Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Building Competency to Build Self-Esteem

Your self-esteem is built on the belief that you are a capable and competent person in the world, and there are several concrete ways you can encourage that belief.

You already have areas of your life in which you display competency. Make a list right now. Take out a piece of paper (okay, okay, a blank google document) and list at least fifty things that you’re good at. Fifty seems daunting? I bet you can come up with one hundred things you know how to do and do well. Juggling. Driving a stick shift. Creating Web sites. Playing chess. Using a slide rule. Understanding quantum physics. It’s a long list, isn’t it?

Now look at your list of skills. Think concretely about ways you can transfer these skills to the areas you are not so competent at, like talking to women. Maybe you are very good at giving presentations at work or training another person one-on-one. What about training one-on-one puts you at ease? How can you duplicate that in social interactions with women? Maybe the reason you’re comfortable with one-on-one training is that no one besides the two of you is around to judge how well (or poorly) you’re doing the training. So think about how to set up situations like that with women. No, not cornering one in an abandoned parking garage. Maybe online dating is best for you. Sending emails back and forth instead of trying to chat up a woman at a party where there are a bunch of people around.

Yes, seeking to transfer your skills of competency will require you to actually do something. The only way to increase your competency in the world is to risk doing it wrong, screwing it up, and completely turning off another person. Who cares? She’s just a person. And she doesn’t even know how to calculate the area of a circle, much less write code in C++.

Based on the list of fifty skills you created, write down three skills you already possess that you can make use of in social interactions. Write down how and under what circumstances these skills are transferable. Try them out in the next month. Write down where you will test this out.

You also need to build whole new competencies. Learning how to fix a toilet actually has a use beyond the skill itself. Learning anything new is a confidence builder. I recommend learning how to do tasks that require physical activity or creating an object (but build something that’s not a superconductor). Particularly for intellectual types, knowing how to do concrete activities in the material world, like planting a garden or making a bird feeder, is a good self-esteem builder. You already know you’re really smart. You don’t need to convince yourself of your competence in that area.

It may sound ridiculous. But trust me. When you complete a task you didn’t think you could do, no matter how completely unrelated to social interaction and no matter how “insignificant,” you will feel more confident in all areas of your life, including talking to women.

P.S. It also makes you a more interesting person to talk to if you’re out there learning new things.

Right now write down three things you will learn how to do in the next three months.

Next Tuesday: Changing Your Worldview

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