Disclaimer: This episode contains discussions revolving around suicide and depression. This subject might be too dark for some listeners.
Every year, Americans spend 16 billion dollars on plastic surgery, 10 billion on self-help products, and 3 billion on awards. But this equates to nothing compared to what we spend on therapy. It is clear that there is a self-esteem deficiency in this country, turning self-esteem into a multi-billion-dollar industry. With that reality, Rick Springfield is the pinnacle representation of a person who is highly successful, yet has low self-esteem.
After a friend of mine saw Rick playing his heart out with no one watching at a small county fair in California, I knew he was the ideal person for this podcast episode.
Rick was a wealthy Australian musician with a top hit called Jessie’s Girl, soap opera star, sex icon, and a life long struggler of flawed self-esteem. At age 16, he tried to hang himself and then tried again at age 67. He had a severe Vietnam encounter that resulted in him killing another human, battled with drugs, addiction, and infidelity, all of which collectively fostered his depression, which he often called Mr. D. as it has a personality of its own.
Everyone has self-esteem issues to some degree, but Rick’s was the kind that drives people to commit suicide, despite how bright and prosperous their future is.
Myth 1: Americans are Pillars of Confidence
Americans are, in fact, the opposite of this statement. We have such a significant self-esteem and depression issue that society made an industry out of it. Overall, there are two main self-esteem factors as to why so many people can have such problems in their lives.
· Environmental Factors: This is when someone has self-esteem challenges based on outside factors, such as finances and marriage. For Americans, during a 2003 poll, most said that their health and money were to blame (even though health was never a listed option). Fun fact: once someone reaches a point where money is no longer a stressor, any income over that does not increase happiness anymore. In 2003, that limit was 50k. Today, it is 80–100k.
· Developmental Factors: This is likely what Rock Springfield had. This is when people in your life repeatedly tell you that you are not enough or grew up in a critical household that chipped away at your self-esteem.
Myth 2: If You Have Not Made By 35–40, Then You Never Will
Yes, Rick made it young in life, but he also had a huge comeback later in life when his hit song Jessie’s Girl featured Glee in 2010. In fact, because he started off so well, he spent the rest of his life trying to live up to that standard, which was an unrealistic expectation. In addition, he did work on the General Hospital Show, but quit two years later to pursue music again.
So, when does self-esteem peak? According to a meta-study posted on Time Magazine, here is the breakdown:
· Age of Awareness: between ages 4–11, self-esteem rises
· Self-Esteem Plateaus: Ages 11–15, self-esteem stagnates
· Mid-Adolescence: It slow rises again and holds steady
· Middle Adolescence to Age 30: Rises the fastest
· 30–60: Continues to increase, and peaks at age 60
· 60–70: Peak holds steady
· 70–90: Fast decline inself-esteem
Myth 3: Something Outside Ourselves Will Heal Our Self-esteem
“Fame, success, and money do not heal” — Rick.
Trying to use external resources to improve your self-esteem will not work, or will only temporary work. For Rick, instead of looking internally, he focused on keeping his standard. He used sex, drugs, etc. for validation.
There was a study conducted by Jennifer Crocker at the University of Michigan, finding that students who placed their self-worth on external factors (such as grades), actually did not perform better. Those who put their worth on internal values were much more likely to do better in school because they focused more on being a better person and not just getting a good grade.
Rick had a rough life, but he managed to turn it all around after stealing a Buddhist bible from a hotel room and adopting that religion. He began meditating each day and really learned to tame his depression. Today, Rick has a three-punch combination that he lives by:
“Performing on stage as a musician, then meditating, then hugging dogs. By doing those three things, it is impossible to be unhappy.” — Rick.
If you are feeling insecure for any reason, know that you are not alone. As cold as it may sound, you are a part of a billion-dollar industry, and self-esteem does get better as you age. For some take away advice, try to anchor your self-worth on your core values, relationships, connections, and partnerships and limit external reliance.
As a final note, if you have to steal a Buddhist bible from a hotel room to transform your life, you may not have the hotel’s permission, but you have ours.