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Author: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  April 15, 2007

Topic category:  Other/General

Building Self-EsteemÖThe Old Fashioned Way.

The only good part of the past week or so was getting to watch "The Masters" cover to cover.

And the only reason I had that opportunity was because of a particularly nasty strain of flu.

"Flu," however, doesnít do justice to whatever bug it was that I went out and caught.

There were moments over the course of five days when I felt as if Iíd gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson when he was at his "mad at the world and everyone in it" best.

Those were the good moments.

I also want to offer an apology to the driver of the P.U.D. truck that I cut off on my way home from work when I came down with this thing.

My excuse is that itís hard to drive when every limb of your body is shaking so hard that objects in your mirrors wonít stay in focus.

But there were compensations. As noted, I got to watch that golf tournamentÖin between the frequent need to get up and swallow large quantities of aspirin to keep my head from exploding.

I donít know where it came from or how it got its start, but there abounds in this country the strange notion that "self-esteem" is something that can be "raised" by the avoidance of failure.

I know. Tough segue there, but stay with me.

Courses are too hard? Lower the standards.

Too many people fail a test? Make it easier.

We now have games played wherein scores arenít kept and rules are made that allow some outside entity to swoop in so as to keep things "fair."

Such, of course, raises "self esteem" all to hell and gone.

And pigs can fly.

I donít know when many of us bought into the notion that failing at something was bad, but those who believe this have been sold a bill of goods.

Self esteem isnít something that can be "given" or something that can be preserved by the avoidance of failure. Itís something you earn by doing tough things you never believed you could do. The bruises and scrapes you get when you fall are to be expected, dealt with, and ignored as best as possible.

What I watched over the course of four days was one of the best displays of grit, determination, and effort that Iíve ever seen.

This year, for a variety of reasons, a golf course that can humble the best players in the world became a monster. Survival over four rounds of golf was an "iffy" proposition at best.

Lead changes seemed to occur every half-hour. Good shots ended up in bad places. Bad shots ended up in hell. Pros often looked like weekend duffers.

But it was great to watch individuals who refused to curl up into a ball and whine after a particularly bad shot. It was great to watch individuals who knew that their best might not be good enough, but their best was what they were going to give.

The winner was Zach Johnson - a young, little-known player whoíd won only once before on the tour. He held off the rest of the field and literally had to listen to Tiger Woods (55 tour wins and 12 major championships) prowling the course behind him.

He won through talent, perseverance, iron nerves, and the willingness to fight for the goal heíd set for himself. You can bet that he (and all of the others in that tournament, for that matter) didnít come from a background where trophies were handed out for "showing up."

Think he had any self esteem at the end?

Youíd have needed a dump truck to carry it all.

And the way he got it was the only way that really matters. He did something tough. He did something wherein the chances of failure far surpassed the chances of success. He did something wherein whenever he got into trouble, he didnít go looking for someone to make things "fair" or "easier."

He likely stumbled many times on his way to that win. He, for sure, never gave in.

And that willingness to work toward and achieve a goal despite all of the drudgery, embarrassment, and pain required does wonders for self esteem at any level in life.

Itís just too bad that we donít seem to be teaching enough of that any more.

Larry Simoneaux

Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Copyright © 2007 by Larry Simoneaux
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