You don’t need good self-esteem to be successful.
I am a prime example of this.
I grew up with parents who told me on a regular basis that I was lazy, absentminded, or dumb. Sometimes, it was said in a normal speaking voice. Other times, it was yelled. Sometimes, it involved a smack or a hard pinch.
Those of you with non-traditional immigrant parents are probably aghast at reading this. Those of you who grew up with traditional immigrant parents are shrugging and saying, “So, tell me something new.”
Did I develop a thick skin? No. I often cried when I was by myself.
Am I grateful that they showed me “tough love”? No. There are better and more effective ways to correct a child.
Did their hurtful words and actions keep me from going after my dreams? NO.
Instead, I’m living my dream of being a full-time writer. Before that, I enjoyed a 18-year career in higher education, helping people achieve their academic and career goals. I share my life with a wonderful man. I have awesome friends. I have a well-padded retirement account.
It wasn’t self-esteem that helped me get here.
It was figuring out what I really, really, really wanted.
I truly believe that when you’ve pinpointed what you really, really, really want–something you can’t imagine leaving this Earth without having experienced–then you have what you need to achieve your goals and dreams.
During the most stressful times of my life, I stopped thinking so much. I had to in order to survive. I ate, slept, went to school, went to work, and just tried to get through it.
Did I have great self-esteem being one of the only Asian-American students going to school in conservative, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Orange County?
Did I possess an excellent self-image when I failed my first quarter of college and was “subject to dismissal”?
Did self-esteem get me up every morning to go to a job that I hated?
No. No. And NO.
Self-esteem was nowhere in the room. It wasn’t even in the building.
Two things got me through: focusing on what I wanted and taking action.
I took one step. Then another. And another. And another.
My confidence and strength came from taking action.
It did not come from thinking, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it…” (you know the rest). It came from trying, failing, trying again, sometimes trying again, failing, trying once again, and then finally, sometimes succeeding.
I’m writing about all this now because these last four months of writing full time has put me through the wringer. It’s been an emotional roller coaster. I experience self-doubt every time I sit down to write. Every time.
It used to stop me. It doesn’t anymore. Now, it’s more annoying than anything. I feel the fear and doubt, and just keep going.
Will I have a bad day or week every once in a while? Sure. It’s part of the territory of being a creator.
But will it stop me? No.
Does it help to believe in yourself? Yes, it does. But it’s not the end all, be all.
I’m writing this now because there might be others out there that feel the same way I did. Maybe you don’t believe in yourself, and have shaky self-esteem, but you’re still going for a goal that really, really, really matters to you? And maybe scares you too? Is that you?
If you answered, yes, I’m here to tell you, you are going to be okay.
You are. Just keep taking action toward what you want. Take it one step at a time. Stop thinking so much. Just do it.
I’m doing it. You can too.
See you on the road.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle. Peg is also the founder of Prelaw Guru, a law school application consulting company, and the author of The No B.S. Guides for prelaw students.