Build Self-Esteem through Adversity- Ostriches Still Get Kicked!

Why are some people destroyed by adversity, yet others seem to use their greatest challenges as stepping stones to self-confidence and success?

I knew I’d be blogging on this topic this week, but I didn’t know I’d see a remarkable report on Aron Ralston on “60 Minutes” before I sat down to do this post! If you don’t know Aron’s story, he’s a professional adventurer who is the subject of a soon to be released movie titled “127 Hours.” Based on his book, “Between a Rock and A Hard Place,” the 127 hours he’s talking about was the time it took him to free himself from being trapped after a climbing fall- by amputating his own arm and escaping certain death to find rescue and a new perspective on life!

As we watched this incredible story, my wife Alex kept saying “I could never do that,” no doubt many if not most people watching this were saying exactly the same thing! The fact is you never know what you might be capable of doing and in moments like that the mindset and confidence you develop before facing such a challenge may make the difference between what you will or will not do.

Aron was an extremely confident person before his adventure in the desert; I don’t believe he had a lack of self-esteem. By his own admission, he was probably a bit on the arrogant side. Faced with a true life and death situation, however, his self-confidence helped him make decisions that would save his life.

After his rescue, his self-esteem was challenged by a series of personal hardships including the loss of several close friends to suicide and the end of his engagement to the girl of his dreams. The guy who had faced death with confidence was now beaten by personal demons that commonly affect many people. He fell into a deep depression and contemplated suicide; this fall was perhaps even more dangerous than his fall into the canyon.

Drawing on his experience in the canyon- and by allowing others into his life to help, Aron found a new awareness and appreciation for life. If he could severe his own arm and survive for days without food and water why couldn’t he survive his personal problems? He found that he could and no doubt his greatest brush with death provided literally the light at the end of the tunnel. He’s now happily married with a son and back to the world of high-adventure.

Everyone faces adversity and to compare one person’s misery to another’s is a futile exercise. There are also circumstances and conditions well outside your control ready to through obstacles in your path- just in case you get bored or complacent!

How will you face these obstacles? Can that which didn’t kill you really make you stronger?

Yes- but you’ve got to develop awareness. I could identify with Aron’s story. Despite some remarkable adventures in my own life I felt alone and desperate as a younger man. I was not capable of recognizing my accomplishments; I had no sense of self-worth and certainly no self-esteem. My life spiraled into a cycle of self-destructive behaviors that included drugs, near homelessness and brushes with the law.

Like Aron, I somehow found a little spark of hope. Unlike Aron, I fortunately did not have to cut off my own arm! What I did need to amputate was my dependence on drugs, self-loathing and destructive behaviors. I needed to severe some destructive relationships and build constructive friendships. I needed to cut away my feeling that my life had no value and find some sense of purpose and worth.

That takes time- but it can be done. The Chinese ask, “What do you do when you meet the devil on the road?” Their answer is, “Shake his hand!” Not only can you increase your self-confidence and self-esteem by facing your fears, doubts and self-defeating habits but shaking hands with your greatest challenges, hardships and adversity is the only way to feel better about yourself when you feel trapped and desperate.

How much self-esteem do you gain by sticking your head in the sand?

“Avoiding troubles and challenges might appear to be the easiest or least painful way to go, but in reality there’s no benefit in running from the good fight. The ostrich sticks its head in the sand when there’s trouble but that only leaves his ass sticking high in the air ready for a good kicking!” From Think Like a Black Belt.

Everybody faces challenges and adversity. Nobody gains self-esteem by avoiding life’s challenges; but with awareness, practice, discipline- and a little help from your friends you can develop a health sense of self-esteem by facing your greatest challenges- win or lose!


Tuesday on The Show we welcome two guests who are living examples for building self-esteem and success through adversity!

Our dear friend Stephen Hopson is a renowned speaker, founder of The Adversity University and author of the new book “Obstacle Illusions.” He’s also the world’s first DEAF instrument rated pilot! We’ll talk about his amazing journey to self-realization!

Chitoka Webb says “I believe the secret to success is based on how you react when you are at your lowest point in life. Since I can remember, the low points have an adverse effect on me.  What shuts most people down makes me feel excited on the inside.” She’s the author of “Something Inside of Me: How to Hang onto Heaven When You’re Going Through Hell.” Her inspirational journey of success through adversity and later, blindness will inspire you to face your challenges with confidence and courage!

Join us on Tuesday at Noon ET…

Improve your self-esteem at work! Register for this webinar! Use this link for discounted rate!

Available at the Black Belt Mindset Bookstore: “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” by Aron Ralston…

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  1. Wow, What a story!

    I didnt’ have to cut my arm off, but I had to leave my family and friends behind – in a great sense, cut off part of my soul… And I believe it made me stronger – I have to admit it, I was a bit spoiled: three meals a day served by parents, laundry done, etc., etc. Being on my own helped me grow up and test my wings… which lead me through homelessness and by 27 financial success beyond my wildest dreams.

    I think what makes some stronger after “what not kills you” is one’s attitude. And that attitude can be shaped by many things. In my case, I was called retarded, stupid, and all kinds of names… a lot during my childhood and I had a very strong desire to show everyone that I was more than what their limited mind allowed them to see in me. That attitude propelled me into a life of entrepreneurship and great success. I used to manage an export-import company, spent months in my favorite country, China, and traveled to dozens of other countries around the world in search of products… and for pleasure… And now, for close to a decade I’m a fairly successful speaker, coach, leadership consultant.

    So I’d say, it all breaks down to attitude. Screw that arm! I’m more than it! Life goes on and I’ll do the best of it.

    I lost my past. I thought I could go back one day and continue my life where I left off, but that life was not there anymore… the people and places changed… but screw all that! Life goes on… Now I have a new family and new life. I’m happy…

  2. BTW, sorry for the previous long post! But I’m really passionate about this topic – overcomming challenges and triumphing in spite of it all…

    • E.G.- Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!


  3. If interested check out my new books:

    The Loving Heart: Navigating the Journey from Conflict to Peace and The Loving Heart Companion: An Interactive Journal.

    Laurie Pappas PhD

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