Overcoming Low Self Esteem at Work: Part 4

by Crystal on February 10, 2009

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Overcoming Low Self Esteem At Work

You want work to be a place you can enjoy being part of something bigger, making a contribution and feeling good about it, right?  Coming home with a sense of completion, satisfaction and a job well done?  Well, we all know many workplaces aren’t set up to be like that, but I’ll let you in on a secret…

My work cubicle from a distance

Image by Damek via Flickr

It’s not the workplace that gives you those feelings. It’s your state of mind.

It’s true.  I’ve worked in jobs with fantastic titles and descriptions, even pay, and been miserable.

I’ve worked as a casual cleaner, pathology typist, admin assistant and even telesales person and got all of the above. (Note for the curious: I got a lot of different jobs paying my way through uni, sometimes up to 3 at once, because student financial assistance doesn’t actually assist with much unless you’re living off skim milk powder & noodles.)

The only difference between the two situations was that in the bottom list, I had decided to take pride in my work – regardless of whatever else went on in the workplace.  I forgot it for a while, and ended up back in the top situation, but when I got to the point where I absolutely hated getting up to drag myself into the office, I remembered – and the difference was staggering.  My colleagues joked that I must have won lotto.

Focusing on the positives

To create a more positive environment that fosters your self-esteem, you want to create a sense of accomplishment and value.

Presumably, there are things you accomplish at work, or you wouldn’t be there.  No company or organisation pays for dead wood anymore.  If you’ve been there any length of time, then you must have gone over and above on at least a few occasions.  It’s a great habit to get into, reviewing what you’ve actually delivered to your employer – especially when you’ve gone above and beyond.

Start taking a few moments at the end of each day (or if it’s really busy try the start of the next one, just before you plan your day) to write down the main things you’ve accomplished.  You may already be tracking them and ticking them off in your diary, so go over them and give yourself a mental pat on the back for what you’ve achieved.  Far too many people go home thinking of what still isn’t done (that list will never be empty, I can promise you, no matter how much of an achiever you are!) and end up losing quality sleep to thoughts of what’s still at work and waiting for them.

It’s a much healthier approach to finish the day off by writing the list of ‘what’s still waiting for tomorrow’ into tomorrow’s page of the diary, then turn your thoughts to the things that you DID get done.  Don’t limit yourself to just that day but include any other big things you’ve achieved recently, or even major milestones in an ongoing project that you successfully hit on time.  Then go home thinking of how much you’ve achieved and be proud of it.

Getting excited about your own good news

Along similar lines, someone once gave me a tip, that when something really good happens (it wasn’t for work specifically, but there’s nothing stopping you from using it there) your first impulse is always to call someone and share it.  Instead, the idea was, you keep a tape recorder handy.  Instead of calling someone who might be having a bad day to tell them your exciting news, you talk into the tape as though you have called them.  Your voice will sound excited and happy, and when you play it back to yourself you find you’ll click back into that fantastic mood.  My own tape helped me immensely when I hit some really tough situations at work!  It’s a brilliant pick me up.

How about doing that for when you finally make that project with the impossible deadline?  Or you get a commendation from a senior exec at work?  These days, it doesn’t even have to be a tape.  If you’ve got a webcam, you can video yourself instead.  Does your phone or mp3 player do voice recordings?  If it does, then your ‘tape’ can be handy whenever and wherever you are (and if someone happens to find it, they’ll just think you recorded one side of a call to someone about your news…)

Changing the atmosphere

You should never underestimate the effect of your environment on your mood and well-being.  It’s also one of the quickest and easiest things to change.  Have a computer?  Why not try to change the desktop wallpaper to something that makes you smile – maybe a picture of a holiday destination you’re working towards, or a happy-snap of you enjoying your last one.  On a PC, the Windows key (the flag thing next to Ctrl) and a D will minimise everything and take you there in an instant.  Do you work at a desk?  How about some motivational pictures or a pretty plant to brighten up the space. (There’s an amazing article here on how some places use 3 types of plants to actually ‘manufacture’ fresh air.)  Hot-desking?  At the very least, you can bring a bottle of essential oils in your pocket and wet your handkerchief with them – an occasional dab at your nose is not going to cause dramas, I’m sure, and those oils can be fantastic for helping the mood.  On a factory floor?  How about bringing a touch of bright colour in using that self-same hankie, or any other kind of accessory?  You could bring a string of meditation beads in to work in your pocket, and reach in when you feel the need.  Whatever your work environment, if you find some small way to customise it, you’re taking ownership and that makes it just that touch more empowering.

Tomorrow in Overcoming Low Self Esteem at Work: Part 5 I’ll cover a few of the more advanced steps to really empower yourself at work.

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