To Sir, With Love


On the weekend, I was sitting inside watching the snow and wind howl around the house outside and resolved not to take a single step out the front door. Winds were gusting up to 95km and the little snow that actually fell was moving sideways by the window. So what to do?

One thing I did was flip on the television in the mid-afternoon and one of my favourite movies was playing. Sidney Portier starring in, “To Sir With Love” which also starred Lulu, a singer from the sixties who had a hit with the song of the same name. If you’ve not seen it, or it’s been awhile, you might want to check it out. It’s the kind of movie I’ve even contemplated showing in some of my three-week workshops to discuss after showing.

Essentially it’s about a black man teaching in a school in England and going through the experience of trying to educate some of his soon-to-be graduating students about the world they are soon to enter. He has to fight past a lot of attitude, anger, prejudice, ridicule and eventually wins over the class and the students; so much so that when offered a job and a new start that he’s been hoping for, he chucks it and remains at the school to teach.

For it’s time, it was edgy; a teacher tossing out text books and talking with students about anything they wanted; marriage, sex, life. Many issues from the film are very much alive today as issues that students are going through too. Of course one of the themes that plays a huge part in the film is preparing for the world of employment. To prepare for this, he admonishes the entire class for the lack of pride they take in their appearance, their language, their treatment of each other and th self-respect they have for themselves.

Self-respect; how you feel about yourself. What is your opinion or yourself? What do you like? What strengths do you have? In what areas do you wish to improve and what are you doing about them? A mirror can reflect back to you a fairly accurate image of your exterior but what is beneath that exterior is harder to see. You can bet that whether it’s on-the-job, at the interview, or during the job search itself, your self-perception will go a long way to determining your success.

So how do you improve your self-respect if it’s low? For starters, realize that having a healthy respect for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you are self-centered and full of conceit. Someone that just loves their outward appearance and is constantly looking at themself in mirrors as often as they can may actually have very poor self-respect and constantly need the reassurance that their outward appearance is perfect because their inner image is rather poor.

Think about your actions, your thoughts, your effort. So let’s say you are out of work, but you are really putting forth a top-notch effort to get a job. Every so often, you falter and get down on yourself when you catch yourself slacking off. It’s hard to maintain that 100% effort no matter who you are, so rather than allow yourself to take the view that you are some kind of loser, think rather of the effort you’ve been putting in. If you sought out some professional help, that’s not the sign of weakness that some suppose, but rather a sign of wisdom on your part to get some help. Good for you!

Back to the movie. There’s a scene in a stairwell with only the Teacher and the most challenging and unruly of the lot. Instead of berating the youth, the teacher asks him if he’d like a job coaching next year’s students on self-defence and boxing. This is something the student can’t initially understand because all he’s done is try to make the teacher’s life miserable. It’s a teachable moment however, in that the teacher builds up his self-esteem by complimenting his skills.

As you move forward today, if your own self-esteem and self-image are low, see if you can jot down on paper three things you really like about yourself – anything. Maybe it’s your hair, your posture, your attitude, your adding skills. If this is an easy exercise, go further and look at doing one thing; a single thing that you could do over the course of THIS day to feel proud of by 5:00p.m. This might be anything from doing some chore around the house, checking out the job bank, applying for a job, calling someone you’ve been putting off calling etc.

When you have accomplished this one single thing, congratulate yourself for having done it. Now that you’ve accomplished and feel good about doing something, repeat this tomorrow. Perhaps tomorrow you’ll only do one thing again, or maybe you’ll add two things to your list. When you actually accomplish things, and you can see things getting done in black and white, you’ll start seeing movement in your life instead of stagnation. As a result, your self-image, self-respect is likely to rise and you’ll start feeling better about who you are and give yourself some credit for what you could accomplish in the future.

Have a wonderful day.

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