Why Feeling Good About Yourself Matters: Four Ways Self Esteem Affects Productivity

“Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” – M. Scott Peck, Motivational Author.

In some circles, the term “self-esteem” is sacred; in others, it’s treated almost as a profanity. As we transition from an Age of Autocrats to one of true meritocracy, those still invested in the old paradigm see it as a weasel word preventing us from constructively criticizing workers and students—sometimes to the point they become so over-coddled they can’t do anything.

Most businesspeople are more moderate, however. Even hardcore types like Ray Dalio, who recently handed down his book ­Principles from the lofty mountain of the world’s largest hedge fund, is not unsympathetic to self-esteem. On the other hand, he clearly sees it as something not to overemphasize, as he believes in criticizing accurately, not kindly.

I agree, but trend toward treating people kindly as well. We all need frank, constructive criticism to grow, but we also want to feel good about ourselves. Esteem, self and otherwise, is an essential human need that lies near the top of Abraham Maslow famous hierarchy. Liking yourself and what you do makes it easier to be productive—but self-esteem takes a beating in most jobs. All it takes is one snide remark to put a damper on your enthusiasm, so you’ve got to stoke your own fires to keep self-esteem high.

Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Happiness = Productivity. Happy people get sick less often, if only because they take better care of themselves. When they do get sick, they know it’s not the end of the world. And while it’s not always a one-to-one correlation, if you’re happy with yourself, you’re usually happier with your work, meaning you’re more likely embrace full engagement. (In some cases, your work may even contribute to your happiness). The more engaged you are, the more productive you’re likely to be. This doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes or require correction at some point, but if that happens, you’re less likely to disengage or go awry than those whose self-esteem has worn down to a nub.

  2. It’s easier to overcome challenges. When you feel good about yourself, problems don’t smack you down as easily. You’re more likely to roll with the punches and reframe those problems as challenges. It’s easier not just to think positively, but to think at all, and when you’re happy with yourself, it’s easier to focus—because you’re not nagged by as much uncertainty. You may get knocked down when your esteem is high, but you get up again. Look at boxer Mohammed Ali in his prime to see high self-esteem in action.

  3. You’re more likely to create value. Not only do you tend to work harder when you have high self-esteem, you’re more likely to speak up in meetings, offer ideas and innovations, and contribute more discretionary time to the organization. When you sow these seeds, the whole organization reaps the harvest.

  4. High self-esteem makes you optimistic. Poor self-esteem and pessimism go hand in hand. According to Lois Frankel, author of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, ingrained pessimism can limit your career, because you do your best not to stand out above the crowd (lest you get cut down when the next economic downturn occurs); your expectations stay low; you don’t display enough personal energy; and you don’t rank yourself as an important person. But optimism is attractive! As long as you’re not overbearing, consciously believing in yourself and maintaining a high self-esteem increases your charisma, boosts confidence, carries you through interviews more successfully, keeps you in the minds of decision-makers—and again, makes more you willing to take chances and capable of weathering dire circumstances.

Hold Your Head Up—High!

Maybe you’re a special snowflake; maybe not. Either way, there’s no reason to be hard on yourself. I won’t tell you that what other people think of you doesn’t matter; it sometimes does, because you work in a social environment, and some of your co-workers can hurt your career if they think poorly of you. I will say that if you think highly of yourself and maintain your personal integrity, other people will think more highly of you as well.

Optimize your good opinion of yourself. Kill negative self-talk. Learn more. Get counseling. Do more for yourself. Sit down and write down all the good things you’ve accomplished at work this month and this year. Be fair with yourself, not harsh. The higher your job satisfaction, the higher your performance—and the greater your productivity.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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