Thursday, November 3, 2011

If it makes you happy: Deep Thoughts on Self-Esteem

I enjoyed seeing my father a few days ago; he was here in Des Moines a visit from his home in beautiful, warm Arizona.  We talked about a variety of things, but one in particular has had me thinking a lot about it ever since.  We were discussing my "employment status" which appears to be  a disappointment to both of my parents--which is ironic, because my mother and my father are very different people. We were discussing the reasons for wanting a "real job": you know the kind, the one where you show up for eight hours a day, five days a week, demonstrate the behaviors appropriate for the culture of the workplace, and in return, you receive a steady paycheck.  My dad said that a "job" or "career" such as this is a source of self-esteem. 

I disagree. 

My self-esteem is not dependent on proving my abilities to a handful of people in positions of authority.  I have had quite a few jobs in the last twenty years; some of them I've enjoyed, and some of them I have fervently detested.  In the majority of jobs I've had, I've found that the skills and abilities that are most valued are regular attendance and the ability to never disagree with those in upper management, or just plain keeping one's mouth shut.  Now, I'm pretty good at showing up for work.  No problem there.  But the other skill, keeping my mouth shut and not saying what I think or feel, is definitely not something I'm good at.  Being able to voice my opinion is important to me.  What's more, I enjoy it.  And sometimes, disagreeing with the higher-ups makes them uncomfortable.  And people don't like to feel uncomfortable. 

Earning the approval, respect, and esteem of others is great.  But compromising my own value system and my own personality in order to do that isn't so great for me.  The good opinion of others isn't the most important thing in the world to me.  There are a handful of people in the world whose good opinion matters to me.  But as we all know, you can't please all the people all the time, so you might as well please yourself. 

Since losing my "real job" this spring, I've had time to focus on what is most important to me--my son and my craft business--and as a result of doing what I love, my self-esteem has soared through the roof.  I feel good about myself when I spend time with my son, doing activities that improve his quality of life, whether that's reading a book together or going for a hike or playing outside.  I've been able to spend time making new products that people pay money for, which is, of course, very gratifying!  I've had opportunities offered to me that demonstrate that I am earning the respect of other people in the world simply by doing what I love most, to the best of my ability. 

That makes me happy and I think that happiness means one is successful, no matter what you do for a living.  John Lennon said it better than I can:  "When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down "happy."  They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life."



  1. Two years ago this Christmas season, during our annual catch-up session, we had a brief but memorable conversation about two young women who had just opened up a retail store. We were both miserable in our full-time jobs and so envious of the fearlessness of these two gals. Each of us subsequently and fantastically lost those soul-sucking jobs and moved on to better and happier things. You're one of the few people I know who is good at being you all the time, regardless of upper management. I wish you so much continued happiness!

  2. Hey daph -

    I think you are spot on about happiness. You have found something you love and enjoy and others may judge your choice - but at the end of the day, your happiness is your choice. Go on and choose what you will. I am so proud of you for being such a strong woman and role model - who can argue that you aren't teaching Jacob the most important lesson(s) in life. His mom's happiness will directly impact his own outlook on life and what it means. Cheers to you beautiful lady!


  3. Thank you, ladies! Both of you are in the handful of people whose opinions I value!