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27. Regarding Perseverance pt. 3

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Good Morning Families, today is Wednesday April 29th 2020 and it is now time for a moment of SEL.

We are still baking that perseverance cookie. Yesterday we talked motivation. Motivation puts us on a path. Now we need our strong self-esteem. Self-esteem is like your sense of your own overall value or worth.

Why does it need to be strong and how does it factor into perseverance?

Great questions. If you remember perseverance means the voluntary continuation of a goal-directed action in spite of obstacles, difficulties, or discouragement.

It means to keep working toward your goal, even when it’s challenging or when you struggle or when you face setbacks.

During the pursuit of something you are motivated for you will likely face struggle or setbacks. Sometimes we look at setbacks and we think, “I wish this wasn’t so hard”. But you must remember this, struggle makes you stronger. You are not fragile. You will not whither from a setback. In fact, you are worth the setback. In fact, the setback may be there to help you build your strength, to refine your thinking, to hone your skills. You are worth the struggle to meet and achieve your goals.

Let me ask you this, are you worth the struggle to meet and achieve your goals?

Let me also answer it, YES YOU ARE. You are worth the struggle to meet and achieve your goals. But, do you believe that?

Let’s say you want to build some muscles on your arms. At some point you are probably going to have to lift something that is heavy. It will be difficult. You may even break a sweat. The day after you lift something heavy you will very likely be sore. That’s how it works. So, you go back the next day and do it again. You keep doing it. It never gets easier; weights never get lighter.

It’s not easy lifting weights. It’s not supposed to be. If it is, then it’s not lifting weights. See how that works? You are worth it.

You are worth all of your setbacks. All of the struggles, you are worth that, and more.

Can you ride a bike? Maybe you started on training wheels. One day, you tried without training wheels. You fell. You got back up. Why? Because you were worth it. Riding a bike is important and you are worth the pain of learning. Now you ride on two wheels. Then one day, you fall. Total wreck, road rash, it hurts, maybe you cry. Maybe you are embarrassed. Whatever. You get back up. That’s where the muscle is being built. You ride again. Why? Because you are worth it.

There are a lot of steps to understanding your value. You will receive many, many messages about what you are worth. Messages from where you stay and the people you stay with. Messages from the community you share the greatest sense of belonging with. Messages from communities you share some sense of belonging with. Messages from communities you do not share a sense of belonging with. All of those messages can contribute to how much you value yourself.

We often have very little control over the messages that come at us. Some of the messages we take in are supportive and help us see value in ourselves. However, sometimes messages we take in can be hurtful and can give us little reason to see value in ourselves. If you are noticing that you are receiving messages that make it difficult for you to see yourself as valuable and full of worth you may really benefit from sharing that with others. Consider sharing this with the people you trust, and the communities you share the greatest sense of belonging with. People you know, will know how to help.

But at the end of the day, the weight of valuing yourself will need to be lifted by you. Here’s the thing, self-esteem does not need to come from social comparison. That may be more like self-image. Self-esteem does not need to come from trust in your own abilities, that may be more like self-confidence. Self-esteem does not necessarily come from belief in your ability to succeed, that may be more self-efficacy. Self-esteem does not necessarily come from how we relate to ourselves, that may be more self-compassion.

No, self-esteem is the sense of value you have of yourself. Here is one way to begin to practice building value in yourself. Practice setting small, realistic goals, and recognize when you have completed them. You don’t have to give yourself a herald of trumpets and a parade through the streets for the accomplishment of something small and achievable but do recognize your ability to meet that goal.

Here’s another way, try not to focus on perfection as an outcome. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. That’s Voltaire interpreting an old Italian proverb. Here’s Confucius: "Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." Here’s Mr. Shakespeare, “How far your eyes may pierce I cannot tell, striving to be better, oft we mar what’s well.” That’s from King Lear, Act 1 Scene 4. It means something like, “maybe you know more than me, but a lot of the times people ruin something good by trying to make it perfect.”

Basically, if your value of yourself is held by perfection, then a set-back may do some serious damage. At that point, your struggle may turn to be more with yourself then with the thing you are motivated for.

If you recognize this, either practice reframing this or talk to someone. Tell them about how you hold perfection for yourself. Maybe in connecting with someone you’ll discover something about yourself or you’ll learn skill from someone else. Maybe if they are your peer, they have also experienced this. Don’t underestimate the power of social learning. And if not, talk to a trusted adult, talk to someone you stay with, maybe your school counselor. Or if you are an adult, maybe consider talking to one of your peers or talking with a professional.

And lastly, don’t forget the power that lies in service of others. We are going to dedicate an entire week to that in the future, but for right now, just know that there is tremendous power when you work in service for others. You may even be surprised at how your self-esteem changes when you help other people.

To build a strong and enduring muscle you must exercise it. Same with self-esteem. Find something you are motivated for. Go for it! Try, try, try. Then, when you face a set-back, recognize it. Feel it. It may sting, it may down-right hurt. Once the initial hurt has passed, which it will, try to reframe the setback as “building a muscle” or “gaining a skill”.

You are worth all of your setbacks. All of the struggles, you are worth that, and more.

You can build strong self-esteem. And with your strong self-esteem you are building your ability to persevere. Tomorrow we’ll add another ingredient for our perseverance cookie; time for reflection and curiosity. We look forward to connecting with you in whatever way we can tomorrow. Until then, may your thoughts and feelings be with you.

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