Economic crisis and self-esteem

Undoubtedly we are living in a difficult economic period where every single day we are bombarded with new financial measures and wage reductions, not to mention the global unemployment rate which rises day by day and has reached dramatic levels … in fact, nowadays most people’s routine has become the daily survival battle only for securing the basic goods.

We live an economic war, where we are called above all to survive and maintain our self-esteem and to be able to survive the hard situation we are experiencing. The fact is that in periods of strong economic downturn anxiety, fear, insecurity, anger and psychological problems of people who lose their “security” increases and as a consequence they start feeling helpless and hopeless.

Our self-esteem can suffer severely in times of economic crisis, something expected according to experts since media have promoted the image of success as the one that is featured with expensive cars, houses and a job that pays extremely well and so on.

In an effort to feel better, over the years most of us thought that “consuming” means “existing” and what “I have” is more important than “who I am”. Wasting all this material and spiritual energy in unbridled consumerism, what we lost along the way was not only the assets that we had – sometimes in surplus-but also the basics in order to survive.

The harsh truth is that circumstances have now changed and we are called to find ways to stay healthy and balanced giving our best effort to protect ourselves, so that we will be able to face any current or potential adversity. And finally this is the entrenchment of our self-esteem, which cannot pay our bills or the super market credit card but in reality if you really miss the chance reversing the situation then we may end up feeling completely lost and hopeless. Only by maintaining and enhancing our self – esteem we will be able to escape the circumstances rather than surrendering to them.

To be able to delineate the current situation what you need to ask yourself is what the economic crisis means specifically to you, your life and your future. Does how we feel in tight economic times, actually shows who are we and what kind of self-perception we carry?

If we honestly answer the above questions we will see that the issue here is not ultimately the “economic crisis” per se but how we perceive it in terms of how we feel about ourselves.

If we associate the meaning of happiness with the phrase “I have” rather than the phrase “I am” then it is more than certain that if we loose our possessions then we loose our self-esteem at the same time.

So ask yourself – and honestly answer the following questions:

  • How happy do you feel about what you are more than what you have?

    When we feel good about ourselves we are strong and confident that despite any adversities we are able to accomplish anything, we decide to achieve.
  • Is your self-esteem tied to your financial situation or do you feel equally high self – esteem even if your financial situation is affected?

The above questions, perhaps helps us live a paradigm shift and face the current “problem” as an “opportunity.” What do we mean by that? During each economic downturn that has taken place over the years the most important discoveries have occurred, for the simple reason, that people who were experiencing this crisis, wake from slumber and are forced to think creatively in order to survive. It is no coincidence that many people through a crisis get the opportunity to chase their life dream, which they wouldn’t otherwise…

The fact that “everything flows” as was mentioned by Heraclitus is the only sure thing in the era in which we live in. Nothing we take for granted will last forever because everything changes and we are called to respond properly and support our choice by being responsible.
Indeed learning to live with much less can cause us stress and make us feel that we are losing control and that our self- worth as well as our self-esteem, diminish day by day… But in reality this whole process can lead to a redefinition of our values.

For some of us values can be integrity, honesty, mutual trust. If we live in the light of our values, then our self-esteem is not broken, on the contrary it becomes stronger and stronger and creates the appropriate conditions in order to switch dynamically the game of life. The important thing is to be grateful for what we have and not to grumble about what we do not.

It is difficult to strive for the best on a daily basis through action and totally different nagging about what we lost and to reproduce these thoughts in our minds. The economic crisis may be a reason for depression, hopelessness, and pessimism but on the other hand it is undoubtedly an opportunity for inner exploration. If we can un-learn what we already have learned and be flexible to re-learn, then our lives can become easier and we can be certainly happier. All we need is to believe in ourselves and have an organized action plan with specific milestones:

1. Decide what you want to achieve. The goal should be very specific. If you want to find a job you can start from a position that may not initially sound appealing to you but surely – especially if you are unemployed-will offer you much more than sitting at home and complaining about the economic situation.

2. Set a deadline for achieving the objective. A goal should have a deadline. If you do not have a certain date on that, the goal is only a wish or a dream.

3. Set realistic goals, goals that you can actually visualize. You should feel that your goal can be accomplished.

4. Develop an action plan. Determine the specific steps that will have to be taken in order to achieve the goal.
5. Take daily action towards your goal. Dreams and goals require action.

6. Give yourself a promise. Be committed to the outcome of your goal even when times get tough, until your goal is reached. Even if your goal is not achieved, make sure you take full responsibility of your actions – or inactions- and instead of victimizing yourself, turn pity into action!

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Avra Lyraki (Ph.D. MCC, ICF)

Global Executive Communication Coach (MCC, ICF) | Government & C-Level Communication Mentor|ICF Assessor, ACTC & Mentor Coach| TEDx Speaker| HBR Advisory Council Member