When I was 16 years old, I got my first job as a cashier for AMC theatres in La Puente, California. At that time, my self-esteem was intrinsically linked to my work and my achievements. I worked hard and looked for the next opportunity to move up in the ranks of the company. My first paycheck instilled in me the confidence to give my best performance, and allowed me to buy my own things. At work, I also earned respect from my peers, which made me feel good about myself and helped me fully develop my self-esteem—what psychologist Maslow calls the necessary ingredient to becoming a high-functioning human being.
In his hierarchy of needs theory, Maslow’s identifies “self-esteem needs” as comprising achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others. Starting with my first job, I began to get an idea about what I was naturally good at. I realized that if I kept at it long enough, I would gradually and deliberately begin to cultivate a sense of passion and purpose which would feed my self-esteem. At 28 I became General Manager of the company’s flagship theatre and was named General Manager of the Year. With focus, dedication and drive, I then assumed a position for Lucasfilm Ltd. where I served as an executive for ten years, providing strategic vision for a division of 80 people and traveling the globe to work with international clients. Now, as a professional growth consultant and mother of two young men, I put my energies into helping other people grow.
But it’s not my achievements alone that formed a strong self-esteem—the painful failures along the way allowed me to see how resilient I was and where I needed to improve. It takes a lot of courage to take a good, honest look at yourself and forgive your mistakes. In the end, the most important thing I learned about success or well-being is learning how to trust myself.
I think my career ultimately worked for me because I followed my strengths and worked diligently at each point. I read that Gabrielle Bernstein, motivational speaker, life coach and author, said, “Allow your passion to become your purpose, and it will one day become your profession.” That quote makes sense to me. I’ve seen it play out in my own life.
If you can find work that breathes passion into your soul, you will gain the confidence to master your talents and skills, feel good about yourself, and ultimately fulfill your goals and dreams. This fulfillment is what Maslow calls the highest level of human achievement.
–Monica L. Dashwood is a freelance writer and spokesperson for Hiplatina.