Is Others’ Low Self-Esteem Draining Yours?

Note: this originally appeared as part of a subscription podcast series my company offered. I’m resurrecting it here as a reference point for people reading “Power Unlimited” is in Daikaijuzine’s Anguirus Issue and Beware of Soul Killers.
Enjoy!

Sometimes we have to work with people who seem perfectly normal yet, when we get away from them, we feel a little weaker, a little sadder, a little more melancholy and, for lack of a better term, a little less.

What was there about our interaction with them that left us in such a state? Perhaps they had low self-esteem and took some of yours to make up for their lack. The end result is that your self-esteem got drained and you didn’t even open the tap.

Here’s how to recognize low self-esteem in others and a few things to do about it.

Self-esteem is a measure of how much we value ourselves, a purely internal measure of how we compare ourselves to others.
Psychologically healthy people have good self-esteem, meaning they believe they’re on a par with others in the personal and work achievement departments. Even when they meet an Olympic gold medal winning MD-PhD who’s piloted the space shuttle and discovered a cure for cancer, their self-esteem stays in tact because that gold medal winning person is the exception, not the rule, and people with good self-esteem recognize this.

Few people with low self-esteem carry sandwich boards announcing themselves and they do give off signs of low self-esteem. For example:

  • They make amusing but cutting remarks about your achievements and the achievements of others.
  • They are hesitant – sometimes extremely so – to do anything new or try anything unfamiliar.
  • Whenever they talk about themselves it’s often with a question involved, usually seeking confirmation that what they did was good, okay or acceptable.
  • They need to be in control of conversations and situations, often by making themselves the focus of conversations or situations.
  • They do not like to be challenged about their ideas, beliefs or experiences. This is especially true if you have or are seeking a personal relationship with them.

People with low self-esteem can be intelligent, witty, charming and disarming in the extreme, until something happens that causes them to evaluate themselves in comparison to someone else, and if that someone else is a rival, watch out!

Dealing with Self-Esteem Stealers
Rarely does challenging someone about their self-esteem do any good. What does work is pointing out to them that their remarks can be hurtful and that their remarks are not appreciated. Be prepared to be challenged so also be prepared to be strong and hold your ground. People with low self-esteem can’t let you keep yours, it would only serve as a reminder that they are less and you are more.

That’s all for now. Stay warm and well.

Beware of Soul Killers

Note: this originally appeared as part of a subscription podcast series my company offered. I’m resurrecting it here as a reference point for people reading “Power Unlimited” is in Daikaijuzine’s Anguirus Issue.
Enjoy!

Part of life is having painful experiences, things that cause some emotional, physical, psychological or spiritual pain. We know more about alleviating physical pain than any of the others and that in itself causes concern.

Most people, as they grow into adulthood and go through life, learn to place painful experiences in their place. They gain perspective and know, for example, that today’s breakup is tomorrow’s chance for love.

And every once in a while people run into Soul Killers, those people who cause distress repeatedly. Some do so intentionally, others without realizing they’re doing so.

Some tricks for dealing with soul killing pain
We all run into people who simply bring us down. They have a knack for draining us of our energy, our vitality, our joys and pleasures. Some people do this on purpose, others have the ability as an unwanted gift. The ones who do it on purpose are subtle – they have to be! The others may not be subtle and they tend to be friends.

Both do it pretty much the same way; They tell us our experiences are invalid, not real, no good, inadequate and so on. They may be serious or joking and studies indicate such statements exact a psycho-emotional cost that results in a sense of futility, of worthlessness, in some cases physical exhaustion because the victim feels they are pushing against a weight that can’t be moved (and really due to micro and sometimes macro tensions in the muscles resulting from the psychological struggle). Telling someone their personal experience is not relevant or inadequate is the same as telling them they are not relevant or inadequate.

There are four basic ways people can drain us. Here are some examples

  • Sensation – That didn’t hurt.
  • Emotion – Don’t be upset.
  • Character – You’re not so special.
  • Thought – You don’t believe that.

We have the right to let people know when we’re in pain or uncomfortable. Our sensations are real to us even if no one else can feel them.

Likewise, we have a right to our emotions. Modern society has only recently appreciated that people’s emotional intelligence is often more important to their survival than their cognitive intelligence.

Everybody is special, we’re just all special in our own ways. People need to know they are honored and respected regardless of their abilities and achievements, and the only way to get others to celebrate yours is to celebrate them yourself.

And finally, our thoughts are valid and real, meaningful and useful because they are based on our experiences and no two people share the exact same life stories. We’re allowed to believe what we want, and definitely what works for us, even if others think it’s malarkey.

Be your own advocate
Pay attention the next time you start feeling down, depressed, weak, exhausted, or drained. Did someone – or did you, yourself – attempt to kill your soul? Recognize soul killing techniques and no one will be able to kill your soul again.

That’s all for now. Stay warm and well.

Dorothea Brande’s “Becoming a Writer”

I read Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer right after reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. The two books share a theme of self-exploration. Becoming a Writer was originally written before meditation and Buddhism were established in the west, and Brande still makes her case for self-exploration through “meditation without calling it meditation” exercises. I’d offer that Becoming a Writer is a prelude to Writing Down the Bones.

 
Both books contain exercises. Becoming a Writer‘s exercises are different; while still self-exploration oriented, they are directed towards perfecting one’s craft. There is a definite goal to the exercises and that goal has two parts: Determining if you have what it takes to be a writer first then developing the necessary discipline to become a writer.

Specific to that discipline, Chapter 14 “The Practice Story”, should be engraved on every author-wannabe’s brow. It is ten pages rich in getting a story out (and not necessarily a “practice” story. Her suggestions hold for any point in storycrafting, me thinks).

Becoming a Writer is not a how-to book. I’ve reviewed several how-to-write books and most of them are mechanic’s dreams. Those books deal wondrously with how to revise, how to handle POV, character, and the like. Such books are journeyman’s books for the most part, helping people develop their craft. Becoming a Writer is about developing yourself into a writer.

Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”

Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is not a book for everybody. I’m not sure how many authors, writers, and author-wannabes will take to it.

Did I take to it?

Oh, yes. But I’ve studied mystical traditions, perform regular meditation, and enjoy learning different teaching methods.

There are good exercises in the book and they’re really about learning about yourself as a writer, not about being a writer, not about writing better.

 
I’d offer that Goldberg’s primary focus is you being better at being yourself writing, not necessarily writing better. Consider it “Zen and the Art of Writing.” It even has an endorsement by Robert Persig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on the back (another book I recommend for self-discovery. Or reading about someone else’s self-discovery).

The chapters are short. The longest is just under five pages. The average length is probably 2.5 pages. There are no “conjugate verbs this way” or “the best form of the participle clause is…” What there are are beautiful suggestions and insights into the writing life.

Long ago and far away I self-published Reading Virtual Minds V1: History and Science (trade-technical). Left-brained thinkers hated it. Right-brained thinkers loved it. It didn’t explain how to do things (left-brain), it explained how things were done (right-brain) and invited readers to decide if they wanted to learn how to get things done or just do them.

Writing Down the Bones is much the same kind of book; it’s not about doing it, it’s about getting it done.

Personally, learn how it’s done. Once you’ve done that, you’ll know how to do it.

Usability Studies 101: Knowledgeable Interface (Re)Design

[I’m resurrecting this post – originally on iMedia from (drumroll, please) 2005 – for Terry Melia who had trouble setting up his Galaxy phone…]

You’re obsolete!
– from the original Twilight Zone episode 65, “The Obsolete Man

 
I attended a presentation a while back and witnessed something fascinating. There were five people speaking and the MC asked for their PPTs so he could load them onto the laptop hooked to the projector. One fellow pulled out a miniCD-RW. “Here you go,” he said. “There’s enough room for everybody to burn their presentations so you won’t need to fumble with lots of disks.” He was thanked and the CD was passed around. One panelist had a very flashy little lap..noteb…palm…something. No CD drives, no floppy drives. Incredibly fast little machine which could find any wireless network from ground level to the ISS and with enough USB ports to pilot an aircraft carrier through heavy seas. This presenter pulled out a USB drive on a keychain, copied his presentation to it, pointed to the presenters passing around the CD and said, “That’s obsolete.”
Continue reading “Usability Studies 101: Knowledgeable Interface (Re)Design”