“At 14, I was a drug-addicted alcoholic; now I’m clean and sober for 23 years. At 18, I was a high school dropout; now I’m a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. At 21, I was a call girl, paying lawyers to keep me out of jail; now I am a successful lawyer, a successful businesswoman, and a loving wife. At 26, I was hit by a car and told I’d never walk again; in my forties I ran two marathons. At 28, all I could think about was what’s in it for me; now, at 50, I’m an active participant in my community.”
So begins Francine Ward’s new book, Esteemable Acts: 10 Actions for Building Real Self-Esteem (Broadway Books; $23.95). The book grew out of Ward’s extensive lecturing on the power of self-esteem, and hard-won lessons learned throughout her own courageous life. Now president and CEO of nCompliance Inc., a Mill Valley, California-based training and consulting firm, which specializes in copyrights, trademarks, and employment law issues, Ward strongly believes that it is choice, not chance, that defines our destinies. The following is an excerpt from her chapter, “The Gift of Choice.”
One of life’s greatest gifts comes when we realize we have the power to make our own choices and therefore direct our lives. The idea that you can control what happens to you is liberating, yet at the same time, it can be a powerfully frightening experience because with choice comes responsibility.
Self-esteem is about making choices for yourself and being accountable for them. Everyday we are faced with a myriad of choices, and each choice, regardless of the outcome, moves us closer to or farther away from real and lasting self-esteem.
What’s a right choice and how do you know if you are making one? A right choice is a decision you make because your intuition tells you it’s the right option for you, regardless of what other people say, or what your Other Voice tells you. Your Other Voice is the voice that doesn’t always have your best interests at heart. That voice is more interested in having fun than in doing what’s right for you.
Your Other Voice, when given half a chance, convinces you that a right choice is wrong or that a wrong choice is perfectly okay. It’s the voice of justification. But regardless of how loud your Other Voice may be, you always know the right answer. You might pretend not to hear it, but that’s the voice that keeps rising to the surface.
Many things limit your choices to a greater or lesser degree: your feelings, other people’s judgments, other people’s power, family commitments, lack of money, and restricted time are just a few. Another is victimhood.
Victimhood is an appealing place to live. When you’re in the victim mode, you get sympathy, you’re the center of attention, you have a valid excuse for not taking responsibility for your feelings or your actions, little is expected of you, and you feel justified in being depressed. It’s the