Self-esteem — how much is too much?

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” the new employee at my client’s company told me. “The CEO sings your praises.”

Said CEO was also on the phone. I started to say, “Well, at least half of it is true.” And then I thought‚ why should I say that about myself?

Instead I heard a voice saying this:

“Aww…multiply it all by two.”

Who said that? Was it really me?

Reader, it was.

Fortunately everyone laughed. I did too. Later the CEO said I should multiply by two everything I’d heard about his new employee. So we were even; that felt right.

Toward the end of the call, the CEO tried to sell me on a new project they wanted me to write, a project I’ve already turned down once. “We think you’d do a great job,” he said.

“I know I wou—” A bout of nervous laughter stopped me in mid-word. “Can you tell I’m working on my self-esteem?”

The rusty tap of self-esteem

Have you ever had a rusty water tap in your garden? The handle turned freely last summer, but a winter of disuse has rusted it shut. So you tug and tug at it and you eventually decide the garden can wait another day.

The next time you try, you tug just as hard and the thing spews out water like Niagara Falls. You were treating it like a rusted-shut spigot, but someone loosened it yesterday and didn’t tell you.

As far as I knew, I was the only one with her hands on the spigot of my self-esteem. And it’s been tough to turn for ages. But after more than a year of coaching, something has shifted in me.

It feels marvelous, really freeing. But you don’t need Niagara Falls to water your hydrangeas. So while I’m banishing self-deprecating remarks forever, I’ll only turn on the self-esteem tap maybe once per conversation. I don’t want to over-water my clients.


But it’s true: I am spectacular. 😉

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Six Years Ago: Happy

Just stumbled across these notes I made back in June 2003 and they made me smile. It’s not often you get such concrete proof of moments of sheer happiness; I’m glad I stopped to write about these.

5 June 2003
I need to write this down before the world intrudes and I forget how unremittingly happy I have been in the last few days.

All my life, since I began my life as a speechwriter, I have wanted to write political speeches. One week ago, I started my first – no, a week ago yesterday, Wednesday. By Friday, I’d sent in the commencement speech; by Saturday, the long (40-minute), substantive speech in which the candidate was announcing a new policy initiative. Saturday, pretty much all day, I was a wreck – convinced that the speech was too long, too wonky because of all the details they wanted included. I was convinced that the speech (to use a technical term) sucked.

Sunday morning, 11:44 a.m. – an email from the policy director to what seemed like everyone in the campaign, from campaign manager on down: “Attached is a wonderful draft by Elaine Bennett…” Monday an email to me from the same guy: “Elaine, you really are a wonderful writer. I’m thrilled to read your work.” Tuesday, my boss was driving around with the candidate and he says, with what sounds like awe when he recounts it, “Hey, you’ve really got a wonderful speechwriter there.” Yesterday, Wednesday, the candidate says to me, “Thank you – it was a wonderful speech” or – I don’t actually know what he said (I was too amazed that he was saying it to listen), but he was smiling when he said it.