By | Published On: September 14, 2015 |

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

I came across a column by Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian a while ago and was really cheered by the central message that, “some forms of self promotion aren’t only forgiveable, but actively welcome”. It seems that, with the popularity of social media (with its opportunities to be “liked” and to re-Tweet praise), we’re getting less fearful of bigging ourselves up. Or at least we’re actively encouraged to do it. Not normally a domain in which we find ourselves entirely comfortable, we Brits are more likely to say “sorry” when someone else steps on our foot, than feel uncomfortable talking about our “strengths” during a job interview. The fact remains though that personal PR is now part of our daily lives. The rise of ‘selfies’ and showing the world where we are and what we’re doing can help encourage us to promote something about who we are even if we haven’t yet extended this to the confidence needed to voice it.

Yet confidence in your abilities is wonderful and should be celebrated.  I have given this a lot of thought in the past and recorded a downloadable Mp3 on Self-esteem (, but paradoxically very few people ever download it – perhaps this is a subject we don’t like admitting to problems with?  In my experience though, it is best described like an umbrella and self-confidence is just one spoke in the umbrella of self-esteem. The dictionary definition of self-esteem is “a good opinion of ones self; self-respect”. Certainly, self-respect is very important, but, to my mind, the overarching concept of self-esteem must also comprise self-image, self-worth, self-belief and self -awareness. Without all of these, our umbrella will look tatty and be less effective at protecting us; a hole in the fabric will let in water and eventually weaken the umbrella. If left alone without work then the hole can spread and the spokes will break. This is ultimately what happens when we accidentally or unconsciously allow our minds to think such negative thoughts about ourselves that the umbrella collapses under the damage.

Why should we work on improving our self-esteem? Because we can often have trouble fulfilling our potential as human beings if we don’t. People with low self esteem are less likely to try new or different experiences, put themselves forward for new jobs, and are more likely to experience stress and anxiety when inevitable problems and challenges arise. Put this way, how can you afford not to?

Of course, not everyone is deficient in all areas of self-esteem. It’s quite possible to have a poor self-image for example, but feel very confident in your abilities at work. Over time, however, even your professional confidence will suffer if your low self-image persists (what happens if a new colleague makes a tactless remark about your appearance, or your performance is openly queried in a meeting?).

Improving your self-esteem takes time and commitment, but I appreciate the former can be hard to come by! Here is a relatively short exercise you can start today that will have far-reaching effects on all aspects of your life if you approach it with honesty and enthusiasm.

  1. Take a piece of paper and draw a horizontal line across it, which you can then divide into five or ten year chunks, depending on your age. For each section, write down successes and achievements during that time period (this could include passing a driving test, having children or getting a promotion). Dig deep if nothing immediately comes to mind. It can be tempting to write off entire decades (“my Twenties were a complete disaster”), but this exercise gives your brain the physical evidence that you have experienced successes in all areas of your life, personal and professional.
  2. Examine each achievement and write down the skills you needed to complete that task (in the example of the driving test, you probably needed patience, self-discipline and determination). Keep going with every achievement in your life so far. These are your strengths.
  3. On another page, write the headings “work”, “personal”, “hobbies” and “family”. Jot down some of the ways you are successful in these areas. Maybe you are very empathetic with family members, or enthusiastic and motivating within your friendship group. Maybe you’re very affectionate or kind.
  1. Add these to your list of strengths and write them down on an index card. A 5” by 3” or 6” by 4” should do it. You now have your personal power list, words that are 100% accurate and genuinely apply to you. Look often at this list, particularly when you are in need of a boost or before a particularly important meeting or personal event.

Start with this exercise and see how you get on – it’s a beginning, a middle and an end all in itself. Use it daily, weekly or monthly and refer to it frequently, build on it. You need little else to begin except a determination to look at how well you’ve done before and then start thinking about what else you’d like to do!

I will follow this up with other exercises over the next few weeks but write to me if you have any questions


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