To improve in your career, you need feedback. You need to know what you’re doing well and what you need to work on.

The #1 reason new associates get fired at McKinsey is the inability to take feedback.

Yes, it is that important.

It also makes a lot of sense. The only way to grow from one skill level to another is to improve.

If you’re in a function that’s completely measured quantitatively such as sales, trading, and the like, you get a numerical measure of your performance every day.

In most other functional areas, your performance has a degree of subjectivity.

Subjective feedback needs to be interpreted both logically and emotionally.

This is where self-esteem or lack thereof (what I call “other-based esteem”) comes into play.

Let me explain.

Esteem = Feelings about your sense of worth as a person.

Self-based esteem means your sense of worth is intrinsically derived.

You can call someone with high self-esteem all kinds of disgusting names.

They won’t like it. They won’t talk to you again. But it won’t shake their perception of themselves.

They’ll just think you’ve got some issues you need to deal with.

In short, someone with high SELF-derived esteem doesn’t feel threatened by other people’s negative opinions.

(This turns out to be profoundly significant.)

In contrast, someone who lacks self-based esteem derives their sense of esteem from “others” — other people, other organizations, or other cultures.

For someone who derives their esteem from external sources, they base their sense of worth on “other-based esteem.”

I used to be one of these people.

It’s a hard way to live because negative opinions of others are extremely emotionally destabilizing for us.

This usually manifests in one of two extremes.

We either totally overreact or under-react to constructive feedback.

If someone says, “You could work on being more concise at the end of your Powerpoint,” we emotionally experience that feedback as: “I’m defective,” “I’m worthless,” or at a minimum, “I’m ‘less than’ other people around me.”

This “less than” feeling is one telltale sign of someone with other-based esteem.

[By definition, to be “less than” others involves a comparison. One is less than two. We know this by comparing the two. This is inherently other based.

Someone with self-based esteem doesn’t compare themselves to others. They compare themselves to their own values or own personal code of conduct.

This is why they don’t get shaken by negative feedback.]

In these situations, the other-based esteem person gets so demoralized by negative feedback they have a hard time making productive use of the feedback.

Or if they are able to use the feedback, they are so anxious that living day to day life is incredibly stressful because at any moment one can be found lacking and thus “less than.”

It is a constant daily struggle to live under the threat of being “less than.” It is a life with no peace.

The other telltale sign of someone with low self-esteem is someone who feels “better than” someone else.

This usually gets expressed in arrogance.

Such a person is so afraid of feeling “less than” that they overcompensate and go the other way.

This person unconsciously believes that “if I tell everyone just how amazing I am, perhaps they won’t notice how worthless I actually feel.”

A person who has a “better than” attitude can’t accept negative feedback.

Accepting such feedback means accepting concrete evidence that they are “less than” the performance level on the job.

This is such an overwhelming emotional threat.

In people with other-based esteem, whether they are on the “less than” or “better than” end of the spectrum, the commonality is the same…

Self-worth is based upon COMPARISON.

I lived this way for 40 years of my life. Let me tell you… it is freaking exhausting.

Through a 5-year effort of learning, therapy, and practice, I am so grateful that I’ve made the transition from other-based to self-based esteem.

It has completely changed my life.

Other than having kids, I see making this transition as being the single biggest accomplishment of my life.

It is something I value 50 times more than Stanford, McKinsey, and everything else that has followed in my career combined.

I recently taught a course outlining the key concepts, skills, and tools needed to make this transition.

If living in a self-based esteem model is something that you would like to do, then I urge you to consider my program on How to Develop Unshakeable Self-Esteem and Incredible Self Confidence. You can Click Here to learn more about it.

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