Life101 Adulting Series
Personal Bank Accounts &
Learning to Trust Yourself
Bragging or Complimenting?
I gave my students a list of common job interview questions. They practiced asking and answering them for a while, and then we debriefed. I always struggle with personal failing questions: “What is your weakness?” “How would you resolve a dispute with a coworker?” It’s hard to turn them into growth points for a positive interview. But my students had a different quandary: “How do I talk well of myself…especially if I don’t believe it?”
I asked them to write down five things they liked about themselves. It could be physical, emotional, spiritual, whatever. Then they traded lists with a partner, who looked them in the eyes and complimented them. I walked around the room and heard, “I like your blue eyes.” “I like that you are loyal to your friends.” “I like that you’re good at English.” “I like that you are learning to play guitar.”
Many had problems even writing a list. Be it low self esteem or an unwillingness to compliment themselves, they were unconvinced of their own merits. This isn’t a problem of the “special snowflake” generation; it’s a human problem. It’s easy to see our failings; it’s hard to notice what we’re good at. I think most of us have problems talking ourselves up, as it feels like bragging, which we have been vehemently warned against as a moral failing. But learning to like yourself — for specific reasons, not just general arrogance — is crucial to being a well-adjusted adult.
Personal Bank Accounts
In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey argues that before we can build habits that enable others to trust us, we must first learn how to trust ourselves. We do this through “Personal Bank Accounts,” a metaphor of deposits and withdrawals that helps convince us of our own merits and abilities to be successful in our goals.
Covey describes first making small deposits of $5 or $10, then moving up to $100 or $1000 deposits. For example, I know I need more sleep. I might make a goal that I will start going to bed at 9 PM every night. Of course, my life is much too crazy and I don’t come anywhere close to this now, so this $100 deposit I tried to make failed and turned into a withdrawal. Anyone who has ever tried to follow a diet knows this feeling: I tried, I failed, so why even bother?
Instead, I might make a goal of going to bed before 11 PM tonight, and then keep that promise. Maybe I’ll try that again later this week. If I make enough small deposits, I convince myself of my follow-through power and can make bigger goals: to lose 10 pounds, to save for a car, or to develop another new habit.
I am a lifelong Lutheran, a believer in sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide (scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone), but I have never been strong at reading my Bible. Sermon after sermon convicts me to dig into the Word, and I start some devotional series, and it works for about…three days. It has never been a habit for me, and so I consistently felt guilty about it.
Back in March, I downloaded a Bible app and signed up for a Bible-in-a-year plan. It went book by book, jumping from Old Testament to New Testament, with about five chapters assigned per day.
I did okay the first week, reading for a few minutes before bed. Then I’d miss a night, and I’d get behind on my reading plan. I might catch up sometime during the weekend, then fall behind again. The app would send a nightly push notification, but sometimes I’d ignore it.
When I open the app, the first screen gives me my reading stats: my current streak on how many consecutive days I’ve logged in, and how many “perfect weeks” I’ve had of 7 straight days in the Word. When my steak would go down to 1 I’d feel discouraged, but it also showed me how many days I’d read this year…and that number kept going up.
Achieving my goal
It has taken me almost six months, but my streak is now up to 30 – I’ve read my Bible every day for a month. I’m right in the middle of 2 Kings (spoiler: it looks a LOT like Game of Thrones), and I’ve already read more than I ever have in my entire life.
The point of this anecdote is that this is the first time in my memory that I have every intentionally tried to develop a non-financial habit. I’m not good at exercise, inconsistent at reading, don’t eat terribly well, but now I feel weird going to bed without digging at least a few minutes into Scripture. I have new insights for my students, I am learning more, and I know now that I can keep a promise to myself. All my little deposits added up to a big deposit into my personal bank account.
What are five things you like about yourself? What do you trust yourself to accomplish?
If you struggle to come up with that list, ask yourself what your friends value in you. If it’s loyalty, integrity, and humor, that’s good! If it’s that you buy them beer and let them sleep on your couch, maybe you need new friends…main point is, think about what qualities, skills, and habits you want to develop, and instead of hoping they will just fall into your lap, create some concrete steps that will help you get there.
Think about what qualities, skills, and habits you want to develop, and instead of hoping they will just fall into your lap, create some concrete steps that will help you get there.hELArious Lizzy
Be gentle with yourself. You won’t change paradigms or habits overnight. It’s taken me nearly 30 years to actually build a habit of reading my Bible every day. Hopefully my next habit won’t take me another 30 years!
If you aren’t sure where to start, follow what business people call best practices: find someone who is doing what you want to do really well, and ask them how they did it. Use their experience to build your own steps. Start with small steps, $5 deposits into your personal bank account, and soon you’ll be ready to make some big leaps into becoming the successful adult you always wanted to be!