“I’m learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”
– Eartha Kitt, American singer, actress, and cabaret star
“I wonder if my investment will ever pay off.”
The comment came out of the blue. I was walking with my elder son on a warm early spring day. The snow-banks were melting and we had to side-step a lot of puddles on our way to the coffee shop. We also had to jump out of the way of a few passing motorists who roared through deep puddles along the side of the roadway and sent waves rolling our way.
“What investment is that?” I asked, leaping onto a nearby snow bank.
“My seven-year, $100,000 investment,” he replied, stepping into a puddle.
It occurred to me he was talking his education: the arduous path he had chosen that had led him to a local college upgrading program, a big city university and, in the end, a law degree.
“Absolutely,” I replied. “An investment in yourself is never wasted.”
“An investment into a pair of rubber boots might be warranted.”
There are many ways that we can invest in ourselves. As with my son, we can invest in our education – though that investment needn’t always be in a formal sense.
Reading, watching, listening and learning are also methods by which we can invest in our education. We can invest in our personal wellbeing by remaining physically active and watching our diet. An investment that always pays huge dividends is an investment in self-esteem and awareness-building.
One of the first things we can do to invest in our emotional wellbeing is to recognize activities that make us feel poorly about ourselves.
Owing to fight or flight, many of us will understandably move away from experiences that make us feel poorly about ourselves.
If we do a little soul searching we’re likely to find reasons we feel unworthy in our personal history.
For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, look for an event or experience where a belief about your ability to speak was formed. Likely, it was formed many years ago and, just as likely, it was never valid.
For years, I was stricken with this fear.
It took hold when I was in junior high school and went up before the class to give a speech. I was already painfully shy, and when a few kids laughed, my mind went blank.
The teacher had to send me back to my seat where I was greeted with more laughter and cruel chiding.
It took years and a lot of time in introspection to overcome this belief. It was during this time that I began to realize just how many other ungrounded beliefs I had about myself.
I worked through the fear of public speaking and, over the years, have worked on and through many other debilitating beliefs.
Most such beliefs are actually uninvestigated thoughts that collapse under scrutiny. I felt I was worth the investment of time and effort and I believe you are too.
Do whatever it takes to move forward. The first step, however, is sitting down and thinking about it.
Look for that trigger that created those self-defeating beliefs that never did and still don’t serve you.
Remember, first comes the thought, then the feeling and then the corresponding behaviour. Follow the chain backwards when investigating your emotional triggers.
Equally important is taking time to identify your successes. If you’re anything like me, these successes have resulted from application of your natural gifts and abilities.
Think about your greatest successes. Better yet, make a list and carry it with you. They can be things like doing well in school, being acknowledged at work or even being a great friend, parent or role model.
The items on your success list are tangible reminders of your worthiness and value.
Once you’ve figured out what your strengths are, the next step is to invest in activities that maximize those strengths.
If you’re a patient person, long-term projects are great. For me, anything to do with writing or helping others builds my self-esteem and self-confidence.
At the same time, try to minimize projects that don’t mesh well with your strengths.
If you’re a global thinker who finds details challenging to corner, perhaps a job doing data entry is ill advised.
Working on the things you’re good at will not only hone your skills, but will improve your self-esteem. You’ll soon discover that you can contribute things of value to your community and to society. If you continually fuel this feeling, your self-confidence will gradually increase and even start to spread to areas where you may not be blessed with natural gifts.
Here’s a powerful way to invest in your wellbeing: surround yourself with people that build you up, not tear you down. If people in your life just bring you down or express a lot of negativity, create some separation. If your current social circle is leaving you feeling negative or poorly about yourself, withdraw a bit and see if you can find other sources for socialization. The people who are now part of my social circle are those I consciously choose to invite inside.
And perhaps one of the most important things is to never ever stop learning. Whether you’re going to university like my son with a specific career goal in mind, signing up for evening courses or just opening your mind to learning something new about yourself or the world every day, it’s all an aspect of investing in yourself and in a better more positive future.
“Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make,” wrote American best-selling author, speaker and business consultant Robin Sharma. “It will not only improve your life, it will improve the lives of all those around you.”
I have no doubt that my son’s investment will eventually pay off, and I know the investment you make into building your self-esteem and awareness will definitely return huge dividends.
“Never tell me the sky’s the limit when (I know) there are footprints on the moon.”
– Author Unknown
Murray M. Fuhrer – The Self-Esteem Guya
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca