Bill Wilson spent over 20 years in legal departments at corporations large and small, from high tech to brick and mortar, and is writing about various topics while trying to find that next great career opportunity.

Nothing ticks me off more instantaneously, and completely, than arrogance. Pump that up by a factor of 100 when it’s present in someone who has no cause for it. You know who I’m talking about. The guy behind you on the Kennedy who’s convinced wherever he’s going is far more important than your safety. The lawyer on the other side who is convinced that his law school education is so vastly superior to yours that you represent a mere trifle on his way to yet another victory for his client. Yes, those people. But some things I read recently reminded me that such people have something to teach all of us.

Their self-esteem is usually the result of one of two qualities: gargantuan insecurity, or an unshakeable, bedrock belief in themselves and their capabilities, deserved or not. In the former, it’s pure overcompensation. In the latter, they may be the only ones who would agree. Either way, they press ahead, certain they are right, charging up the hill wielding their expectation that they will be victorious like a medieval sword. Sometimes, cosmic justice asserts itself, and they fall on the seat of their pants, but more often than not, they often reach heights that belie their often modest talent. There’s the lesson. Henry Ford, or any one of twenty other famous people to whom the quote is attributed, were onto something: “Whether you think you can, or can’t, you’re right.”

I am not advocating an inflated self of self-worth that conflicts with the available evidence. But I am often too hard on myself, and I suspect that more people suffer from this infirmity than a delusional sense of their omnipotence. Look in the mirror. There are no doubt some warts, perhaps real and often figurative that disappoint you on the outside, and similar shortcomings that probably haunt you internally. However only inside your head is the difference made: if you believe that those inadequacies overwhelm your accomplishments, they do. And if you don’t, they don’t.

Some of you are thankfully sufficiently self-aware that you instinctively understand what you do well and what you need to improve, and find on balance, that you’re pretty happy with what you see. But the job search process is the natural enemy of self-esteem. Rejection comes in large and small packages on a frequent basis. You are pummeled by forces over which you not only have no control, but which seem to delight in singling you out and torturing you. There are grim realities like paying bills and keeping families happy that are a monumental aggravating factor. It is more important than ever to survey your self-worth, and give it a bit of polish, and convince yourself that you have what it takes to overcome the obstacles between where you are and where you want to be. If you can generate the needed calibration from inside your head, fine, but if not, find it elsewhere. Get some validation. Invite a friend to coffee and do a sanity check. Because if you don’t believe, no one else will either.


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