Goldilocks And Self-Esteem

goldilocksBy Dr Neil Flanagan –

Goldilocks ‘gave’ us what has become known as The Goldilock’s Principle-where everything is ‘just-right’. When it comes to people, however, rarely are things just-right, OK, bonza, 100%, or whatever. As it turns out, some people are hard to please. Boobs, we’re told, come in two main types-too big or too small. An increasing number of people are picking their noses (from reputable magazine, of course). And if my bum does look big in this, something can always be done to make it look right. The list of dissatisfiers seems to go on, and on, and on some more.

Back in the 80s, Maxwell Maltz was a very successful cosmetic surgeon. People used to come to him for nose-jobs, boob-jobs, you name it, because his reputation was widespread for giving people exactly what they asked for. Maltz, however, became increasingly disillusioned because even though he gave people exactly what they’d asked for, many of those same people remained dissatisfied with their new ‘look’. After a boob-job, they’d then claim that they were in need of a nose-job, and so on. Think Cher and you get the picture.

Maltz had a Eureka-moment! He realised that the main problem confronting most of his customers was not dissatisfaction with various parts of their anatomies but their self-esteem. So, Mattz hung-up his scalpel and took up counselling. He figured that if he could help people to like themselves, then a great deal of the surgery he was performing would not be needed.

He was right! While some people still opted for cosmetic surgery, Maltz was able to offer a less-intrusive, pain-free alternative. He focussed on building self-esteem-helping people to like themselves, as they were. Consider these real-life examples.

  • Sophia Loren was 72 when she featured in the Pirelli calendar. Until Sophia came along, Pirelli usually featured much younger beauties. Not everyone was as impressed as I was, however. Some people, particularly women of a similar vintage to Sophia, were envy-green that a seventy-two year-old could look so good. What those green-goddesses failed to realise was that Sophia was preparing for the shoot months in advance; the shoot took a couple of weeks; and the final shots, selected from a considerable number of photos, were photoshopped to make them look good; and so on. Even Sophia liked what she saw.
  • It was a beautiful day at the beach. The sun was shining and the surf was inviting. Yet Mary was a reluctant-starter for a dip. Even though she would have loved to ‘hit’ the water, Mary thought that everybody would be looking at her. ‘No one will notice or give a damn’, her life-partner commented, as he limped, lilywhite, and hardly in showroom condition, down to the water’s edge. He liked himself and was happy in his own skin: too bad what anyone else thought. Mary soon heeded his words of wisdom and joined him.

Both of these examples emphasize the need to give Goldilocks a go, satisfy numero-uno, and feel good about ourselves.

Building and maintaining self-esteem takes time and effort. It’s a huge area and some people devote their whole lives to its exploration. Here and now, there are two key messages for us. The first is learn to like ourselves. As Oliver Cromwell instructed his portrait-painter, ‘Paint me warts and all’. The second is to control envy. As Erica Jong says, ‘Jealousy is all the fun you think they had’. Or, we can only ever tell our own story.

Dr Neil Flanagan is a keynote and conference speaker. His bestselling book, BLINK! The Speed of Life (How to add years to your life and life to your years) can be downloaded for free at and you can join-in a blog about this topic, too.

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