For too long, people have relied on outer sources to gain Self-esteem – trying to prove themselves worthy of esteem. We look for self-esteem in the accumulation of things or achievements. This kind of self-esteem is shaky, in that when the outer conditions change, the self-esteem gets easily ruffled. The reality is that Authentic Self-Esteem is very much an internal condition, and to attain solid, unshakeable self-esteem, we have to go deep within the mind and soul. Our world, our education system and our overall consciousness as it stands today, does not promote the development of unshakable self-esteem.
Most of the work that I have done over the years with my clients, has shown me that – in one form of another, the key to a successful outcome of a Coaching engagement, is enabling my clients to develop an understanding of what an authentic self-esteem means for them and how to develop it – and the results have been more than exciting. Most human beings have a built-in mechanism, which tells them they are not good enough at this moment, and there is a constant struggle to get to that one thing, they believe will give them what they are seeking. Often, this is the next job, a relationship, money, the perfect weight etc. This could even potentially take the form of goals in the Coaching context. As Coaches, we need to be able to discern between genuine desire to grow through goal setting or a deep-seated desire to compensate for a perceived lack emanating from lack of self-esteem.
Self-Esteem has been one of the greatest focus areas of Social Science and Psychology for a very long time. Self-esteem is a crucial factor in human behavior and critical to an individual’s sense of self and well-being. Self-esteem plays a critical role through the entire spectrum of human behavior
Low Self-Esteem – Leads to mental disorders, depression, anxiety and learning problems
Healthy/ Authentic Self-Esteem – leads to happiness, well-being and success
Excessive Self-Esteem – Leads to Narcissism/ Psychopathic behavior
As Coaches, we are hired to bring happiness, well-being and success in the lives of our clients. Thus, understanding the importance of Self-esteem in the equation is crucial and critical to our success in helping our clients get the results that they want in their lives.
Let us now examine how the Coaching relationship can help our clients – with creating authentic and healthy self-esteem.
As we talk about Self-esteem, there are many questions that arise and the very first that begs to be answered is really – What is Self-esteem? In the writings below we make an attempt to decode and define:
Self -esteem is a person’s sense of self – his or her relationship with self. Self-esteem refers to a person’s beliefs about their own worth and value. It also has to do with the feelings people experience that follow from their sense of worthiness or unworthiness. Through my own personal understanding and working with clients, I would define healthy Self-esteem as a combination of self-love, self-image and self-confidence – where each of these aspects is closely related to the overall self-esteem of the client.
Authentic Self-esteem is important because it has the capacity to create our best selves, and on the flip side – it can lead us to our worst selves. Self-esteem heavily influences our choices, behaviors and decisions. It impacts our personal and professional relationships, as well as performance. It has a motivational function by making it more or less likely that people will love themselves and have the courage it takes, to rise to their full potential. Healthy self-esteem results in our ability to persevere towards the fulfillment of personal goals and aspirations. It also provides the all-important quality of Resilience – that differentiates the successful from the un-successful. Overall this leads to what we attribute as Self-Confidence.
People with lower self-esteem don’t tend to regard themselves as worthy of happy outcomes or capable of achieving them and so tend to let important things slide and to be less persistent and resilient in terms of overcoming adversity. They may have the same kinds of goals as people with higher self-esteem, but they are generally less motivated to pursue them to their conclusion.
Self – Esteem is how we overall feel about and treat ourselves, and Self-Image is how we see ourselves, and how we believe other view us. Both are integral to the success of an individual.
Our life, our environment and our relationships, all of which constitute our results, are a direct reflection of our Self-Image. Our self-image is what we think and believe of ourselves in secret. Our self-image greatly impacts our sense of belief about what we can have and achieve in terms of personal and professional success.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz said – “Self-Image is the key to human personality and behavior. Change the self-image and you change the personality and behavior”.
The benefits of a Healthy self-esteem go way beyond words and performance attributes. However, there are certain qualities that are commonly found in people having a healthy self-esteem, as below:
Knowledge of Authentic Self – The primary reason most human beings suffer in terms of self-esteem is that they have not yet made a connection with their real self (also known as authentic self or higher self) Our clients, could have spent all the years up to the coaching engagement, trying to live up to a self – that was created for them by their social, familial, cultural and religious conditioning. Through this conditioning, they are given a proto-type of what an ideal man or woman should be like – examples – to be successful, to be married by 25 or 30, to have kids, to look good in the eyes of society – wear the right clothes, drive the right car, have the perfect white picket fence life etc. When we are working from this self – which is sometimes referred to as the Ego self, we end up making choices and decisions that are expected of us, rather than what we would choose based on our own values, strengths and core motivations. As we grow older and specially in our late thirties and forties, this disconnect from our real self-causes a sense of emptiness, because there is a separation from our authentic self. We start becoming aware of where we tried to do things to please others vs. doing what felt right for us. The places where we gave into parental, societal, religious pressure to be a certain way, rather than expressing ourselves the way we would have liked to would have created a distance from the authentic self. This separation from the real self, has a deep impact on self-esteem, as there is a constant internal conflict between ego self and real self. As we try to break out of the ego self and identify with our real self, we have a period of potential uncertainly, loss of identity and a sense of emptiness. We no longer care much for what we already have, but are not quite sure of what we want in the future. This is where the Coach can play a crucial role, in facilitating this transformation for the clients, in a loving and gentle manner. Think about it like trying to break out of an egg shell. You are too big for the shell, it feels very uncomfortable in there, but you have no idea what lies on the other side of the shell, so you are afraid. As part of the Coaching process, the coach and client, start to discover who the authentic self of the client is by creating awareness of their values, strengths, core motivations and any unmet ego needs. Using this as a foundation, an identity of the authentic self is created. There is also a need to let go of the old self – with its limiting beliefs, weaknesses and unmet needs. The non-judgmental space that we use as part of the Coaching process creates an environment, where we allow the person to express themselves fully and find their way in a comforting space, instead of having to go through a deep internal struggle, on their own.
Forgiveness – Essential to the development of authentic self-esteem, is the releasing of all resentment – both for oneself and those on the outside. As coaches, we will be able to see where our clients are still holding on to hurt or grievances towards others and being self-critical. The emotions of guilt, shame and anger are counter to the development of healthy self-esteem. Taking our clients through a journey of forgiveness for self and others, getting them to a place of acceptance and peace about the past, is instrumental to the process.
Goal Setting – The recommendation here would be to re-look at the way we work with our clients to set goals. Sometimes, the clients could be setting goals from the ego-self, which are not in alignment with his or her true or higher self, and this will sooner or later result in disappointment or frustration. As Coaches we use our intuition and powerful questioning skills, to infer and get to the reasons behind the goals. We don’t blindly set out to try and help our clients to create strategies to reach their goals, but also help them discern and recognize the motivation behind the goals and ensure that the goals are aligned with their true values, strengths and motivations.
Using Assessments and tools to build Self – Esteem:
Values are the strongest foundation and basis of the Authentic self. There is no easier way to find out what is truly important to a person, than understanding what their values are, and talking to them about why these values are important to them. The personal values assessment developed by the Barrett Values Centre, is a free and powerful tool to help clients clarify and understand what is important to them, and where they are at in their evolutionary journey. It also throws to light, parts of the where there still might be unmet ego needs which need to be addressed
The Gallup Strenghtsfinder is a powerful tool which sheds light on the clients top strengths. These strengths are invariably something an individual is born with, and what they naturally do best. Aligning with and focusing on, their strengths – individuals can pick work and job opportunities that make life more fun and enjoyable. Alternatively, they can use their innate strengths to make their current work roles more fulfilling. By focusing on the application of our natural gifts, and in the enjoyment of that, the self-esteem of the individual benefits greatly.
The Integrative Enneagram creates self-awareness and uncovers the patterns of behavior that sub-consciously drive and motivate us to act in certain ways. When we make these patterns and motivations conscious, we can transcend them and develop richer, more supportive ways of being. Working with the Enneagram empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own behaviors and growth, from a greater understanding of why they act and react the way they do. In transcending our reactions, and turning to healthy ways of responding, we gain greater control over our negative behaviors, further enhancing our self-esteem. The Enneagram is a tool to connect us to our Higher self, and in so doing help us move towards the best self, which is both supported and perpetuated by a healthy self-esteem.
These above are a few suggestions, and each Coach can choose the tools that resonate most with him or her, and alternatively make use of those tools, that a Coach has mastery in.
Using the ICF Competencies and Essential Coach Skills to facilitate the development of Healthy Self-Esteem in our clients
In showing respect for and creating a safe space for our clients to explore their potential, we naturally enable their sense of self and comfort. As clients feel free to reveal their full and vulnerable selves to us, we create space to explore their full potential. In coming and talking to a coach, they are taking a risk, and in trusting us fully, they are positively rewarded for the risk they took. When we feed this vulnerability with love, non-judgement and curiosity, we free our client’s potential to be their best self. Further as Coaches, we are always being the example we want to see in our clients – and by displaying our own authentic self, we help the client display their’ s without fear and judgement
2. Coaching Presence
Working on the self-esteem of our clients requires deftness, softness and inner knowing. It cannot be fully processive. Looking at and embracing the authentic self, while letting go of the ego-self is often a very emotional process. The Coaching presence and intuition play a strong role in facilitating the journey of our client towards their own best self with a solid self-esteem.
As Coaches, the greatest gift we our clients is to listen intently. Being listened to without judgement on it’s own is highly beneficial for client’s self-esteem. By ensuring that the agenda is always the clients, we let the client lead the way but use our listening skills to enable client’s authentic self-expression.
Powerful questioning is integral in the Coaching process to unlock our client’s authentic self. As discussed above, key to healthy self-esteem is being in touch with our authentic self while letting go of old beliefs and conditioning. The coach’s questioning skills guided by intuition will greatly help unlocking the client’s full potential. By breaking the shackles that are holding them back in the form of limiting beliefs, and prior conditioning our clients can move forward with greater ease and lightness.
5.Coach’s own self-esteem:
Lastly, it is important to remember that as a Coach, we are role models for our clients. If we are to enable healthy self-esteem in our clients, we need to also ensure that our own self-esteem is not just healthy but standing on sold ground. There are many a times, clients or situations may present themselves, which will challenge us – standing on solid ground, knowing who we are, and displaying healthy self-esteem will significantly accelerate our own journey towards greater and greater excellence as a Coach.
Reflective Questions on Self-Esteem: