Allow others to be your friends during these challenging times. You have the right to expect others to treat you with dignity and respect, but first begin by treating yourself that way.
  • Choose not to be a complainer. It’s harmful to you and those around you.

Remember, attitudes are contagious, and there’s nothing more attractive or employable than a naturally happy, fulfilled leader. The difficulties in life are intended to make us better, not bitter.


This was part of the inspirational speech i delivered during the annual Gawad Arriba for student organizations held in Letran-Calamba, March 2004.