Category Archives: Self-Esteem

On Self-Belief and Other Related Constructs

M. A. D. L I G A Y A

Business Power Concept. Strong Businessman

As the term implies, self-belief is a person’s faith or complete trust and confidence in their abilities and skills and value as a human being. Consider it as a combination of self-confidence and self-worth.

Self-belief is an essential component in a person’s pursuit of success and happiness. If you don’t have it, don’t expect to achieve anything for without self-belief a person will never succeed in any kind of endeavor. But too much of it is not good either. An exaggerated opinion of one’s own qualities and abilities is called self-conceit. The Greeks refer to it as hubris.

Self-belief is a concept not difficult to comprehend yet not too many really know how having or not having it would affect their lives in general. Some may have chosen to disregard it not fully understanding the possible negative consequences for neglecting it.

If you won’t trust in your own abilities and…

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Defining Success

“True success is not what we gather but what we become.”
– Apurvakumar Pandya

How do you view success? How do you measure it? These two are the usual questions whenever the topic is discussed.But I think the more important question that should be asked is – Do you consider yourself successful?

Before you answer those questions, let’s revisit the definition of the word. Let’s check  how online dictionaries define success.

Cambridge’s definition of the word is something broad  – “The achieving of the results wanted or hoped for.” Colin’s goes – “The achievement of something that you have been trying to do.” Oxford is more specific with its definition – “The attainment of fame, wealth or social status.” Merriam-Webster’s is almost the same as Oxford’s – “The attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.”.

Our favorite research assistant  – “Dr. Google” – says that success is  “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” and “the attainment of popularity and profit.”

Let’s also check the synonyms: prosperity, affluence , wealth, riches, opulence, and triumph.

I hope that the foregoing definitions and synonyms are sufficient to help you come out with meaningful and definitive answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article. And by the way, do the ideas conveyed by those definitions and synonyms jibe with what you think success is?

The definitions and synonyms above actually show  the way people in our society quantify  success. They tell us about the measuring sticks being used by most people, including you probably, to determine whether or not a person is successful. Everything boils down to one or a combination of the following: wealth, fame and power.

So, when asked who are the most successful people in the world, people never fail to mention the names of the world’s richest men – Jess Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the others who are listed in Forbes’ top 10 world’s billionnaires . The next ones in our lists are the showbiz, sports, media, and political personalities. We also remember the names of quite a few people – some of them could be our own friends –  who excel in their respective fields of endeavors when we discuss about successful people.

Now, let me ask some questions.

Are those people we consider  successful happy also? Have the money, fame, power, and accomplishment they possess brought them happiness? They are the only ones, or their relatives (or their close friends and confidants), who could answer those questions. People outside of their inner circle could only make speculations and assumptions.

Many believe that rich people live under the constant pressure of  wanting to amass more wealth – famous people to ensure that their stars keep shining – politicians to perpetuate themselves to power – so much so  that they forget to live a life. Thus, they are perceived to be unhappy.

At least, they have the money.

“But can their money buy them happiness?” This question has been asked so many times that it could be considered meaningless already. But in the light of the present discussion it should be asked, not for the purpose of having it answered, but as a point to ponder on.

We presume that with all the luxuries the money of  the wealthy, famous and powerful could afford, it’s almost impossible that they are not happy. Unless it is true that of the needs which Maslow’s identified in the hierarchy of needs, only the basic ones (physiological and safety) could be covered by money. The psychological needs (esteem needs, belongingness and love needs) and self-fulfillment needs are definitely not available in the shelves of even the most expensive stores.

Here is the next question I would like to  ask – “Are they healthy?”

They are already rich, famous, and powerful. They are truly blessed if they are also in good shape. Of course they are – financially. What about physically, emotionally, and mentally? In their quest for riches, fame and power, did they not sacrifice their health, values, and relationships? While they sit on their thrones clutching their coffer, do they feel peace flowing within them? Again, they are the only ones, and the people around them, who could give a definite answer. They are the only ones who know whether or not they are suffering from any debilitating disease, mental anguish, and emotional stress?

I brought out the questions on happiness and health in the discussion of success because I believe that there is a need to strike balance between the ephemeral and the ethereal when defining the concept. The prevailing  view of success is materialistic. We attach tangible proofs to it – money, big house, new car, degree, job title, a certain body type, etc. I am not saying that such act (of attaching those tangible proofs to success) is wrong. I just consider it as not encompassing.

Why?

What about simple people who did not attend school, don’t have cars, and live in simple houses in far-flung farming and fishing villages happily living a simple life and diligently performing their role in society? Can’t they not be considered successful in their own right?

When you don’t have a mansion – a car – fancy clothes – expensive jewelry – a university degree – huge amount in the bank, when you’re not famous and not powerful, when you’re  just an ordinary decent individual honestly earning a living and contended with what you have and what you’re capable of achieving and you’re happy and  healthy, would people not consider you successful?

If a person’s goal is to be happy and healthy and he/she achieves it, isn’t that success?

Correlating happiness and health to success is a kind of paradigm shift that will make capitalists unhappy. It is the materialistic view of success that keeps most of their present business ventures alive.

Well, we define success in different ways. Success is subjective and I think that nobody could claim that their way of looking at it is the right one.

The most valuable lesson I learned about success is this – define it for yourself. Don’t allow other people to define success for you. Don’t subscribe to the standards they set. You know your capabilities and limitations more than anyone else, factor them when setting your success parameters. But be not satisfied with your current skill set. You have to improve and as you see yourself becoming better set the bars of your success higher. And most importantly,  don’t forget that as you march towards the achievement of your simplest goals and the realization of your grandest ambitions, you should not sacrifice your happiness and health.

Me and the Nicks and Carols of the World

(A Personal Essay)

I dreamt of becoming a lawyer but I know my parents wouldn’t be able to support me financially had I decided to take up Bachelor of Laws upon completion of my AB English in 1988. So, I decided to pursue what came second among my career choices back then – teaching. Much that I decided to give up my dream of becoming a lawyer and begin establishing a career in the academe instead, I figured I had to pursue a Master’s (then PhD) to bolster my academic portfolio. Eventually, I earned both degrees.

I needed to start working for my goals and dreams. It was time to stand on my own two feet. It was time to chart my own destiny. So, I decided to knock on the doors of the academia. I applied to 3 schools right after my graduation.

When my friends in the boarding house where I was staying learned that I applied to several schools, one of them told me frankly this:

“Who would hire you? You’re too short and skinny  to be considered for a teaching position.”

His name is Nick and I would never forget him.

I stand just a shade over 5 feet and weighed probably around 45 kilos at that time.

Some (or is it most?) people (like Nick) tend to underestimate those who are shorter than they are. They think that their being taller makes them better and smarter than shorter people. These Goliaths have forgotten about the Davids of the world.

Well, I got used to being underestimated because of my height. People I know would sometimes even make fun of my being vertically-challenged. But there’s nothing other people would say (and do) that could shatter my self-confidence and destroy my dignity as a person.

I very well know my value as a person. I did what I had to do to make sure that I would become valuable and that my worth would go way beyond my small frame. Wherever I go, I make it incumbent upon me, a personal goal, to make people see and feel that “I am a dime thrown in with a whole bunch of nickels.”

One thing for sure, if you “throw me to the wolves, I’ll return leading the pack.”

In any organization and in society in general, there are two kinds of people – the dispensable ones and the linchpins. I know where I belong.

So, despite the discouragement, I heard that day, I pursued my applications vigorously. I had no good  clothes at that time. I just borrowed a friend’s polo which I wore when I attended those three interviews and three teaching demonstrations I had in those schools where I sought employment.

Of course, I was hired… and here’s what happened.

A week into SY 1988, I joined a conversation among my friends in the boarding house. Present then was Nick, the one who gave me the discouraging remarks. I told them the dilemma I was facing. Making sure that Nick would hear what I was about to say I said,  “I was hired by the high school department of the University of Batangas (formerly Western Philippine Colleges). The problem is this morning I was informed that St. Theresa’s Academy is waiting for me and they’re offering a higher salary.”

I asked.

“What shall I do friends?”

Of course, I knew what to do then. I just took that opportunity to prove to Nick a point. I wanted him to know that there were two well-educated school principals who measured my value as person  using a yardstick different from his and saw that I am qualified to be a teacher – that I am valuable despite my small frame.

Nick was not the only one who tried to shake the foundations of my confidence.

In the summer of 1990, I worked part-time selling encyclopedias (Lexicon Encyclopedia). During one sales training session, I introduced myself and said that I am a teacher. The lady seated beside me (her name is Carol) commented:

“Really? You’re a teacher?”

What could have prompted her to ask me that was probably same as Nick’s – my being short and skinny. I didn’t gain much weight after 2 years and she probably found it too hard to believe that given my small frame and simple clothes a school would hire me as a teacher.

I wanted to tell her that actually, I had to turn down an offer from another school. But would it matter had I told her that? No! So, I chose to keep quiet for I did not like to have an argument with a lady.

I am just so amused that people are taking it against me that my genes did not allow me to grow past 156 cm.

But I just took what she said in stride. At least I was right of my  impression of her as being a prima donna.

My paddling through waves of discouragement and doubts did not end with Carol.

When my friends learned that I was applying as ESL teacher in South Korea, Japan, and China, they chorused:

“It’s a long shot.”

They had a point in saying so. All of the advertisements I checked during those times indicated that universities in the said countries hire only native English speakers.

A Nick-Carol type of individual told me this:

“You’d passed through the proverbial eye of the needle before you could even get an interview for an ESL teaching position. Your accent is neither American nor British.”

Is that so? I can’t believe that only those with American or British accents (or any native English accents) have the right to be an English teacher. I can’t believe that universities have not embraced yet the emergence of world Englishes. They need to realize that language education is more than mimicking somebody else’s accent. For me, depriving non-native English speakers of a chance to teach English on account of accent, even when they have all the necessary qualifications, is a form of discrimination.

Nevertheless, I was more than willing to squeeze through a hole smaller than the eye of a needle in the pursuit of my dreams.

Then that small (or shall I say microscopic) opening presented itself when one day while checking job openings at a website (www.workabroad.ph)  I came across  one at a university in South Korea (Gyeoungju University). It said “Urgently needed are English teachers.” It did not say that only native speakers may apply. In short, the university does not believe that only those from native-speaking countries have the right to teach English.

I immediately sent my application. A week later I got a response advising me to prepare for an interview right there in the Philippines.  It was held at the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila.

The rest was history. I got hired and in March 02, 2013 flew here to South Korea to work as an ESL teacher. In 2014, I transferred to Hanseo University, another university who thinks that geographical roots should not be a factor when hiring English teachers. I am still connected with the said university and currently, I am teaching English and advising PhD students writing their dissertations. There were times in the past that I was asked to teach foreign MBA and PhD students.  

2021 marks my 9th year here in South Korea.

I should be thankful to the Nicks and Carols I encountered in life and in my journey as a teacher. They strengthened my philosophy of not allowing other people to define who I am. They made me more resolute in establishing my own standards in measuring happiness and success. Because of them, I became deaf to the prejudices and biases of condescending people and racists.

I believe that in the pursuit of my goals and dreams, the opinion of other people doesn’t count. Yes, I listen to them but I have my filters. I only take wise counsels. At the end of the day, after praying hard, I still do things my way.

Like a mountain goat, I am sure-footed.

My confidence emanates from my faith – in myself and in the Lord my God.

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