Quality Blog

Jim's Gems: Self-Esteem and Humility

March 11, 2013
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Last week we wrote about the power of self-esteem. After reading the piece a friend asked me if there was a connection of people with high levels of self-esteem and inflated egos. They went on to ask if they worked to raise their self-esteem would it make them conceited, selfish, or egotistical – as if there was a direct relationship that would cause them to act or seem less than honest with themselves and others.
There are scores of books and numerous articles written on this subject by people with far more credentials than I possess; however, maybe we shouldn’t over think this conundrum which might allow us to come up with a fairly simple answer.
In this column we have discussed reinforcing your confidence and, in turn, building your self-esteem.  While it is true that we are born with a natural state of self-worth our childhoods are not always conducive to building on that self-worth; therefore, many of us are hindered from developing the confidence needed to be all that we can be and our self-esteem can adversely be impacted.
It is true that people with high levels of self-esteem value their individual worth.  They have confidence in their ability to overcome obstacles and to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.  In fact most of these people are able to grasp the big picture (vision) and set aggressive goals which, when achieved, bolsters their confidence and their feeling of self-worth. They possess a positive CAN DO attitude and a healthy assurance that nothing is impossible. 
Does that mean, therefore, that the people with high self-esteem have big egos?  Not necessarily.  We should not confuse high self-esteem with conceit or egotism, because they don’t necessarily go together.  People with high self-esteem know that people are, by their very nature, valuable – and they behave accordingly.  They realize that no one gets very far in life entirely on their own, so they feel indebted and extremely grateful.  
Generally, people with high self-esteem almost always have a strong sense of wanting to give back to society by helping others as they have been helped.  Working in a Fortune 50 company for 45 years brought me in contact with thousands of successful men and women (from the factory floor to the board room).  One of the common characteristics in the majority of these people was that those with warranted high self-esteem overwhelmingly held others in high esteem, as well.  They expected the best for themselves; they gave their best to others; and they expected, and got, the best from others.
Bottom line, the answer to my friend was not to worry about increasing her self-esteem at the expense of her humility, because these two qualities go hand in hand.  
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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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