Learning vs. Unlearning

Over the years, I’ve paid a lot of attention to teaching methods.

I’ve done so in my role as a teacher in my work and also as a parent.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate is the value of learning the fundamentals of any domain.

Whether it’s math, how to swing a baseball bat, or leading a team of executives, nearly everything in life is a skill.

You can learn that skill poorly or properly.

As a “teacher,” I find it is easier to teach someone who knows nothing about the topic at hand versus someone who has learned the skill improperly.

With the former, all they have to do is learn what is being taught.

For the latter, they have to unlearn what they thought they knew and re-learn something a different way.

Those in the latter category struggle and take longer to develop proficiency in a field.

The instinct to revert to previously ingrained, but not (or no longer) correct behaviors slows down the learning process.

Nobody is immune to any of this.

For one thing, the world is constantly changing. What used to be true may no longer be true. As such, there’s a lot of learning, unlearning, and re-learning going on.

One factor in determining how quickly someone can unlearn and re-learn is their self-esteem.

If you have a stable, secure, and resilient sense of your own worth, new challenges, such as learning something new, don’t pose a threat.

If you have poor self-esteem, such as an inappropriately poor or overly-inflated sense of your worth, then new challenges and learning opportunities can be perceived as a threat.

Low self-esteem expresses itself in two polar opposite ways: under-confidence and over-confidence (a.k.a. arrogance).

If your self-esteem is so low, the thought of struggling and looking foolish while learning something new is a threat. It’s just too much of an emotional risk.

If your self-esteem is so low and you use arrogance to hide these feelings about yourself from others, learning something new and looking temporarily incompetent is also a threat. It breaks the well-crafted facade of arrogance that others perceive, making it hard to improve in new skill areas.

This is why low self-esteem individuals often self-sabotage their careers.

Those that under-perceive their abilities can’t imagine themselves being successful, can’t tolerate yet another failure, and therefore (logically) never bother trying.

Why try if you believe that, no matter what you do, you’re going to fail?

Those who over-perceive their abilities can’t risk looking less than perfect. They resist and get defensive when receiving feedback on how to improve.

If you’re more worried about your image than about learning, you aren’t going to improve.

The optimal place to be is where you have a healthy, stable sense of your own worth. This maximizes the pursuit of opportunities both to achieve and to improve.

If you have a confidence problem or have a sneaking suspicion that you may be sabotaging your own career, consider looking into low self-esteem as an underlying cause.

If none of this applies to you, it may very well apply to people you manage, your significant others, your friends, or your children. Understanding self-esteem, how it works, how to improve it, and how to work around low self-esteem are useful skills for any manager or leader.

To take the next step in developing these skills, take a look at my program on How to Develop Unshakeable Self-Esteem and Incredible Confidence.

In this program, I walk you through a blueprint for understanding how healthy self-esteem develops, how it gets damaged, and what steps are needed to repair it. Developing healthy self-esteem is not an overnight process, but it has enormous benefits to both your personal and professional life. Get started on the process today with How to Develop Unshakeable Self-Esteem and Incredible Confidence.

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