“It’s not your job to like me, it’s MINE!”

Is Byron Katie’s quote trying to tell us something about self-worth? And what does a fitness trainer have to do with their clients’ self-esteem, those who reduce “fitness” to the purely physical might ask. From experience, my answer is: a lot! Mainly because the group of people who say they urgently want to remove the external dirt on the façade in fact often subconsciously desire to renovate their inner values.

Your SELF is WORTHY; you are one of a kind, hopefully not just kind!

What exactly does that mean? Well, many people, some for their entire lives, seek to enhance themselves and improve their self-esteem. A lot is done to this end, but also omitted. Because those who perceive themselves as valuable simply feel better, more balanced, and happier.

Countless interviews and training sessions with clients on the subject of self-esteem support the following core statement: “The thickest wall that can hold us captive is arguably a strong sense of inferiority! Hardly anything has such a destructive impact on our quality of life and keeps us as small, submissive and dependent as low self-esteem.”

Many people look for improvement in the wrong place, and do so by comparing themselves and following ego-centred motivations: beauty repair on biceps, waist and bottom, back support, excess pounds removed and the little boat turns into a flagship with higher market and SELF value. Does this calculation work?

Perhaps it does, but only when based exclusively on “market value”. Only when people see themselves as standardised goods and present themselves favourably to generate value at the “bazaar of vanities”. Does self-esteem increase alongside market value? This hope is rarely fulfilled because the outer surface only represents a part of the totality of a person and excludes the inner experience.

Self-esteem can only be strengthened from within and on one’s own initiative

One of the key learnings for young fitness coaches is to recognise these background factors in order to support their clients. Any personal fitness coach who wants to successfully work with people long-term should be able to empower them to take care of their own self-esteem and attitude towards life. By the way, this self-care should also be mastered by executives and managers, as their state of mind is crucial for the empathic quality of their leadership.

Achieving comprehensive ‘fitness’ means training the mental area as well, as the body follows the mind. This should be independent of muscle-induced results and must go beyond the correct squat or push up form. Accepting responsibility for self-care can only be learned, not delegated. People who neither understand nor internalise this will most likely only train members of the ‘bicep breeding club’; an illustrious, but small circle.

This search for self-esteem transcends all sections of the population, affecting even the most outwardly successful people in society. It should be mentioned here that success means something different for everyone. Even if we perceive other people as successful, they themselves can still feel inner emptiness and inferiority. The thing is, though: success is not success without inner fulfilment!

The body follows the mind and the mind follows the body

For many, the aforementioned search resembles an aimless, foggy odyssey because they are traveling without an inner compass. They are constantly changing directions, partly because it is not clear, not clearly formulated, where they want to go. “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.” (Lucius A. Seneca, ancient Greek philosopher)

Anyone who wanders around looking for self-worth in external or material harbours is playing “blind man’s buff”, with no foghorn for navigation. Quite a few people are risking a shipwreck on this odyssey by giving in to delusion and colliding with the invisible cliffs of depression and burnout. Behind all this lies a fear with the following mindset: Less muscle, less money, fewer possessions, less work, less performance, less success, will all lead to less social recognition in society and ultimately to lower self-esteem!

The (mis)belief of receiving love and affection in exchange for performance is deeply rooted in most of us, has been burnt into us and can easily burn us out. As a result, failed life plans and physical and mental exhaustion are no longer a rarity in midlife.

Blind zeal and restlessness in the search for external recognition can cause great damage to both facade and interior. These then have to be painstakingly restored and adjusted to a new inner attitude that corresponds to one’s own values and clearly shows the way forward. The search for constant recognition and projections onto loved ones create expectations that are difficult for other people to fulfil.

You are what you think

This is what the opening quote really means. It’s the task of each individual to take care of themselves with self respect and appreciation in order to create a lovable self image. The core definition of SELF-worth can be found in the root of the term itself. So how do you actually increase your self-worth?

As is so often the case, it involves a combination of a) refraining from destructive thinking and behaviour towards oneself and b) consciously employing appreciative and self-esteem enhancing strategies. It is important to learn to dissolve subconscious obstructive automatisms. Basically, change can only be brought about if you are aware of where your personal necessities and requirements lie.

Self worth also means responsibility for (self) care

Once you realise you can make a significant contribution to feeling good about yourself, you will find it easier to take responsibility for just that. The negative states you have put yourself in are mostly of verbal origin, because thinking is an auditory process.

You are responsible for your endless self-destructive inner monologues. Blaming, insulting and talking down to yourself lowers both the feel-good-factor and your self-esteem. Incidentally, anyone who rejects themselves will also exude a corresponding charisma and body language to the world, which is reflected in external responses. This is a prime example for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Inner rejection can create outer rejection, because the world is a mirror. In this way, you might prove to yourself that you are worth less. Language is the clothing of thoughts and clothes make the man. If you internalise the “baggy sweatpants” language model, you will speak to yourself and feel accordingly.

The alternative is to speak to yourself in a praising, benevolent, forgiving and motivating manner. The way we address ourselves has an immense impact. Words are energy and you are what you think! Taking accountability for a clear NO to constant self accusation is a YES to yourself.

The inner dialog has a massive impact on self-esteem

Responsibility for saying no is not only important here, but also in other areas of life. For example, if we say YES but feel NO, we are effectively betraying yourself and will lose self-esteem in the long run. Positive change requires backbone, which, when used, helps us recognise and feel our own strength. The learned fear of rejection that might follow saying “No” can be unlearned, you should feel worthy of this freedom.

Freedom doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want, but rather that you don’t have to do what you don’t want to do. And don’t underestimate this: You are also solely responsible for regular physical activity, sleep hygiene, a healthy diet and relaxation. The way you treat these areas of your life shows the value you ascribe to yourself.

Are you worth taking responsibility for?

Self-esteem: Beauty is Laughter

A typically German attitude would be that laughing is overrated, but it isn’t at all! Does this mean that you have to spend the whole day with a big grin on your face as if you’ve just finished a laughter yoga session? No! However, laughing is free and has been proven to be the best medicine. Being able to laugh at yourself is a learnable skill that is good for the soul.

Fortunately, nobody is perfect or flawless! Laughter is contagious and will enrich you and your surroundings more than moping around or going to the cellar to laugh. Laughter utilises 43 muscles, which interact positively with the brain when “used”.

You can’t laugh and have a negative attitude at the same time. Resilience researchers consistently find humour to be one of the most important building blocks of psychological resilience. Finding humour in difficult or unalterable situations helps strengthen frustration tolerance and self-esteem. Laughter is not meant to show that everything is perfect in life, but it functions as a sign of hope and strength.

Take this line from the singer Herbert Grönemeyer for example: “The world belongs in the hands of children, put an end to the gloom, we will be laughed into the ground, children to power”. We can learn a lot from children, including light-heartedness! Laughter also strengthens the immune system by releasing neuronal messenger substances such as the “happiness hormone” serotonin. Why not treat your body and mind to a good mood shower? Buddha says: “You smile and the (your) world changes.”

Are you worth smiling for?

Who is the person behind the mask?

Who exactly am I? Am I who I pretend to be or am I completely different? Being inauthentic feels like self-deception. Flaunted or inflated self-confidence does not equal high self-esteem. Low self-esteem can be concealed with confident and self-assured behaviour. Other people may not immediately notice we are playing a role, but we ourselves feel it very clearly.

If you can’t stand up for yourself, with all your strengths and weaknesses, and instead play a role which others supposedly like more, you are starving the true core of your being. In order to avoid this, it’s important to accept and validate yourself. It’s helpful to determine your own set of values and to live accordingly.

Once we create an environment in which our values are appreciated and weaknesses accepted, we can avoid energy-draining presentations. All the masks camouflaging us can fall and we’ve made a great contribution to our own self-esteem!

Are you worth being true to yourself?

A sense of achievement versus fear of failure

Fear of failure prevents many people from choosing challenging paths to create their own self-esteem-boosting results. This fear might be stronger than the desire to try something new to achieve personal gain. It is precisely this way of thinking and behaving, the cultivation of constant omission due to a fear of making mistakes, that causes many people to slip into apathy instead of action. Making mistakes or even failing and starting over is not failure, failure lies much more in doing nothing.

Showing (self) love only in exchange for flawless behaviour and “gold medals” is the name of this “demon”. But we can learn from our mistakes! Those who don’t want to make mistakes have stopped learning altogether. Those who don’t learn will never realise their own dreams, never achieve their personal goals and will end up buried. Where are most dreams to be found? In the graveyard!

Are you worth learning in order to live your dreams?

Perfectionism and comparing apples and oranges

Who or what is perfect, anyway? The line between “I am perfect” and “I am defective” is fine. Very fine. The search for perfection often stems from comparison. The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said: “Comparison is the end of happiness and the beginning of dissatisfaction”. The aspiration of many is to achieve what the supposedly successful part of society achieves almost effortlessly.

Whether it’s a job, partnership, possessions, health, vacations, raising children or leisure time, every area seems to be flawless and worthy of imitation. Honestly, is that even possible? This comparison is flawed because in most cases socialisation, education, experiences, interests, strokes of fate and other influences create completely different life paths.

The educated 35-50 year olds, who can only consider themselves successful once they have confidently mastered ALL of these areas, were born as the “zero mistake” generation. This means they are subjected to enormous pressure to perform and optimise, which is something not everyone can withstand.

Many of the younger generation subconsciously misuse social media platforms as “comparison portals”, resulting in a desire for a polished life of permanent consumption and fun. A perfect illusory world that remains an illusion and constantly limits our self-worth. If everyone strives for perfectionism, individualism dies out, most are driven to the mainstream and the “happy SELF” falls flat.

Perfectionism is the shield against the fear of not being enough. None of this is to say that you shouldn’t strive to do “your thing” well. But then you should also allow yourself to let “your thing” be good enough from time to time and not constantly strive for extraordinary and unattainable brilliance. This can gradually lead to unhealthy perfectionism that destroys self-esteem because good is never good enough.

Are you worth not being perfect?

The job as an identity killer

I can clearly remember a situation in which I asked someone sitting opposite me at a “living room concert”: “Who are you?” – “I have a M.Sc. in engineering and am head of the development department at Bombardier”. A seemingly simple question, which for many invokes thoughts of status. It seems to be a typical German habit to add one’s profession to one’s name to express a certain sense of value.

A person’s identity is a singular personality structure that is made up of several parts, of which the profession is just one. If work and performance (for many, just the job) are so important they turn into the main source of meaning in life, many people risk slipping into an identity and personality crisis should they ever lose their job. Their self-esteem will then be severely damaged. The German psychologist H.G. Petzold has presented the following 5 pillars of identity:

  • Body and soul
  • Work and performance
  • Material security
  • Values and meaning
  • Social network

These are all reasons to take a closer look at areas other than work and to strengthen them if they fall short. And the “work and performance” pillar can also be built up by things like gardening, charitable work, exercise successes, or continuous learning.

Are you worth being more than your job?

Are you your own best friend, and would you marry yourself?

The most important relationship in our life is the one we have with ourselves! Are we allowed to love ourselves? Is that arrogance? No, arrogance is putting yourself on a pedestal and looking down on other people. Another fatal fallacy: wanting to enhance yourself by devaluing others. Self-love is about liking, accepting and embracing yourself with all the parts of your personality that have not yet healed, all your flaws and imperfections. To summarise what strengthens self-esteem:

  • Define your values and live accordingly.
  • Choose a benevolent language model when speaking with yourself.
  • Spend time with yourself.
  • Be authentic.
  • Laughter and humour strengthen your psychological resilience.
  • Acknowledge your past successes.
  • You are much more than your job.
  • Your thoughts and feelings require attention.
  • Treat yourself with love and respect.
  • Forgive yourself and don’t hold grudges.
  • Practise saying no.
  • Don’t prioritise people for whom you’re only an option.

Regaining or increasing one’s self-esteem is not always easy, but always possible. Even if it has been damaged, and many reasons might reach back far into a traumatic childhood, training for a stable self-esteem is an admirable endeavour. This ‘mental muscle’ reacts to training stimuli similarly to physical musculature. It becomes more capable, stable, and flexible. Training is always worth it! It’s your responsibility to discover yourself and to be wholeheartedly devoted to yourself. soulboxer🥊🙏❤️