Looking at ourselves through a wide-angle lens of acceptance or a narrow beam of self-criticism is a trait most of us have developed over time.  It’s how we’ve been trained.  From an early age we are “encouraged” to view ourselves based on what is perceived to be acceptable through the eyes of those who influence us, meaning that a lot of the time, our perspectives stem from standards influenced by someone else or some other group.

I remember as a child my parents saying, “I don’t care what you do, it’s important that you’re happy in whatever you choose”.  This is important. We want this encouragement.  But I remember the same parents also being rather disappointed by action I took that was not quite as they expected or hoped.  This was really confusing for me, should I be happy doing what I wanted, or should I make my parents happy by me doing what they wanted me to? And if I didn’t achieve the results, they thought I should, did that make me a failure?  Obviously, it’s not just parents that do this.  You can replace parents with friends, teachers and significant others.  Anyone who has influenced you in some way.

I doubt I’m alone in this experience.

But when faced with the internal conflict this generates, it’s not surprising that it can impact your confidence in how you do (or don’t) go after your own dreams, when at the same time you risk possibly disappointing those that you love, because you didn’t live up to their expectations of you. Or worse, you listen to people who didn’t have your best interests at heart in the first place and you do (or don’t do) something as a result of that.

The Lady GaGa Experience – Self Regard at it’s best

There was a beautiful post on linked in recently quoting Lady Gaga, who’s very much in the limelight following her much deserved Oscar win. The post refers to an early life experience she had with a boyfriend who told her that she would never succeed, would never win a Grammy, never have a hit record and he hoped she’d fail. Her response was “Someday when we’re not together, you won’t be able to order a cup of coffee at the f****ing deli without hearing or seeing me”. Bravo!

Her self-regard – that is her self-assured, self-accepting and confident belief in herself has been a huge enabler. It’s clear that she has talent and a healthy dose of ambition, but success didn’t simply land in her lap. She’s experienced her share of failure. And she’s had some well documented, public setbacks with huge amounts of criticism, from people who just didn’t like her, or didn’t get her.

Her story isn’t an unusual one, but for me it’s inspirational. I love stories like this. Stories that help showcase the endless possibility of what can happen when we break through the barriers we create for ourselves. The ones where we choose to let go of the crippling self-doubt and insecurity, electing instead to accept who we are with all its brilliance and flaws.

The Reality Check

That’s not to say we shouldn’t have a reality check along the way.  There’s a fine line between being self-assured and conceited.  The former gives you the courage to continue when things are not always easy or when you’re presented with an opportunity but overuse this quality and you can find yourself alienating people due to your arrogance and unwillingness to take on board feedback.

People with low self-regard will get stuck in a cycle of non-achievement because they hold themselves back from success, happiness and fulfilment due to their poor perception of themselves.  Whereas, those who have an overinflated sense of self-worth, also risk not achieving their true potential, due to the alienation risk mentioned earlier.

It’s about balance.  Healthy self-regard sees you balancing the outcomes of your beliefs and confidence in yourself with humility and reality checks around where your shortcomings are.  And then doing something positive with all of that.