Whether youre good at sketching doodles on a pad, or you always beat your buddies at poker, or youre a national chess champion. A lot of self esteem is rooted in having something that you know youre competent at.
When I was a kid I was chubby. I had no athletic ability. I wasnt popular but I scored high on standardised testing. I was put in the gifted class but I hated it because all the other kids were as smart as me, so I wasnt distinguished.
So I rebelled to be put back into the regular class. From about age 12 I always liked being the smartest kid in the room.
That became the thing that I thought I was good at being smart. So as I got older that became more important to me because it was all I had.
I went to college and got my Masters degree in counselling from Penn state university. Then I started a PhD at Oklahoma and took a class in intelligence testing.
First day of class, the professor said to us: Intelligence isnt correlated with almost anything important in life. Being smarter doesnt mean youre going to have a happier life, for example.
That struck me like a hammer. Id spent half my life, at the age of 24, being really concerned with being the smartest kid in the room. In that moment, I let it go and that actually made me a lot happier.
Over your lifespan, there are many other things that are important, and that really isnt one of them.
Taken in Manila, Philippines during the SOTM World Tour.