Low Self-Esteem: Barrier to Business and Life Success

Could low self-esteem be stopping you from growing and reaching success in your career or business venture? It was for me. Here’s my short story and what I did about it.

When you’re a child, and you’re wronged or mistreated, and no one rescues or avenges you, you’re vulnerable to developing low self-esteem that could affect your adulthood for decades.

Psychologists say we need to make sure our children have a healthy dose of self-esteem, but many of us adults have low self-esteem (and perhaps don’t want to admit it). I was running low, and I didn’t even know it.

How I found out

I discovered I had a problem when I finally got fed up with my financial struggles in business and began to ask the question “Why is my business not growing? What was I doing wrong?”

As a Bible teacher and follower of God, I sought God for the answer this time. Once I did, he revealed that my barriers to business success were rooted in low self-esteem.

I know, for many out there, God isn’t someone they talk too much or even believe exist, but for me, he’s been the one I go to about everything lately. For the rest of you, it could be a business coach or a mentor. I like to say that God is my business coach and my life coach.

Anyway, all I needed to do was ask him, and he would let me know the problem and solution. Up until that point in my life, I assumed I knew the reasoning behind my lack of business growth, but I never verified it with my coach. I would’ve never guessed it was this mindset I had about myself — a lie I believed that shaped my reality.

I want to define low self-esteem because a Google search result or how you may define it may be different from my definition. There are many other definitions, but the below fit me to the tee. My definition of low self-esteem is this:

You have low self-esteem when you don’t value yourself as much as you should. You tolerate unhealthy situations and people. You consistently accept low quality and failure. When you tolerate abuse (or misuse) and fail to reach your full potential in life, you may have low self-esteem.

Where did this low self-esteem come from?

It usually originates from the world around us, starting at childhood. The world is full of negativity.

I began to reminisce on some occasions where circumstances or the people around me didn’t make me feel valued or worthy. But because I didn’t know I was supposed to be treated with respect, or that I was supposed to reject certain kinds of ill-treatment, those circumstances were like seeds that slipped quietly into my soul and planted themselves. Now, the belief that I wasn’t worthy or valuable was growing deep inside me.

There are always selfish and arrogant kids around looking to take advantage or belittle other kids. It’s at these early moments in life that children must be taught their value despite the words and actions of others.

Actions or messages that say “you’re not worthy” must be rejected and countered. If children aren’t taught their value at a young age, they’ll become prey for these selfish and arrogant kids who grow into adults. And it’s these kinds of people who perpetuate the low self-esteem in others.

I had my share of these types of individuals as I started my business in web and graphic design long ago. They came in the form of “friend/clients” who exploited my services (as I’ll explain later). In one voice they praised my talent, in another, they’d disrespect me with back-handed compliments. Their subtle abuse slowly diminished my self-esteem.

Both of these people were older men, about ten years older. One was a business advisor (ironically) at the institute I got the idea to start my business. Another was a client who needed a website for his hip-hop ministry which led me to join my first church. These men were able to prey on me because I had a hidden low value of myself.

Even though I woke up and cut off these arrogant and narcissistic leeches, the effects of their mistreatment left much to heal and caused a lot stumbling in my life.

To make matters more confusing for me, as long as I can remember, and even till this day, I was always praised for my artistic talent. All through academia, I won art contests, and I was honored for my abilities. When I moved into graphic and web design services, the validation continued from my clients. But I realized those people respected my abilities, but not me. They valued my talents, but not me, but I didn’t notice it at the time.

Because I was confident in many areas of my life, I didn’t know I had a problem. I was confident with the way I looked. I lacked no confidence to talk to women. I was even confident enough to shut down bullies in school (but there would come other types of bullies in my life that I wasn’t prepared to deal with like the hip-hop client I talked about earlier). So on the outside, there was confidence, but on the inside, there was this hidden belief that I wasn’t valuable or worthy; but I didn’t know it.

What low self-esteem did to me, my career, and business

As a business owner, I discovered that my prices were too low. With that, came a loss in potential clients who perceived my services to be sub par.

My prices weren’t low because I was an amateur because I had matured in my craft at this point — having ten years in the game.

My prices weren’t low because I didn’t think my work was excellent because I believed in myself and my client testimonials were additional proof.

No. My prices were low because I didn’t do my market research. But what happened following that would be another manifestation of my low self-esteem.

When I did raise my rates to fit the market, many potential customers would scoff. These people were often referrals who were looking for the same cheap prices their friends got. So I let people who didn’t understand the value of my services and who couldn’t afford them to bully me into lowering my prices to get their business.

Low prices equaled low-quality clients and with them came very little respect. I initially couldn’t understand why someone who was getting great service for a low price would not respect me, but now I understand. It comes from the fact that they knew they were taking advantage of my ignorance on pricing, assumed I didn’t value myself, and thus despised me because of it. People don’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself. To add to that, often, these clients would demand more work for free along with discounts.

As a result, I’ve tolerated some of the most frustrating, arrogant, and disrespectful clients you can imagine. I had customers who consistently paid late, and I put up with it. Some clients were control freaks, but I endured the frustration. Others were arrogant and falsely accusatory. I eventually let them all go, but in hindsight, they should’ve been cut sooner and never served a second time. No healthy person would’ve tolerated the mess I did for as long as I did, but I had become conditioned to accept abuse.

Naturally, this led to financial struggles, stress, worries, and anxiety. If I wasn’t working with slow paying clients, I was doing work I didn’t want to do like maintaining other people’s poorly-coded websites. I’m a web designer for God’s sake, not a maintenance man! Here I was bursting with creativity, but subjecting myself to menial maintenance work for pennies.

If I wasn’t the janitor of websites, I had no work at all leaving me dead broke because I wasn’t marketing my business due to the depression of it all. When you’re trying to please degrading people, and neglecting yourself, you don’t really value yourself that much. I truly had low self-esteem.

After so many financial downs in my business (unable to pay rent and unable to literally eat at times), I decided to put entrepreneurship to the side and take a short-lived career in web development — working for companies.

New to the culture of one large corporation and not knowing what to expect, I walked into a racially abusive environment. Almost three months I tolerated the abuse.

On top of that, they lied about the job and relegated me to website maintenance and other menial tasks. The same thing happened again in another company shortly after that one.

While I eventually spoke up about the personal mistreatment on the job, I was later fired for speaking out about it. If I had high self-esteem, I would’ve never taken the job because there were red flags from the beginning — but I did it because my business wasn’t working and I needed the money to survive (so I thought).

Low self-esteem conditions you to accept almost anything, and while I complained about it, deep down, I believed it was my lot in life. Even when I raised my prices after returning to focus on my business, there was this little voice inside my head that said, “You can’t charge that much. You can’t make that kind of money. You can’t be successful. You just need to stay in poverty.”

It was like it was unacceptable for me to make a decent living, and that I just had to accept “the struggle.” Yet, other designers around me were charging double and triple what I charged, and living comfortable lives; but I stayed in the low range and bore the consequences.

With low self-esteem, you may begin to believe nothing will ever get better. You may believe you just have to put up with it. Thankfully I woke up.

What I did about it

I initially got pissed — pissed at the people who took advantage of my ignorance and myself for letting them. But I forgave myself first and later forgave them. I know they’ll probably be taken advantage of because: what goes around, comes around. So, there’s no need in tripping about mistakes; I just needed to stay on guard in the future.

I now draw my esteem from God by reading Bible scriptures that speak about his love and value he has for me. He doesn’t love me for what I can do for him or my talents; he just loves me for me. Because of this, I remind myself that I’m valuable and worthy and shouldn’t accept less from anybody. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m getting better.

With a newfound esteem, it opened me up to reevaluate my business again. I did some market research and updated my pricing. From there, I developed an ideal customer profile and then a few customer personas. Now I only work with individuals who value me and can afford to pay for the value I return to them.

Of course, those problem clients relationships were terminated. I even cut off “church friends,” family, and people who were unsupportive and discouraging my growth as a businessman, and as a human being. You must get rid of the “haters” and energy vampires in your life; they create and perpetuate low self-esteem.

I now have confidence that I can win in business and low self-esteem is no longer a barrier.

What should you do if you’ve noticed areas of low self-esteem in your life?

Let’s face it: low self-esteem can affect all aspects of life, and most people have some level of esteem issues. Here’s what you need to do: Recite daily, “I’m valuable. I’m worthy. I deserve better.” Don’t settle for less.

Be kind to others, compliment them when you see their talents and achievements. Don’t be envious because this usually results in demeaning that person someway potentially lowering their self-esteem. By boosting other’s esteem, you can boost yours.

No longer tolerate covert and overt racism. Find a better job or neighborhood. Better yet, start your own business and own land. For the alpha males out there: the feminist movement has some women nuts and the emasculation of men is at an all time high; don’t put up with the victimization.

If your job is saturated with evil fem-energy, get the hell out of there. If you’re in a relationship with a woman who refuses to let you go your own way, drop her.

For the ladies: you’re not a punching bag or a sex object. You’re a human being worthy of respect, care, and love. Don’t put up with physical, and especially, verbal abuse. Your body, and especially your soul, are more important than “having a man,” or a roof over your head. There are many resources for women to run to when some males become abusive.

For anyone else, just don’t tolerate disrespect. Don’t tolerate poor service, unnecessary frustration, false accusations, and stress from passive-aggressive people. Stop putting up with it. Don’t be misused and abused on the job. Don’t allow your clients to dictate your job to you if you own your own business.

Just stop putting up with crap from nouns (persons, places or things) and seek out and believe there’s a better life for you. As you practice this, your esteem will grow. But don’t get so elevated that you become one of the many arrogant pricks that perpetuate low self-esteem in the rest of the population.

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