Your Arrogance is Betraying You. Recognizing The Signs of Poor Self-Esteem.

“Self-esteem is made up primarily of two things: feeling lovable and feeling capable.” Jack Canfield

Growing up I knew a kid that loved to brag.  He was the type of guy that had to be around the popular kids all the time in an attempt to boost his own ego.  He was what I would call a “Fair Weather Friend”, meaning that he would come hang out at our house and play our video games when the other kids wanted nothing to do with him because he was known to be a liar. Every time some new guy came into the neighborhood, wearing popular clothes and strutting around like the cock of the walk, Mr. Fair Weather would claim they were his cousin or some other relative. This stopped when the other kids ridiculed him on the supposed size of his extended family. Nevertheless, he found himself back in our basement to play Nintendo when the other kids shunned him.  When he found himself back in their good graces, he acted as if he barely knew us.

Dictionary.com Definition.

Fair-Weather Friend: A friend who supports others only when it is easy and convenient to do so.


Now there was this other kid who was very quiet and kept to himself.  He also lived near the projects and would sometimes come out and play football or baseball with the other kids.  I remember one summer while the other kids were outside playing, he was in summer school because he had signed up a computer programming class.  He dressed differently than the other kids, liked different music and was often ridiculed because he was different.   However, he stayed true to himself despite what anyone had to say about him.

A couple years ago I ran into Mr. Fair Weather at the mall. I asked a simple question, “How have you been?”  His answer was “Oh, I’m going to get the oil changed in my Chrysler 300, pick up my son from Chicago and relax in my condo on the east side.”  I was definitely sorry I asked that question because it showed that he was still the same guy that looked to impress others as a way to show his self-worth.

The other guy I can tell you is my brother.  He finished college and is now a successful Senior Software Developer.  He’s been married 23 years to a beautiful wife and together they have five children.  He doesn’t care about impressing others and is totally comfortable with who he is.  He doesn’t let other people define him, nor does he rely on their opinion to fuel his self-esteem.  His self-esteem comes from who he is, not what others think of him.

FAUX SELF-ESTEEM.

Self Esteem.  We’ve all seen people that appear to have an abundance of it.  Hollywood types, professional athletes, successful business people, politicians, the popular people in school or on campus, they all seem to have a sense of what we would consider being high self-esteem.   But does cockiness, arrogance, and hubris equate to high self-esteem?  Or does it merely show the illusion of high self-esteem?

Faux self-esteem is merely the illusion of high self-esteem and self-respect without the existence of it.  It is an irrational, self-protective defense mechanism to reduce anxiety and to provide a false sense of security.  It is an attempt to pacify our authentic need for self-esteem while allowing the lack of it to remain unquestioned.

The big problem with faux self-esteem is that people who have it place value on things that are totally irrelevant to what authentic self-esteem based.   For many, this is founded on materialism.  Things such wearing popular labels, driving a nice car, or living in a large house can represent a genuine sense of value, but it’s not a proper measure of self-esteem.  These things can make you feel better about yourself temporarily, but comfort doesn’t bring self-esteem.

For some faux self-esteem can come from acceptance in a certain social circle.  This could be anything from joining a fraternity to joining a gang.  Both can may give a temporary feeling of elation; an illusion of security and belonging, but what it cannot give is an authentic sense of high self-esteem.

Many seek a measure of self-esteem through sexual exploits and dominance.  As men, we all know guys that measure their self-worth by the number of women they’ve slept with.  They foolishly brag about their sexual exploits in an attempt to appear more a man.  However, what they are really doing is showing how immature and miserable they are in their ill-placed hubris

“Nothing profits more than self-esteem, grounded on what is just and right.” John Milton


Unfortunately in our society few things are as common as the pursuit of self-esteem by means that will not work.  We seek to find self-esteem through materialism, acceptance from others, and sexual exploits, instead of valuing authentic self-esteem through integrity, self-control, consciousness, and responsibility. We don’t seek the power that comes from competence (which is the power to achieve real value.)

What we need to realize is that self-esteem is an internal experience.  It is what I think and feel about myself, not what others think and feel about who I am. You can be adored by millions of people, and yet not love yourself.  You can have more degrees than a thermometer and the entire alphabet behind your name, yet feel like a failure.  You can put on a mask, portraying the very definition of confidence and poise, yet tremble at the sense of your own imperfection, knowing that your entire life is a facade.  To have what appears to be “success” without gaining authentic self-esteem is to always live in fear, feeling like a fraud waiting to be exposed for what you really are.

 

SIGNS OF LOW SELF-ESTEEM

Engaging in Toxic Relationships.

For years I suffered from low self-esteem.  I was one of those people that felt being in a relationship was essential for happiness.  I was looking for the approval of others to fulfill my need for authentic self-esteem, which is an external source meaning I would have never found what I was searching for.

I was perfecting the art of faux self-esteem by attempting to “love” without truly knowing what love was. Nor did I have the inner security required to love me.   After my divorce,  I would jump in and out of bad relationships with women that were no good for me.   This was an endless cycle of repeated misery.  I wasn’t true to myself, so why would I expect anyone else to be truthful. I always had a secret fear that I was destined to be alone and rejected.  Getting involved with women that were often unfaithful only reinforced that belief.  Yeah, in the beginning, I was always infatuated and pretended I didn’t know the relationship wasn’t going anywhere. I knew deep down they were wrong for me, but they showed interest in me and said they loved me (infatuation). We often had nothing in common besides sexual attraction and the fact that they would say “I’m different from other guys”.

 

 

Eventually, things would start to go bad.  Small disagreements turned catastrophic and I would often reject them before they had a chance to reject me, thus giving me some measure of control.  Shortly after the break up I would look for another woman, who was often no better than the last and repeat the same sequence over again.

It wasn’t until I found inner peace through Christ and truly began loving myself that I discontinued this pattern of insanity.  My self-esteem no longer depended on my relationship status or some random “what’s her name”.  I realized that if I did not feel lovable, it is very difficult to believe that anyone else would love me. If I don’t accept who I am, how can I expect anyone else to?  If I lack self-respect, I have little to give anyone else except my emotional fragility.  When I truly discovered what love was and knew that true love would never fail me, I knew I could love myself in ways I deserved to be loved and not continue with bad relationships.

Accepting Discourteous and Abusive Behavior.

We have all heard the saying, “Treat people the way you want to be treated”.  I would also say “Treat yourself how you want others to treat you”.  People who lack self-respect often accept discourteous and abusive behavior from others. If you show that you lack self-respect, others will see it and some will take advantage of it.

If I respect myself, I demand that others deal with me respectfully.   I will conduct myself in a way that will increase the likelihood that others will show me respect. And when they do, I am confident in my initial belief in myself.

Being a person that once had low self-esteem I remember times where I allowed people to walk over me.  I would endure being talked to any kind of way and was often be too afraid to stand up for myself.  As my self-confidence grew, so did the respect I had for myself. I no longer put up with pugnacious behavior or being talked down to.  I know who I am and I know my worth.  I won’t lower myself to the point of dealing with discourteous behavior.

Resistance to Trying Things Unfamiliar. 

People with high self-esteem don’t shy away from challenges and are unafraid of change.  They seek the stimulation of achieving goals and trying new things.  They embrace having new experiences and doing so helps to nurture their self-esteem.

People with low self-esteem are comfortable with the familiar and undemanding.  They don’t want to try new things nor do they want to take on new challenges.  They will often use any excuse to avoid the unfamiliar and challenging, often out of the fear. I know because this use to be me. My excuse was always lack of time or lack of money.  I was afraid of being uncomfortable and afraid of failure.  I finally came to the realization that I cannot live in fear.

I know that many of us don’t have the money to fly to exotic locations or quit our jobs in an attempt to start a business.  But trying new things doesn’t have to involve a lot of money.  A couple years ago I decided that I wanted to try something different, so I figured trying different foods was an easy place to start.  I went on MeetUp.com and found a food lovers group.   I can say that I have tried more food in the past two years than I have my entire life. Not only do I try new restaurants and have new experiences, I’ve met some cool people and made good friends in the process.

I also decided that sometimes you have to just make things happen.  My sons and I are big soccer fans.  Last summer I found out that Bayern Munich was playing A.C. Milan, who is my son Milan’s favorite team. These are two world class European teams and they were playing in Chicago which was only 100 miles away.  I knew that this could be my son’s only chance to see his favorite soccer team, and Bayern Munich were the champions of the Bundesliga.   This was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I made it happen.  I contacted family in Chicago who not only gave us a place to stay overnight, they drove us to the stadium. It was an amazing experience for us both. It was an awesome game and A wonderful father and son bonding trip.

My son Milan and I at the Bayern Munich vs A.C. Milan Game.

My son Milan and I at the Bayern Munich vs A.C. Milan Game.

Writing is something I never thought I would do.  I freely admit that my grammatical skills aren’t the best.  I’ll probably go over this article 10 times and still miss something.  But I didn’t let my lack of writing experience stop me from starting a blog and writing about things I have a passion for.  The more I write, the more I enjoy writing.  I love when people tell me they’ve read something I’ve written and give a favorable review.  I also don’t let those that disagree with me, get me down.  Step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Problems with Communicating. 

“If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being.”James E. Faust
People with high self-esteem tend to be more open and genuine with their communication. They are also more comfortable with expressing themselves. They will engage in constructive dialogue with others and welcome correction instead of dreading it.  People with high self-esteem aren’t afraid to apologize if they are wrong and are willing to forgive if wronged.  Nevertheless, they will remain firm in their convictions and not be easily swayed or bend to peer pressure.

Those with lower self-esteem are more evasive when it comes to communication.  They often times don’t have confidence in their own thoughts and feelings so they will remain silent to avoid the fear of ridicule.  Their communication can also be completely inappropriate. This can be either a failed attempt at humor in order to fit in or when outmatched intellectually resulting to insults instead of engaging in constructive dialog.  They are less willing to forgive and will often hold grudges.  They tend to be irrational, rigid, and blind to reality, often make up their own truths instead of accepting the truth as it is. I’ve seen many people with lower self-esteem be very rude and ill-mannered, confusing pugnaciousness behavior as a sign of strength instead of the weakness that it is.

Failing To Treat Others with Respect.

The more authentic a person’s self-esteem, the more likely they are to treat others with respect and fairness.   When your self-esteem is authentic you are less inclined to see people as a threat.   Nor do you deal with them in adversarial terms.

I once dated a woman who was very pugnacious and adversarial.  I’m a nice person so I try to treat others with respect.  I’m nice to cashiers at the store, wait staff at restaurants, I don’t see a reason to treat people with anything less than respect.  She felt I was “Too nice” and didn’t like that I would have conversations with people because I was a pleasant person to be around.  She hated my sister-in-law because she is white and I have a close relationship with her. She also didn’t like that I was close to my cousin who is more like a sister to me. To say she was a bitch would be an understatement (She referred to herself as a bad bitch so whatever).  The problem wasn’t me, the problem was her and her insecurity.  Her lack of self-esteem wouldn’t allow her to treat others with respect. Authentic self-esteem is one of the best predictors of personal happiness.  Poor self-esteem is often associated with unhappiness.

Always Trying to Prove Themselves to Others.

“We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.”  Dave Ramsey

I see it happen all the time. In fact, much of what we call “urban culture” is based on the idea of impressing other people even if it means you have to go broke to do it.  It’s a culture where self-esteem isn’t based on what is on the inside. Rather, it’s based on the shoes on your feet, the labels your wear, and a false sense of “respect.  All of this in an attempt to impress others which are signs of faux self-esteem.

When a person has a high sense of self-esteem, they are more driven to impress themselves and reflecting on the value within.  They don’t care about impressing others because what others think of them doesn’t determine their worth.

I’ve worked in corporate settings with people who were millionaires, yet you wouldn’t know it by the way they dressed.  Look at Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire that often walks around in sweats and flip flops.  Steve Jobs wore black turtlenecks and beat up sneakers. Do you think they cared what others thought of them?   Are they trying to impress others with designer clothes and expensive shoes, flaunting their wealth?  Nevertheless, I see people living in low-income areas wearing several hundred dollar outfits, expensive rims on their cars, while buying groceries with food stamps.

I had a neighbor who I overheard talking to his friends about having their “Clothes game on point”. He had a new outfit on, including a $50 t-shirt he was obviously proud of since he kept the price tag on it, $100 pair of shorts (price tags again), and matching shoes. (Maybe he was going to return the stuff, anyway)  A couple minutes after hearing this conversation he came to me asking if I could loan him $20 for gas.  I knew another guy that likes to wear $200 jeans, yet complained about how he had no money for all the child support he was paying. (That is another matter altogether). I know we all like nice things and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, why go broke trying to impress others? Is it really that important to look the part and be broke?

Conclusion

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

Romans 12:2


The approval of others, material wealth, prestige, none of these will bring authentic self-esteem.  Authentic self-esteem starts when you decide to make the decision to love yourself. The bible verse above talks about being transformed by the renewing of your mind.  When I decided to be sincere about wanting to change, I started with my spiritual life, which led to a renewing of my mind to focus on God’s will.  Switching from Faux Self-esteem to Authentic Self-Esteem starts with a change in your mindset.   It didn’t happen overnight, but I can say that I don’t look for the approval of others, material wealth, sexual conquest, or any of the other factors mentioned above for a sense of fulfillment.  I am content with who and what I am.


Terrell Cotton is a motivational blogger and a full-time single father of two boys who are his heart and soul.  His blog, Terrellcotton.com, is dedicated to helping men become better versions of themselves by building upon authentic manhood, fatherhood, and faith.


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