I read a newspaper article recently where a Mum of three children in their 20’s who were all at University described herself as a ‘lawn-mower Mum’, as she would do anything to remove obstacles from their daily lives to allow them to focus on their studies. Tasks that included de-frosting the fridge, co-ordinating minor household repairs and buying new cutlery. She was even submitting job applications for them! My head is in my hands ☹ Dealing with day to day problems, filling in job applications and promoting ourselves, however difficult that might feel can make us feel proud of our achievements and that helps to build our self-esteem.
Skills for Life
How will these young(ish) people cope when, for some reason their Mum’s not around and they have a minor or more serious difficulty? How will they build their confidence and resilience to be the Managers of our future organisations when they’ve not had to struggle to achieve something? They’ve never had to learn how to negotiate with people, their parents have smoothed the way for them but have those parents really done them any favours? We need to support young people to learn life lessons; to communicate and negotiate with people to make an agreement, to understand that we can struggle to achieve, and to learn that sometimes it can take quite a few goes at something before we’ll succeed. Or that we can disagree with each other but then go and have a cuppa together.
These skills are so key for the workplace and for life generally that we’re disabling younger people by not letting them experience difficulties, get through those times and bounce back. I appreciate that as a parent it must be truly terrible to watch your child struggle but allowing them to learn their own lessons equips them for adult life. We learn from adversity; we find strength and determination we didn’t think we had until we needed it and that can make us feel proud of our achievements because we got where we are through tenacity and determination. If you’ve never struggled how can you build your self-esteem?
At the opposite end of the spectrum is a lovely lady that I was talking to recently who lit up when she talked about her Manager in her first job, who had recognised her potential, taken the time to help her to develop her skills and watched her confidence grow as she progressed through a range of roles. Without him she said, her career could have looked very different. I had someone like that in my first job role, who championed me and held out for me to be promoted into a job he thought I would be great in (and he was right of course! ?), instead of putting an existing member of higher graded staff into the role which is what his bosses wanted him to do. He dug his heals in to get me that promotion and was my greatest advocate. I worked really hard and progressed well so it was a reciprocal relationship. I proved him right to his bosses and he loved that! ?
Where have those champions gone? Are we now so conflict averse and worried about our job security that we just put our heads down and keep ourselves safe, too nervous of the impact of speaking up for other people? Or has the work environment changed so much that we just don’t have the opportunities to champion people any more? I think it’s probably a bit of both :-/
Be Your Own Champion First
So how can we champion ourselves first, before we can do that for anyone else? As a more introverted person, I like to write things down so my calendar is a daily record of tasks as well as appointments, which allows me to look back and recognise what I’ve achieved. Keeping a record of your achievements such as completed pieces of work, meetings that influenced decisions and effective conversations is a great way of recognising that you’re doing great work, especially if overall you feel like you’re not making much progress. Working in big organisations or with a wide range of contacts can sometimes feel like wading in treacle, so it’s really important to recognise and acknowledge the things you’re doing each day to make progress. The system around you might not be making that easy but completed tasks, effective meetings and productive conversations can help sustain your self-esteem. You are adding value, even if overall it feels like you’re running on the spot!
Recognising, acknowledging and rewarding yourself for the things you’ve achieved in and outside the workplace is important for your self-esteem. If you can champion your own achievements you’ll be able to support others in that respect too and that will also support your self-esteem. ‘Give’ is one of the five ways to wellbeing as it’s recognised that offering support to others can validate our own sense of self worth so looking across the partition at work, thinking “I wonder if they realise how good they are at that?” and then telling them how well they’re doing is a win win for everyone ?
As for lawn-mower Mum, I think she might do well with one of my developing personal confidence courses so I’ll give her a call :-/ For her children, I guess they will have a different learning curve for dealing with difficulties and adversity and that could be much more on show than for earlier generations as we might well see that play out in the workplace, with anxiety going through the roof and lots of time off sick potentially. It’s not great stuff is it? ☹ My Grandad apparently once said to my Dad, “I fear for you, the younger generation, what will become of it all?” so I guess we’ve often feared it’s all gonna turn to mush in the future but we get through it don’t we? It would be good if we could enable people to negotiate their way through difficult times though, with grit and determination and support them to champion their own achievements.
Idealistic? I don’t think so, I just think we need to be more mindful about it and look beyond ourselves every so often. The offer of a ‘I really like how you did that’ or a ‘wow, that went really well!’ can never be under-estimated, whether that’s you saying it to yourself or offering kindness to someone else. There’s great strength in being kind, to yourself and to others. Go on! Just give it a whirl!! Who knows, we might all be run over by lawn-mowers tomorrow! ?
Take good care please and have a great day.
Best wishes, Karen