From an early age, we’re taught to judge ourselves, impacting our self-regard, negatively or positively. Judgments that stem from standards defined by someone else or some other group. These judgments impact every area of our lives. How we look. What we do. What careers we follow. Who our friends are. Who we partner with. The list is endless. So, whether we are looking at ourselves appreciatively or critically, you can be sure that we are judging ourselves,  constantly. Often, we don’t even know we’re doing it. It’s how we’ve been trained.

As a child, I remember my parents saying, “I don’t care what you do, it’s important that you’re happy, whatever you do”. This is important and we want this encouragement. But I also remember disappointing them by doing things that were not quite as they expected or hoped! This was really confusing. Should I be happy doing what I wanted, or should I make my parents happy by doing what they wanted? And, if I didn’t achieve the results they thought I should, did that make me a failure? It’s not only 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.

This can create a lot of internal conflicts, impacting your confidence in how you do (or don’t) go after your own dreams when, at the same time, you risk disappointing those that you love because you didn’t live up to their expectations of you. Or worse, you listen to the advice of people who didn’t have your best interests in the first place and you do (or don’t do) something as a result.

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, where a boyfriend 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. Being self-assured gives you the courage to continue when things are not easy or when you have an opportunity. However, overuse this quality and you may find yourself alienating people due to arrogance or unwillingness to take on board feedback.

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

It’s about balance. Healthy “self-regard” sees you balancing your belief and confidence in yourself, with humility and reality checks about the shortcomings you have. And then doing something positive with that.