Be determined to be a something

 In Careers

If you decide to be different, to stand out from the crowd, to be a “something” – whatever your “something” is – rather than blending into the background and always seeking the easy route forward, then your self-esteem will become immunised against the knocks that life often throws at us. As a consequence you are likely to be more successful, happier in your career and certainly less subject to anxiety.

When Maslow propounded his theory in 1943, on the “Hierarchy of Needs”, the four basic layers that he discussed, called “deficiency needs”, were, from the top: esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If these “deficiency needs” are not met, he said, then individuals are likely to feel anxious and tense.

The implication is that, provided the lower needs have been met, in order to avoid anxiety we need a healthy level of self-esteem.

Of course when I was 11 years old the concept of self-esteem was hardly om my radar and I hadn’t even heard of Maslow. Today, a good few years later, I realise with the benefit of hindsight that two lessons from my youth have helped me to keep my self-esteem at a healthy level.

Let me relate a couple of tales from my youth.

When I was 11 years old and went into the second year at senior school we were graded, according to ability, into four sets: A for Arts, S for Science, P for Practical and believe it or not O for Others. My best friend became one of the Others and his self-esteem never really recovered and we eventually lost touch. I wanted to become a scientist and vowed silently to myself that I would always strive to be a something rather than one of the others!

When I was 19 years old and at university, at the end of my second year another good friend who wasn’t perhaps as diligent as he should have been with his studies, had one of his essays marked by our professor with the following comment. “The only difference between this answer and a bucket of garbage is the bucket!” Unsurprisingly my friend’s self-esteem took a dive and he dropped out of his course a few months later. It certainly cured me complacency in my studies and eventually I became a well respected scientist in my field.

Fast forward to 2014. Last week on a return trip from overseas, flying with Ryan Air, I joined the queue at gate B16 only to discover that I was in the wrong queue, I was in the “Priority” queue, but I should have been in the queue for, you guessed it, “Others”, and the lessons from my youth came flooding back.

If you want a successful and happy career, keep your self-esteem healthy, avoid anxiety and take my advice. Be determined to be a “something” rather than one of the “others”.

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