In a recent CNN report professional golfer Tiger Woods inferred that self-esteem is directly tied to career when he stated that he had nothing to look forward to. The context for this remark was the news that he required further back surgery, which would put him out of action indefinitely.
Whilst a comment like this could be a knee jerk reaction to the disappointing news, Tiger Wood’s comment seemed to be more enduring in nature as this is not the first time he has voiced such despondency in the wake of required treatment for injury.
These are not the words of a man who has been denied success on the golf course. In fact at 40years of age he already has 14 major championship titles to his name and is considered one of the all-time golfing greats. So what was he communicating through his remark?
Woods was very candid in saying that due to the lack of timescale and lack of certainty about his recovery he was finding it very hard to adjust to on a mental level. How do you navigate such disappointments without compromising self-esteem?
From my observations in life, football and coaching, his comment seems to voice what so many people think and believe; namely that self-esteem is directly connected to career success. The challenge with this perception is that you set yourself up for an unstable experience when it comes to feeling good about yourself. Self-esteem becomes something of a roller coaster experience.
And this is one of many ways you can identify whether you have an issue with self-esteem – simply by how you feel about yourself when you are not achieving something. The idea that self-esteem can only be truly experienced when you are achieving something needs to be challenged.
So many people operate a definition of self-esteem that is heavily toward external factors such as circumstance and achievements. It is easy to understand why when you look at the education system and a society that primarily judges success by external factors such as money, status and possessions.
Before adversity struck, I operated from a very similar association with self-esteem. My identity was solely in my career, and I could not feel good about myself unless I was achieving things. I achieved many amazing things too.
You may think there is nothing wrong with that. However the issue is not a moral one. It is more about what makes for joy and happiness on a consistent basis. So many people who have been successful like Tiger Woods are finding out from experience that career is not enough to sustain happiness.
I was one of them, and fortunately I discovered the hard way, that three things needed to change in order to redress the empty gap. Use these as tips to help you too.
1. I needed to be honest about the poor quality of the relationship with myself
2. I needed to make a decision to change that
3. I needed a process that would bridge the gap and change my perception and self-definition
You see circumstances can come and go, but there is a difference between enhancing your happiness through circumstances and achievements versus creating happiness from those things. This is something I expand on from my own life experience including sports, in my book Breaking Free.
I applied a series of tweaks that set me free from low self-esteem. The difference at source was like that 1mm tweak of a golf club which impacted destination over distance and time. I think Tiger Woods would relate to that analogy.
Ultimately I discovered that self-esteem is not about denying your humanity in the face of disappointment and adversity. It is about a bond you have with yourself that is based on unconditional love. It is about a self-definition that can extract life from life with gratitude, authenticity and joy.
It is that relationship which allows you to feel disappointment without negatively absorbing it into the relationship you have with yourself. That same loving relationship helps you keep perspective and navigate disappointments with greater ease to support healing and recovery.
My greatest joy has been to share and facilitate this process of growth within others, and watch as they embrace life with a new found enthusiasm and joy, as well as become more productive and accomplished.
If you need and love inspiration then by all means discover what I learnt and applied from my powerful journey in my book and song Breaking Free. You can listen to the song for free – my gift to you