Pursue What Matters
Episode 158: Build Mastery
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you have what it takes to be successful? So when it comes to secure self esteem, which is highly correlated with well being, and is inversely correlated with depression, right? So self esteem is a good thing. Building mastery really matters. It’s one of the core foundations.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:19
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So we’ve been talking all about self esteem the past few weeks, we’ve talked about what it is, we’ve talked about how it can sometimes backfire on you. And then we’ve also talked about the two core things to focus on when it comes to building and supporting a secure self esteem. And then last week, we talked about that first foundation, which is self worth. And we know self worth is very closely tied to the strength of our relationships. So no one is an island, right. And that is definitely one of the lessons that we have from self worth. And then the second foundation of self esteem is mastery. So you know, it’s part of the self efficacy, our belief in our ability to do things and to be successful and to achieve goals, that that is a very important building block to self esteem, and well being in life. And so today, we’re going to do a deep dive into mastery, what it is and how you can help yourself, and those that you love and support either at home, or at work. So of course, every week, my goal with the podcast, is to help you pursue it matters. By strengthening your confidence to lead. I do that in one of three ways leading with clarity, which connects you to purpose, leading with curiosity, which connects you to self awareness and self leadership, and leading and building a community, which really helps you to be a great source of support and encouragement to others, and to help you to lead effectively when it comes to these leadership specific skills. And so today, we are going to focus on mastery. And it’s really aimed both at clarity, right. So personally, what matters, like doing what you can to strengthen your skills to increase your mastery. And that’s not always a pleasant process. And so it’s important to have clarity about why it matters. And then, of course, a focus on mastery also really helps us with leading and building a community. Because when you think about teams, not everyone has the same skill level, right? Like you need to build mastery on teams. And you need to be able to leverage the great skills of your different team members for the mastery of the team, right, so for the good of the team, so that team can perform at a higher level. And so this is very applicable, both for leading and building a community. And then of course, leading with clarity, I think curiosity always kind of sneaks in there. Because it is mastery is a building block of self esteem. And that’s a big part of self awareness and self leadership.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:29
So let’s start by understanding mastery, what is it? So this is an evaluation of your overall sense of agency? Okay, so how can you take an active role in your life? So are you an intentional being? Who can bring about your desired goals? By exercising your will? Right? So thinking, thinking about agency? So some questions to consider? Are you an agent of change? Or are you acted upon? Just consider where you’re at in your life right now, how you’re feeling about things? Are you in the driver’s seat of your life? Or are you a passenger? Maybe you’re locked in the trunk of your own life? That would be a problem. Do you lead your life? Or are you lead by the whims of life or by the whims of other people? Do you pursue what matters? And here’s a second question related to that. Do you know what matters? Do you have clarity about what matters and what drives you? Are you goal directed? Do you set and accomplish goals? So it’s one thing to set goals but do you accomplish them? Are you able to make progress? Do you challenge yourself? Or do you coddle yourself?
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:41
Boy,I see a lot of coddling out there when it comes to the current state of our society. So do you challenge yourself or do you coddle yourself? Do you make news or do you make excuses? So when I reference news here, I’m not saying that we all need To be, you know, out in front performing for the world, right, like making literal headlines. But do you make news? Do you? Are you doing things that that capture the notice and the attention of others? Are you doing meaningful things? Where others would be like, Wow, look at that. That’s, that’s, that’s good, or that’s helpful. And so making news meaning you’re doing meaningful things you’re contributing at a higher level, or are you making excuses for yourself? Are you growing? Or are you stagnating? So when it comes to human development, there’s no such thing as a steady state. Right? So we’re either growing, or we’re stagnating. Now, I think it’s real, I think so these can be real gut check questions. But I think these are also really, really good questions for your teams. Do you? Are you goal directed?
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:58
Does your team have goals that they set and accomplish? Do you push yourself towards new targets? Do you challenge yourself? Or do you make excuses for why you know, you’re not hitting targets? You know, for you and your team? Are you leading in your industry? are you contributing at a high level? So I think these are good questions, both for us individually, but also, for teams within an organization. So from to ferrati, on Swan, these are some researchers in the realm of self esteem, they teach us that human development is characterized as much by the need to know who we are as what we can do. And so if you think about who we are, we need to know who we are. This is where we think about self worth, which is that first building block of self esteem, but just as important, According to these researchers, is knowing what we can do. And that really is the topic of our conversation today. That’s mastery, we need to know that we are capable, and that we can contribute. And so mastery is a global evaluation that is generalized across many different areas of your life. So hear that again, mastery is a global evaluation, it’s generalized across your life. And so think about some of the different areas work and career home and family, social engagement and connection, creativity, growth, and learning. And so this is where we really think about the role of integration, and balance, because if you are a baller at work, and with your career, but you know, you’re totally failing at home, like you’re not, you’re not showing up there, you’re not cultivating strong relationships there, we would not consider that mastery, right? Like, there are some deficits there. And that when we have an imbalance in, in those different realms of our lives, it undermines our self esteem, because it creates this disconnect, because it’s like, okay, like, here, I’m presenting as very competent. And maybe I’m very competent with work and career. But I know I’m not doing what I can, at home, I know I’m, I’m playing, I’m playing a smaller game, at home. And so we, you know, when we think about mastery, right, if we have a lot of imbalance in different areas of our lives, it will undermine our self esteem. And that doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, it doesn’t need to be doesn’t mean, you have to be going all out all the time in every area. And but it’s just a recognition that integration is important, and that we need to be paying attention to the different areas of our lives.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:50
So of course, you will have more expertise in some areas of your life. But healthy self esteem includes not only liking yourself, so self worth, but also having an overall feeling that you are a competent human being. And I can definitely relate to this. So right, like I’ve been a psychologist and a leadership coach for quite a while now. And, and I’ve been a mom for quite a while now. Right? And one of the things that I noticed for myself earlier in my career, when you know, my kids were little, and they had a lot of demands. And don’t get me wrong, like I love being a mother. But, you know, I don’t think I naturally I’m inclined as a mother of young children. Right. And so those years were challenging for me, like, I didn’t feel very competent in not in that realm, right. Like, I did not feel like I had mastery there. But that I had work, right. And when I was at work, I definitely felt that sense of mastery, right? Like I was very competent. I was very confident people really respected my perspective and what I brought and Did you know if you’re not careful, right, you can create more imbalance. Because here’s what I learned, right? Like, it feels good when people respect you and pay attention to you and, you know, pay you money to, to hear what you have to say, and then to go home, and it’s like, okay, I’m not getting any respect here, right? Or it’s hard. And the rewards are very, very different, you know, like, my kiddos are early or older now, I feel like I’m starting to reap some of those rewards, that were really just heavy lifting, when they were younger. And so, right, if you’re not careful, you know, when you have more strengths in one area, you might be inclined to really just push to those to those areas of your life. And, you know, not give due attention to these other relationships. And so we want to be careful about that. And again, like, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have more expertise in some areas of your life, but part of wholehearted living part of global wellbeing is integrating all of our parts. And so that was something that I noticed for myself, that it’s like, gosh, like, sometimes it just feels better to be at work. Because I can write like, I can see the fruits of my labor, I can, I can get things checked off, I can, you know, there’s a clear sense of accomplishment that just doesn’t exist so much in family life. And it’s really because they’re very different endeavors. But what I recognized is, okay, that was not consistent with my values, I didn’t want to get to a place where I was not wanting to spend time at home or avoiding it or feeling miserable there. And so I put in some structure, right, like, Okay, I’m going to leave work by this time, I’m not going to be doing work at home, I’m going to make sure that I have some good boundaries around that, so that I am cultivating some of those meaningful connections at home, and really, you know, prioritizing that, even though it might not come naturally, or it’s not always really enjoyable. And what I would say is, that helps like that actually helped a lot. And so having some self awareness about that can be helpful, like where you might get caught a little bit.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:19
So the self esteem literature, terms, this as mastery, right? So this global evaluation, that’s generalized across many areas of your life. But, you know, so when we think about mastery, one of the one of the things that comes up for me, is also this core issue of trust. So yes, it’s, its mastery, right, that you can set out and you can do things. But I also think there’s so much of trust in this because over time, as you take on challenges, and you grow in both competence, and confidence, you will not only develop more mastery, right, but you develop a deep sense of trust with yourself. So you develop this deep knowing of who you are, and how you will show up to life’s challenges, right? Like you build trust with yourself that you can be dependable, that you can, you can be unwavering that you can do hard things, and that you’re not going to shrink in the face of a challenge. And that kind of knowing is in valuable, right. And it’s such a big builder for self esteem. So you see yourself not just competent in specific areas, but you see that you can be competent with whatever life throws at you. This doesn’t mean you can go it alone, or that you don’t have more to learn. I’m definitely not saying that. But you carry with you, within you a deep sense of trust that you can live life on life’s terms. And ultimately, that’s living in reality, right, it’s not shrinking, it’s not hiding. It’s not denying, it’s not avoiding. And this is trust, right. It’s it’s mastery, for sure. But I think we we really want to pay attention to the role of self trust in there that’s built brick by brick. You know, as we show up for small things, we know that we can be relied upon for bigger things.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:12
So our life history absolutely impacts our sense of mastery. So wherever you’re at in your life right now, I want you to take a look back. So as you look back on your life experiences, do you see your successes? Do you see how you have faced challenges? Or maybe when you look back, you see oh, like I kind of shrunk from some challenges. Can you see how your failures have helped you grow and develop necessary skills to succeed? Right? So when we look back, it shouldn’t just be successes. Like I don’t know who lives that life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:49
Probably the only people that live that life are the ones that haven’t stretched themselves. But can when you look at your failures. Can you see how they’ve helped you how they’ve become building blocks for you Boy, I certainly can see that. And at the time, I didn’t see that at the time most. For most of my failures, I just felt horrible, right? Like I just, I felt a shame. And I felt confused and lost. But perspective is a powerful teacher, right. Because with time with perspective, I’ve been able to look back at some of my failures and have seen how those have been stepping stones to success, or those have been, those have been redirection points where it’s like, oh, like, maybe there’s a different path that I need to pay attention to. So sometimes what’s needed, right, when we look back at our life, is we need another perspective, because maybe you can’t see yourself or your history, clearly. And so this is a great opportunity to ask someone to point out what they see in your challenges, and your opportunity. So right, like, you might be feeling really badly about a situation and you kind of feeling like a failure, and being able to talk about that with someone you trust, someone you love, and getting another perspective, right to be able to say, gosh, like, this is the pattern that I see, what is the pattern, you see, I know when I have done that, I’ve actually been really surprised and like, oh, like you see that, I never, I didn’t have eyes to see that. And so being able to consult with those who, who care about you, and who know you and aren’t just trying to make you feel better, but are trying to help you learn and understand yourself can be really very helpful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:30
So you might be surprised to learn that what you want only counted as a failure, which would totally undermine your sense of mastery and self worth. But what you see is failure actually contains the seeds of mastery, and self love, when you can show up with compassion, and a willingness to extract the lessons from your painful experiences, right, that’s where failures can become stepping stones. But you’ve got to be willing to take a look at the mistakes to take a look at the failures. And most of us don’t do that because it’s so incredibly vulnerable. And it takes up so much shame for us. But when we can actually normalize failure and normalize mistakes as as really part of the process of growth, then we’re more willing to take a look at our challenges. And we’re more able to extract the lessons from those painful experiences. But looking back at those with compassion, instead of criticism is really, really key to making sure that we can extract lessons from those experiences. So when you look back, do you have a track record of setting out accomplishing goals?
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:42
Okay, so have you ever set a goal in your life, right? Like that might be a little bit of a red flag. So think about sports, think about academics think about work, you know, so thinking about thinking about teens and sports, or you know, choir or the arts, right, like having a strong commitment to some sort of activity in high school is a really big marker for success and self esteem later on, because it shows commitment, a level of commitment and persistence, and follow through. So you can look at your early, your early days, right? And you can can you can see, hopefully, these these times where you’ve been able to set and accomplish goals. And then right if we think about the world of school, often there are goals as part of that, like you don’t get through college without successfully completing assignments and goals and classes. That now if you think about where you’re at in your life now, are you setting goals for yourself? Are you pushing yourself towards greater mastery? This is one of the biggest issues that I see with people like mid career is they just settle in to a very slow gear and they’re getting more experience, but they’re not getting more expertise, right experience and expertise are not the same thing.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:04
Okay. So this comes from Kauffman, his excellent book, transcend. He said, the more successful you are at making progress towards your goals, the more confident you feel. And the two tend to spiral upward toward a stable sense of mastery. Okay, so when you can be successful on progressing towards goals, you’ll feel more confident and that creates an upward spiral towards more mastery, which is very cool. But we also see the opposite and that so this again, is from Kauffman. The more your goals are thwarted in life, the more you tend to spiral downward toward insecurity and feelings of incompetence. So it’s really good to have goals. It’s good to even have a few stretch goals. But make sure your goals are within this realm of reality, right like, you know if you have five goals for A year, four of the five should not be stretch goals.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:03
Maybe one of the five should be stretch goals depending on what the other four goals are. Because we don’t want your, your well intentioned desires around mastery to undermine you because you’ve set very unrealistic goals. So you need to be careful about that, because that can actually create a downward spiral. So mastery is really tied to our relationships as well. Right? And this is we think about instrumental social value. So I talked about this last week. But really, it’s asking this question of do I contribute? Do I add value? Can others count on me? And so folks who have high instrumental social value, so they can answer yes, to those questions, they have greater social status, right? Like people really like them. And they really rely on them, because they’re useful. And that’s really helpful at work, right? Like, we want to be useful. And if you don’t want to be useful at work, if you don’t want to be helpful at work, that’s going to undermine your sense of mastery, and your sense of self esteem. Because our relationships with other people are really core to developing mastery, self worth, which of course, all that both of those feeds self esteem.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:21
So the last thing that I want to talk about today, and this is really wrapping up our conversations on self esteem, and it’s really tied to both self worth and mastery, which we’ve been talking about today, is that we need to be wary of paradoxical self esteem. Okay, so a few episodes ago, I talked about when self esteem can backfire. And so right, like self esteem, we just we kind of want to be careful about. So typically, self worth and mastery develop hand in hand. But when there is a gap between these two components of self esteem, it can undermine you. So that’s what we really want to be careful of. So how can that show up. So one of the ways that might show up is that you like yourself, but you don’t feel competent. Another way that that could show up is you feel competent, but you do not like yourself, okay, so you can kind of see how both of those are trouble. And this creates paradoxical self esteem. And it’s all about how we process and remember social feedback from others. So when you get feedback from others, do you personalize that? Or do you dismiss it? And I would offer a third alternative, which is, can you integrate it? Right, so we don’t overvalue people’s opinions of us. But we also don’t dismiss what could be very helpful. Okay.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:49
So if you recognize maybe a little bit of this paradoxical self esteem in yourself, we want to give you some good direction as to what to focus on. So if you like yourself, but you don’t feel competent, right, you really want to focus your efforts on increasing your mastery, this will help you to increase your self esteem. And so what do you do, you got to do something that scares you set a goal and work towards it face a challenge, say yes to a new project, learn a new skill, this can be as simple as learning a new hobby. So it doesn’t have to be in the world of work. It could be something that’s like, Hey, I kind of like to, to learn this. But you know, it might, it might be a challenge here. So I used to do yoga. Years ago, I did it for a little while, I think it kind of the way I was doing it contributed to an injury. So I just haven’t touched it for years. And I you know, of course, I’ve been doing other activities. But recently I recognized a need to kind of mix up my, my movement plan for various reasons. And so I’ve decided to take a second look at yoga. And you know, I am not very skilled at yoga. So, you know, I’ve just been to a couple of classes so far. And it’s like, boy, I am a beginner. And you know, that can be very humbling. But it’s also so refreshing to be a beginner and to learn a new skill to feel like, okay, like I am learning and growing like I’m, you know, I’m even a little bit better than I was. Last time writer I can, I can hold that stretch a little bit longer. And so that has positive impacts in every area of your life. So if you recognize that you like yourself, but you don’t feel competent. Pick something to work on a skill development, a challenge, a new hobby, so it doesn’t have to be intense. But let’s be on that path to growth. And then if you recognize that you may be experiencing the other side of that paradox, which is you’re competent, but you don’t like yourself, right? There’s plenty of people out who struggle with that? Then the answer really is self compassion. We want you to lead with empathy, gentleness, and gratitude. So self compassion, you still hold yourself accountable, right? Like you don’t hide from reality. But you can you approach yourself with gentleness instead of criticism. So we think also about a focus on affection and social connection. Because usually, if we’re struggling with not liking ourselves, we’re just too hard on ourselves. And so we need that affection and social connection from others who probably see us more clearly. And at least see us more gently. So let in the love and the encouragement of others. And also distance yourself from those who might be bringing you down.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:50
Because right, like you can get caught in a cycle of negativity with peers, with friends with colleagues. And so you really need to be mindful of that. And feel free to distance yourself from those situations, and then be careful about who you’re following on social media Boy, that can really tank a mood very quickly. And you can get caught in, in just a critical lens on life. I know for me, like, if I spend too much time following politics, right. So whether that’s in the news, or listening to podcasts or books, I can really move into criticism. Because there’s just not enough there’s just so much, so much to complain about when it comes to, to politics, like right on on either side of the aisle. So what I have noticed is like, I just have to, like keep that in check. And, and, and have small doses of that. So I don’t get pulled into some of that criticism. And so there you go, those are some, those are some recommendations to really help you towards building mastery, recognizing that mastery is a really important foundation for self esteem. And something that can really help us to thrive and to contribute.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:08
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/158-buildmastery. So one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/158-buildmastery. So I’m social. I’m on Instagram @dr.melissasmith I’d love to connect with you there. I’d also so appreciate it if you took the time to do a review of the podcast. I love that feedback. It also helps me to know what can be helpful for you. And in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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