6 Steps to Increase Self Esteem

Image result for low self esteem

I wrote her off for the tenth time today
And practiced all the things I would say
But she came over
I lost my nerve
I took her back and made her dessert

— The Offspring

 

I find this song by the Offspring hilarious, but also close to the truth more often than I’d like to admit.  I’ve seen estimates that over 85% percent of people suffer from low self esteem at different points in our lives.   Self esteem is one of the fundamental building blocks of living an emotionally anti-fragile life.   If you have no belief in yourself, no respect for yourself, no ability to stand up for yourself, then how can you expect to make decisions — tough decisions — that will enable you to live a fulfilling life?

I’ve found it difficult to find good advice regarding self-esteem that’s not long-winded or hard to actually put into practice.  I came across this YouTube video by The Journey which itself is a quick summary of a book by Nathaniel Branden called the Six Pillars of Self Esteem.  I haven’t read the book.  I might at some point, but I like the video.   It’s  pithy and concise.  If you can’t watch the video, here are the six pillars:

  1. Practice of Living Consciously.  Have to be willing to act on what you perceive to be the right thing to do at any given moment. Don’t procrastinate.  Don’t waste hours a day on social media when you know you should be doing something else.  Ask yourself where is this leading me?  Am I dong the best thing for myself right now?
  2. Practice of self acceptance.  Stop toruring yourself because you don’t compare to someone else.  There are millions of others with the same “defects” you have that are millionaires, artists, in fulfilling relationsihps, executives, and generally successful at life.  So your extra pounds, your big nose, your disability… none of it matters.  It doesn’t hold others back, so don’t let it hold you back.
  3. Practice of Self Responsibility. No one else is thinking about how to help you or make you succeed or feel happy.  If you leave it up to someone else, they will fail miserably.  Take care of yourself, because no one else will.  Make sure you’re saving enough money.  Make sure you are treating your body right.  Make sure you are not burning yourself out at work.
  4. Practice of Self Assertiveness.  Stop repressing your thoughts and ideas. You will never, ever find the perfect thing or coolest thing to say.  So go out here and say “hey, I have the right to exist”!  Let other’s be touched by your contribution to the world.  Not everyone will love what you have to say.  But if you never express yourself, it’s guaranteed that no one will like your ideas, because they’ll never know.  You’ll grow old with regrets and boredom.
  5. Practice of Living Purposefully. Take action on improving the things you want to improve.  Don’t live life like a zombie sheep… eat bad food, complain about your job, watch mindless videos or TV,  sleep.  Repeat.  Identify what would make your life great and then take steps to achieve it.
  6. Practice of Personal Integrity.  Thoughts and actions need to be in alignment.  If you say you going to do something, you do it.   You need “congruence” between thoughts and actions. Self esteem is a reputation we acquire toward ourselves and if we keep doing things we know we shouldn’t be doing, that reputation suffers.
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The Dao, Buddha, and Quatum Mechanics

I came across a great video by Shantena Augusto Sabbadini in which he makes a link between the Dao De Jing’s ( or Tao Te Ching)  view of the universe and the behavior of particles in quantum mechanics.

The video really speaks for itself, but I’m going to highlight a few of the interesting points and share my thoughts with how it relates to antifragility.

If you’re unfamiliar with the quantum mechanics and particularly the Double Slit Experiment, here are a few good, easy to understand summaries (and if you’re not familiar with it, prepare to have your mind blown!)

Original Double Slit Experiment

Double Slit with Quantum Eraser / Delayed Choice

Another good one here.

Here are the main points from Sabbini’s video:

Quantum mechanics tells us that all of the particles in the universe are made up of probability waves and are not “real” in the sense that they always exist in a tangible form in specific place.  Things only become real when measured/observed/sensed by a conscious observer.

This is why we experience the world the way we do — as real tangible objects — because we experience the universe from within a body, and a body gets it’s inputs though its senses of sight, hearing, touching, etc.  In other words, a body is sensing device.  It makes observations.  Hence, this is our only way of experiencing life.

Chapter 1 of Dao De Jing

Amazingly, the Dao De Jing tells us the same story in it’s first chapter:

The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things

And so, always eliminate desires to observe its mysteries
Always have desires to observe its  manifestations

These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

 

All our talk about reality is not reality.  We can never fully describe it.  It is just a map.  (The Dao that can be spoken is not the eternal Dao)

Post Modern thinking says that even though we may not be able to fully describe the “real” reality and we say that maybe for humans maybe it’s all about how our thinking creates our own reality within our heads.  We have analyze, talk, measure, analyze and talk some more.
The Dao tells us to go the other way.  Stop talking and just experience reality.  I like this.  Just live in the moment.  This is what Buddha tells us, as well as more modern authors such as Elkhart Tolle and Micheal Singer.  To use a modern example, many of us are so busy tweeting, posting Fascebook updates and uploading photos of every moment of our lives to Snapchat and Instagram that we’re barely even experiencing life as it happens.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.  The Dao also tells us that when you name things, it creates a split between subject and object.  It creates the “myriad things” and also creates desire.  Desire ( or hatred) for objects, puts meaning on them and so gives meaning to life.  This naming and desire leads to suffering.  This is also one of the four noble truths of Buddhism.
Sabbadini  goes on to remind us that scientifically speaking, there are no separate objects in the universe — only fields interacting in space-time., just as a wave is not really a separate object from the ocean. Only in name is it different.  If you are a wave and identify with your separateness, you are bound to suffer because a wave will eventually be dissolved into the ocean.  It never really was separate.
So with desire you experience the boundaries — but notice Lao Tzu does not say this is necessarily bad.  With naming, desires and passion, you experience what it means to be alive in our world.  The joys, the struggle, the pain, anxiety, fear, love, fulfillment, and achievement.
He does not say anything about trying to take yourself out of the world (where else could you go?).    Having these two things together (and I think learning how use and experience each one of these together) is the wonder of all wonders, the secret of all secrets and the gate of all mysteries.
Now — what does all this tell us about living an antifragile life?  Plenty, in my opinion.   I see the verses of the Dao De Jing as tools or patterns that you can apply to your life.  When things are bad ( or anytime), you can remember that you don’t have to be attached to your thoughts.  We are all one.  You don’t have to let other people or emotions get the best of you and drive your life.  (Desireless!).  On the other hand, sometimes experiencing the full range of emotions is what makes us human and gives meaning to life. So we have to let is pass through us.
Certainly, when something good happens, it feels nice to embrace it,  celebrate it and experience it fully.  That’s fun right?  To me, that’s exposing yourself to good things but having limited exposure (notice I didn’t say no exposure) to the bad things.  The bad times come and go.  You know that’s a part of being human. You acknowledge them, experience them, even though it doesn’t feel good, but then are able to let them go.  The are bumps in the road… small setbacks… small losses.

 

 

Seneca’s Letter VI or Why I Write This Blog

Recently, I had several happy experiences relating to advice I’ve given to other people.  The first was in a meeting on the topic of self development and  I shared my experience creating a “nurturing list” in which you list things that bring you joy,  so that it times of anxiety, fear, or depression you can look at this list and “remember” what things bring you joy and then go do one or more of them.  As I was describing this, I saw several heads nodding.  After the meeting, I had several people come up and thank me for this nugget of information.  That felt nice.

Another experience occurred while talking with a friend who was going through a divorce. She was very stressed about going to meetings full of of lawyers and uncomfortable negotiations.  Understandably, she felt some intimidation and anxiety from this impending situation for which she had no experience.  “Have you ever hear of Amy Cuddy and her TED talk on Power Poses?”, I asked her. She told me she hadn’t, but watched it right before her meeting and told me she felt much more in control and at ease.  Who knows what that one ripple effect may have caused in the universe.  Her kids and their kids my be better off for it.

These are small things in grand scheme of the life, but I like to think they have positive after effects, and it satisfies me greatly to know that I’m playing my part and not holding on to this things for myself.

Wisdom

I have 40 plus years of knowledge that I have taken in,  thought about, analyzed,  and stored away.  As I get older I occasionally use those memories and apply them and/or add additional meaning to them because I’ve learned something else that applies to it in a different context.  The cycle then repeats with the overall wisdom increasing each year as I learn more and have more experiences.  This is the beauty of aging, if you’re living right, and I suspect is why in general, older people report being the happiest .  For all things that are a drag about aging, I’m finding that the wisdom that comes it is ultra gratifying and special –and (almost) makes up for the loss of the physical.

And while this knowledge does me a lot of good in dealing with all aspects of life including career, financial, nutritional,  and especially emotional health, it’s ultimately unsatisfying if I don’t share it with others.  I think it gives me even greater pleasure getting positive feedback from people I’ve passed along knowledge to than actually using it myself.  Maybe some of it is my own ego gratification ( look how smart I am!), but I’d like to think much of it is stems from an innate human drive to help others — and that can’t be all bad can it?

In Letter VI of Seneca’s Letter’s From a Stoic, written 2000 years ago he had similar thoughts that he shared with his friend Lucilius:

And when you say: “Give me also a share in these gifts which you have found so helpful,” I reply that I am anxious to heap all these privileges upon you, and that I am glad to learn in order that I may teach. Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself. And if wisdom were given me under the express condition that it must be kept hidden and not uttered, I should refuse it. No good thing is pleasant to possess, without friends to share it.

Sharing

In that spirit, I want to share some of my favorite authors of self development content  — whether it’s from books, blogs, or podcasts — along with a very quick synopsis of why I it was life changing for me.  Reading or listening to any one of these will be make you a bit more antifragile, but they all have something unique and valuable to say.  I recommend all of them highly.

Nasim Taleb —   The reason I started this blog.  His most famous book is the Black Swan, but the game changer for me was Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, which asserts that things can actually get better from chaos and stress.  I apply these ideas to people in this blog.

Micheal Singer —  You are not your thoughts.  You can observe you thoughts and act on them, if you choose, but you don’t have to fixate on them and let them rule your life.   The Untethered Soul is most famous book. But I love this talk he gave at at a university.  Hearing these ideas in his own voice is most effective. I’ve watched it three times.

Seneca Letters From A Stoic.  Awesome, concise advice contained in a series of letters written 2000 years ago.  Just having the historical record is incredibly cool.  But getting into the mind of one of histories greatest mentors superb.  The advice is timeless and although coming from the heart of Western Civilization, I find it compliments Eastern philosophy very well.  This is one of things that makes it so powerful.

Lao Tzu — I  just started reading the Dao De Jing ( or Tao Te Ching) and am really liking it.  I feel very calm and centered after reading these very short and simple, but powerful tidbits of wisdom.  Yin and Yang….

James Altucher —  James’ honesty is addicting and he always interviews excellent guests in his podcasts. It’s where I heard of several of these on this list.

Sally Hogshead – How to Fascinate.  She opened my mind to the very simple idea that it was okay to be myself as it applied  to my career — and not to try to conform to what I thought my job description should be.  She advises accentuating the things that make you unique and play to your strengths (and stop trying to play to your weaknesses).  When you do this, you will start to “fascinate”.

Jack Canfield — I love this book because it’s divided up in 60 some chapters of great ideas on how to my more successful and happy.  He’s collected all of these ideas and put it into a reference book on success.   You can jump in and out as you please.  It’s another one that I’ve read or listened to several times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running Away Makes You Fragile — What the Ancients Knew

Every time I read a chapter from Seneca’s Letters From a Stoic, I feel a bit smarter.  I feel a bit lighter and more connected with the secrets of the universe.   I love reading Seneca’s letters because they are easily accessible.  You  can pick a passage,  get in and out of in 15 minutes, but it will leave you thinking all day.

Letter 28 is one of those.  In a concise and pithy three pages,  Seneca tells how why you cannot run away from your troubles, and how doing so actually makes you a more fragile person.  He had this figured out 2000 years ago!

He starts the letter ( to his friend Lucilius) by telling him:

“Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate.”

He then goes on to quote Socrates:

“Why do you wonder why your globe-trotting does you no good, seeing that you always take yourself with you? The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels”

It’s great. He’s basically telling his friend: Dude, you need to look in the mirror.

I feel we’ve all done or thought something like this. “This cold weather is making me depressed.  I’ve had it.  I need to move to California or someplace warm.  That will get rid of my troubles”.  Or “I’m done with this place.  The women/men here are all losers.”

It’s usually not true.  The change should begin within.

Okay,  so maybe you think this not so earth shattering.  You may have even thought this yourself – but what he goes on to say, really made me sit back and say “wow!”.

“You rush here and there, to rid yourself of the burden that rests upon you, though it becomes more troublesome by reason of your very restlessness, just as in a ship the cargo when stationary makes no trouble, but when it shifts to this side or that, it causes the vessel to heel more quickly in the direction where it has settled. Anything you do tells against you, and you hurt yourself by your very unrest; for you are shaking up a sick man.”

Awesome.  Your running around actually makes things worse for you!  Fragile!  But he goes on to say if you work on yourself, you become antifragile.

“That trouble once removed, all change of scene will become a pleasure; though you may be driven to the uttermost ends of the earth, in whatever corner of a savage land you may find yourself, that place, however forbidding, will be to you a hospitable abode. Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there.”

I’m not sure what kind of therapy and self-help they had in ancient times,  but in today’s world that could mean reading self-development books,  talking things out with friends and family, getting therapy,  or attending a 12-step program.

The key is that mental health is truly one of the building blocks of a successful and happy life, how ever you define it.  We’ve known it for thousands of years.

 

Raising Antifragile Children

 

IslaAndBoyRunningOnHill

If you have children, you spend a lot of time thinking about how to raise them, stressing over times when they fail, celebrating their good deeds and generally wondering if you’re doing everything you can to give them the best life possible.  After all, that’s the essential job of being a parent, right?

We want our children to be able to handle not only the childhood years, the sometimes dicey teen years, but also the big bad real world adult years, where the shit can really hit the fan and the amount of stressors and responsibilities increase exponentially.

I’ve never heard anyone say they want their child to be a loner, be emotionally fragile,  or be susceptible to diseases and die early. We want them to not just survive, but thrive.  That’s what being antifragile is all about.

smokey

Smokey was fragile. Don’t be him.

 

The Antifragile Pyramid — For Kids

I developed a concept of what I call the Antifragile Pyramid for kids.  Follow these steps and you’ll raise a superman or superwoman.

KidsAntifragilePyramid

Proper Nutrition.  I think it all really has to start here.  As we’ve all heard before, you literally are what you eat. If a child’s brain chemistry if off, if their hormones are out of whack, if they have weak bones, if their blood sugar is sky high all the time and they don’t feel like moving and they are already pre-diabetic, what chance do they have?  How will they ever be able to succeed at school, socialize with their peers and have at least normal self-esteem?  The answers is, they simply cannot.  There are entire books written on diet and nutrition, but here are the basics.  The more you can do of these, the better.  No one will be perfect… that’s not the goal.  I find that the more I’m just aware of these facts and try to integrate them within reason, the happier and healthier my own kids seem.

  • High amount of fat — especially the “good fats” high in omega-3’s.
    • Get omega-3 vitamins
    • If your child drinks lots of milk, like my 3 year old still does, buy full-fat whole milk with extra omega-3 oils added
    • Buy grass fed beef whenever possible
    • Eat fish such as salmon and trout
    • Eat moreuts and seeds
  • Vegetables and fruit
    • No need to worry about whether this fruit or that fruit has higher sugar content.  Most cutting edge experts agree, if it’s a real food, it’s almost always good for you
  • Greatly reduce processed foods, meaning almost anything with a label.
    • Try to cook at home as much as possible with real ingredients
    • Try to cut out almost all fast food
  • Low(er) sugar.
    • Take steps to reduce the sugar they take in.  I know first-hand… this is hard because kids love sweets, but all the experts agree now:  too much sugar is toxic to the body.  You’ve got to reduce where you can.

That’s it.  The more high-fat, highly nutritious meals they eat, the less they will crave the sugar and processed carbs.    Again, you don’t need to be perfect, just get more good stuff in them, however you can.

Love.  If you just get the first two, it may be enough.  Children who feel loved know that you have their back and can face the world without fear of failure.  Studies show that children who feel loved are physically healthier, mentally healthier, have increased brain function, and are less fearful — just to name a few.

 

Keep them moving.  50 years ago or so, childhood obesity was almost non-existent — somewhere around 4%. Now, almost one in five children is obese!  It’s crazy… but of course the adults haven’t fared any better.   Video games, TV, computers, and bad nutrition are combining to create an army of kid-sloths.   When you’re fat as a kid, you don’t feel good about yourself, which only alienates you even more; you’re head is foggy, so you can’t concentrate as well on your homework; and when you do play outside or play sports you don’t do as well, and again, get tired earlier, which makes you want to quit playing.  It’s a vicious cycle.

We’ve covered the nutrition part, but it’s critical to keep them active as well.  Team sports is one answer, but that’s only an obvious one.  And some kids don’t like them, plus you have to deal with the parents and the increasing corporate-aggressive nature of youth sports today.  So If that’s not your thing,   here are some other ideas to keep them burning calories, keep their brains active and bring the joy of movement into their lives:

  • Unstructured play.  Often times the best kind of activity is just plain-old having fun.  Playing Tag, Kick The Can,  or any other invented game where there’s a lot of running around and your kid is sweating like a pig.  Awesome!
  • Family Hikes.  Getting outside and interacting with nature is very beneficial.  Plus hiking on uneven surfaces as well as some elevation changes give your body and mind just right amount of variability.
  • Family Bike Rides.  Same as above.  Biking can be a great way to explore if a hiking trail isn’t available or you just feel like going faster!  Nothing more exhilarating than letting gravity pull you down hill after a nice hard bike uphill.
  • Swimming.  Works your whole body and is fun.  Even better is open water swimming and/or splashing, running, surfing in an ocean (or one of the Great Lakes) with nice wave action.  What kid doesn’t love playing in waves?
  • Sledding/snow sports. If you’re locked down for the winter under bunch of ice and snow,  another activity that kids love is sledding ( or almost any kind of snow play).  It takes a lot of work to haul the sleds up hill each time (and your kids sleds), but screaming with joy for 5-10 seconds on the down hill is totally worth it.
  • Playing in the house.  Sometimes you just don’t want or can’t go outside, –especially in the winter — so you have to get creative.  Do whatever it takes: run circles around the house, wrestle on the bed, play imagination games.  Anything that gets your heart pumping and is random and fun.

 

Socialization.  The next step in the pyramid is getting kids interacting with others their age and allowing them  to try and solve problems amongst themselves.  Success in life is often a direct result of who can communicate best with others.  How often do you see the guy in high school who barely graduated become a millionaire by 35 because he could sell cars better than anyone or owns a chain of restaurants.  If you child is very shy, this is probably even more important.

  • Have Play Dates.  From as early an age as possible, they need to see other children, learn to share, develop bonds with others their age, and have a couple kids that they can call their “friends”.
  • Daycare/Preschool.  I think daycare gets a bad rap sometimes; the thinking is that kids get pick up a lot of illnesses and they are away from mom and dad for a long period of time.  While these two things can be true they don’t always have to be bad.  Yes, they are exposed to germs from lots of other kids there and probably get sick more often.  I say, good!  I’d rather have them be exposed early and often in small doses than live in a sterile house for 5 years and then bam, they get really sick and possibly develop greater allergies.  It’s also true that they are away from the their parents, but as long as this not 10 hours a day for 5 days a week, I think it’s probably a good thing.  Each kid is different of course, so you have to adjust to your child’s personality, but the theory is a sound one in general.
  • School.  There is a huge variability in schools in this country, but in general, I favor kids going to an actual school vs. home schooling.  Ideally it would be one with a variety of options, from theater to music to sports programs.  It should be diverse, but not unsafe.

Get them involved.  After good nutrition, love, exercise, and socializing with others, you’re already gone a long way toward having a child with great self-esteem and one who is as antifragile as possible, and ready to face whatever the future brings; but one of the last pieces of the puzzle is to help them find something they are good at.

When a child is able to excel at something or even just participate on a team they gain self-esteem, learn the value of teamwork, feel a sense of inclusion, and get exposure to a diverse range of interests.  Whether your child is in the Lego club, girl scouts, cub scouts, karate, a basketball team, the orchestra, the drama club, or the debate team, they can gain all of the benefits described above.

Self-esteem.  If you have got this far on the pyramid, you should have child who is self confident and takes pleasure in engaging with life.  As the website askdrsears.com says, “self-esteem is the passport to a lifetime of mental health and social happiness”.  I couldn’t agree more.  Having self confidence and a belief in yourself, will mentally prepare you for whatever life can throw your way.

The more stressful events a child overcomes, the more confidence he/she gains that they will be able to handle the next one.  In essence, they become more antifragile.

A few tips for increasing self-esteem in children:

  • No belittling or bullying
  • Let them win
  • Play with them — especially games the ylike
  • Be present
  • Give them responsibility
  • Reward them and recognize them for jobs well-done.

See  the askdrsears.com site  for more ideas and explanation about self-esteem in children.

Well, if you’ve got this far,  congratulations.  You will have raised a child that has a healthy immune system: is physically fit, including  having strong bones, muscles, and heart;  has friends and family to fall back on in times of need,; is curious, skillful, and learned about the world; and has the confidence to navigate the rest of the way.

 

Stewart Copeland, The Police, and Antifragile Beginnings

police

 

“We were a punk group and we wanted to ruffle feathers.”   This was the mindset of Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, in the late 1970’s and it may have created fame and fortune for the group.
I came across  this quote while watching this great interview of Copeland from the Later with Bob Costas show.  Great because I am a fan of the Police and there aren’t many interviews of Copeland that I could find online.  And secondly, because he talks about two antifragile concepts in just the first couple minutes!
Early on in The Police’s career, they released a single called Can’t Stand Losing You.  The BBC wouldn’t play it because the subject of the song was suicide.  Costas asks, “Did you raise a voice in protest and say ‘Wait a minute!  This is not an advocacy of suicide…'”?  I was expecting Copeland to explain how they tried, but the BBC was just too big, etc., but instead he gave a wry smile and said, “No, the more we irritated the BBC, the better we felt about things”.
Of course their career went straight up from there and they eventually sold millions of records (even if they did lose the “punk” label).  Did they consciously know the notoriety would help them?  Probably not — and of course it didn’t hurt that they wrote great songs — but this is exactly what Nassim Taleb talks about in his book Antifragile.  Sometimes, paradoxically,  the more bad press you get, the more popular you get.  Especially if you’re pissing off the right kind of people.  Think, Elvis, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, even Donald Trump.
So, The Police had great songs and the right attitude to go with it. They were poor, hungry, and had nothing to lose.  Very antifragile!  All upside.
stewartCopeland
Then they became a sensation and they all got rich.  Now what?  Did their motivations change?  Fortunately, Costas asked this exact question as a follow up.  Stewart answers this way:
 “It’s amazing how you start out as a firebrand, but then you start getting rewarded for you revolutionary fervor.  And you become a lot less revolutionary.  In fact, you become part of the status quo.  You think, ‘If they knock the world over, what’s going to happen to my bank accounts?’  It’s terrible.”

The more you start to worry about losing you possessions, your relationships, the more fragile you become.  The more fragile you become, the more likely it is that you will lose these things!

Best to develop an attitude free of attachments and try to maintain your zest for life no mater what.

In 1924, Thomas Edison’s laboratories burned to the ground.  Ten buildings in all.  Years of work, all of it gone.   “It’s all right.”, he told his son. “We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.  Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.