The Beginning of Wisdom, Part One

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

As we approach the middle of another January, many of us are also already likely facing a reckoning of the status of our new year’s resolutions. Already, they may be sputtering; they may even still be stuck at the start.

Resolutions are tricky because they are so often tied up in an accounting of our perception of our success or failure, basically as human beings. They create an “if/then” notion of what it means to be “good.” IF I lose ten pounds/pay off my student loan/hug my kids more/learn Spanish, THEN I will feel better about myself and be considered a more worthy human (in my own mind).  

But of course the flip side of that is that if I DON’T do those things, then I will feel worse about myself and be considered a less than worthy human (in my own mind).

This “if/then,” “better than/less than” kind of reckoning can wreak havoc on our self-esteem, because it declares, rather definitively, that I’m either awesome or I suck. That I’m worthy or I’m not worthy. That I’m good or bad.

Self-esteem is such a slippery thing, isn't it? Because with self-esteem we focus on the idea of how confident we are in ourselves and how positively we view ourselves. And so it’s fragile; oh, is it fragile. It takes a hit every time we do something or don’t do something, or say something or don’t say something, that causes us, upon reflection, to conclude that we simply don’t measure up.

At The Leadership Program we focus on the full idea of self-concept, rather than just self-esteem, as a core building block to leadership. And while it’s a nuanced difference, it’s one that I really appreciate.

Because with self-concept we are able to take a wider-lens perspective—beyond just understanding how well we view ourselves, it expands our awareness of how well we know ourselves: all the qualities and characteristics that make us who we are. Self-concept invites us into a study of our many layers and contradictions and quirks and crumpled bits and shiny parts.

I like to imagine our self-concept as our personal trainer at the side of the boxing ring.  When our self-esteem gets walloped in the ring, we hobble over to the sideline and our self-concept is there with a water bottle, some mending tape, and a pep talk. Our self-concept wants us to get back into the ring. Maybe broken, but never beaten.  

Socrates said that “wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” I think that’s where a strong self-concept begins—in wonder, or curiosity. And what a gift you could give yourself this year—sitting in wonder at the “all” that is YOU.

So, no matter what the state of your resolutions, or if you even have any, remember this:  You Are Worthy. No ifs or thens about it.

How can you approach yourself in wonder this year?




Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.