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Self-Esteem and Business

Change your focus. Business challenges don't need to be thought of as an end product of low self-esteem.
Written Oct 24, 2008, read 916 times since then.


In the past 25 years western culture and popular psychology have paid a lot of attention to self-esteem. As a result, you may have the impression that something like low self-esteem can be a problem for your business. Please, don't go there.

Certainly it is possible to think of some business challenges in terms of self-esteem. What I question is whether this is a fruitful approach for you or for your clients and customers. I also question whether it is authentic.

In nearly fifteen years of working with independent professionals and creative artists, I have come to believe that it is the rankest form of self-indulgence to frame your offer and your prospects for success in terms of self-esteem. What's more, I have observed that my clients grow in confidence, competence, and generosity to precisely that extent to which they let go of the frame of self-esteem with respect to their work.

What's the alternative? Let's call it "self-authorship." (Note to the etymologically inclined: At first I thought this term redundant, now I am thinking of it as recursive, and I'm thinking that this recursiveness is part of why the term works for me.)

Self-esteem responds to business challenges as if they are all about how these challenges "make" us feel. Self-authorship owns the challenges of business.

Self-esteem asks: "How can I know that I am good enough? What if I'm not? How can I shore up my confidence? What if my clients don't respond to my offer?" Self-authorship asks, "Who am I with respect to this work and how shall I aspire to show up? What is my authentic offer? For whom is this offer a remedy, solution, or opportunity? What distinguishes the clientele that can best realize value from this offer?"

These questions transform concerns about being good enough into commitments to authenticity, value, and connection. Once you get the hang of shifting the lens through which you address business concerns from self-esteem to self-authorship, you may even find in your work a haven from the chronic self-absorption that has been sapping your energy.

In summary, I am claiming that as a creator and steward of your work you are responsible for constructing a powerful and authentic offer that expresses what, in fact, you can give to your clients and customers in return for their patronage. Any concerns or reservations you have about the offer you extend are integrated into the process of crafting the offer.

Does this mean that you never can and never will experience fluctuations in your confidence or your competence? Not at all. Your professional competence and scope are, I hope, always growing and changing. What seemed top-notch work a few years (or even months) ago may not be eclipsed by new abilities and interests.

It is how you hold these fluctuations and shifts that is key. Will you interpret the shifting tides of your self-assessments (and those your receive as feedback from others) as a problem or as part of the ongoing creative act of being in business?

Practice: Notice when you frame your work concerns in terms of self-esteem. Practice restating your concerns in terms of self-authorship.

Learn more about the author, Molly Gordon.

Comment on this article

  • ceo 
Sausalito, California 
Kare Anderson
    Posted by Kare Anderson, Sausalito, California | Oct 28, 2008

    Wise Molly - so practical and inspiring. Wherever we focus our mind and energy we set our path towards Thanks!