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To be productive (and happier), be the keeper of your own self-esteem

This morning I read a blog post about boosting your self-control. It got me thinking about the things in our lives we can control, even if it appears we can’t.

There is a saying about writers: You’re only as good as your last article, novel, gig, whatever. It’s a cynical look at freelancing that hasn’t gone away, because, like it or not, there is a kernel of truth in there.

You can never rest on your laurels. You have to produce good work in the present to earn the respect of clients and to keep getting gigs.

So it’s understandable that somewhere along the line you may allow clients’ responses to your work to become the measure of your self worth.

Linking the two is not an accurate indicator, however. For one thing, you never know what is going on in a client’s life. A client’s response may have more to do with the nasty cold she hasn’t been able to shake, the royal reaming he received from his boss or last night’s fight with her spouse.

For example, yesterday I received a phone call from someone I had interviewed a while back. The publication featuring his profile had just come out and he was pleased with it. So pleased, he called my editor to get my phone number and then called me to thank me in person. This praise came on the heels of kudos from another person who emailed his thanks for the write-up I had done about his company.

That doesn’t happen every day. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. My self-esteem soared and I had a smile on my face, enjoying the “job well done” for a few minutes before I let it go and got back to work.

Later that day, a client pointed out one misspelled word in an email communication I had sent. (While it may not sound like it, coming from this particular client, this was criticism.) I could have let this bother me – and to be honest, I was horrified . . . for a minute.

My self-esteem sagged a little. Then those negative feelings leveled out. I put everything in perspective, brushed it off and got back to work.

Getting caught up in the highs and lows is not productive. I’m not the absolute most inspiring, insightful, witty writer the world has ever seen. I’m also not worthless pond scum residing at the bottom of the writer pile.

While both praise and criticism stuck with me for a minute, I didn’t remain in either mindset for more than a few minutes. I didn’t let either emotion sap my energy or distract me. That’s the key to being more productive and a lot happier.

Your clients’ responses should not control your self-esteem. That’s not healthy. You know your own worth. Let that be the calming influence that keeps you on track.

If you find it difficult to escape a negative mindset, there’s nothing wrong with using a few props to get you back on track.

1. Keep a “Kudos” file with email messages, notes or Christmas cards from clients. Read one when you are feeling like pond scum.
2. Surround yourself with beautiful things that make you smile.
3. Focus on your achievements – keep visual cues around you: a diploma, a certification, a favorite article that you’ve framed.
4. Practice a few breathing exercises.
5. Remove yourself from your workspace and have a cup of tea or coffee and listen to some music.

Before long you’ll be able to acknowledge both compliments and criticism and then let them go. Your self-esteem will remain intact and under your own control. Awesome!

4 Responses to “To be productive (and happier), be the keeper of your own self-esteem”

  1. Michael Eldridge Says:

    This blog speaks to writers and artist everywhere. It also applies to working in general. It’s easy to say, what you do isn’t who you are, but the truth is there’s a bit of this sentiment in all of us. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Shari Held Says:

    That’s so true! Whenever you meet someone or if you introduce someone, it is usually followed by his or her profession. Here’s my neighbor, John Doe. He’s a pharmacist or a plumber or an artist. Like that sums up their entire worth in one word.

  3. Erica Says:

    I love this post. As a freelance copywriter, I often work pretty well isolated from others, even when my gig takes me onsite. Not always a lot of feedback unless my clients need revisions.

    Makes it too easy for the self-esteem to droop.

    I take a lot of walks. And I keep a running Gratitude List. Also helpful, cultivate outside interests so that work doesn’t become the end-all-be-all of your life and only source of socialization.

  4. Shari Held Says:

    I hear you, Erica. I love your idea of the running Gratitude List. I’m going to start one today! And, you’re right on about having a life outside of work. It is so easy to identify with the writing and to have that be your everything. But it shouldn’t be that way at all!

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