Self-esteem is often viewed as an over-used, new-age buzz-word and is grossly misunderstood. Self-esteem is an emotional opinion about yourself; a high self-esteem alone will not make you successful or resilient. Most street gang members have high self-esteem (contrary to the teachings of many sociologists), but without an optimistic outlook toward the future, they become weak-minded criminals and drug addicts. You need to strive for and maintain a strong, healthy self-esteem, which will act like a thick protective layer of protection from hurtful criticism or a lack of praise. You probably don’t get many pats on the back at work. No one calls “911” when things are going well, and when we show up, chances are someone has been victimized, hurt, or is going to jail. A healthy self-esteem with fill the gap between the “thank you, Officer” you didn’t get or the supervisory commendation your sergeant forgot to write. Resilient people develop a quiet inner ability to praise themselves when they do well, and learn from their mistakes and move on when they don’t.
Not surprisingly, resilient people tend to associate with like-minded individuals. In Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement Dr. Kevin Gilmartin talks about “victim-based thinkers;” people who are resistant to change, who feel that they have no control and that the department “owes them” more than a paycheck. These organizational victims tend to hang out with other victim-based thinkers, creating a vicious cycle of negativity. In order to gain and maintain a high level of resiliency, find positive, realistic, balanced individuals to spend time with, which brings me back to what I learned while reading “A Complaint Free World.” Complaining…bitching, griping, venting…whatever you want to call it, is necessary to the mental health of human beings (Abraham Maslow said so; it must be true). However, too much of it can taint your entire life, affecting your relationships, your career and even your health.
Heck, even our Officer.com editor, Frank Borelli, co-authored a book entitled “Above Dirt” (named for the website it grew from), an anthology of essays that find the positive lessons or support an optimistic outlook from a variety of perspectives. His book details lessons to help people find contentment in everything from nature’s beauty to family life and childhood memories. The general positive outlook of, “If you woke up Above Dirt then it’s a good day,” is supported throughout.
Resilient people tend to be realistically optimistic, they manage their self-talk, they take good care of their health and they have an inner confidence that is largely unaffected by what others think of them. The good news is, anyone can increase their ability to be a resilient individual, which will make you a better, safer, and probably happier cop. Stay safe!
- Female Forces online
- The Resiliency Advantage by Dr. Al Siebert
- A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen
- Dave “JD Buck Savage” Smith
- Above Dirt by Frank Borelli and Steve Forgues
- Abraham Maslow
- Dr. Kevin Gilmartin
About The Author:
Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith is a 29-year veteran of a large suburban Chicago police department. Recently retired as a patrol supervisor, she has held positions in patrol, investigations, narcotics, juvenile, crime prevention and field training. As a sergeant, she supervised her department's K-9 Unit, served as a field training sergeant, recruitment team sergeant, bike patrol coordinator, the Crowd Control Bike Team supervisor, and supervisor of the Community Education/Crime Prevention Unit.
As a patrol sergeant, Betsy served on the Elderly Services Team, the Crisis Intervention Team, and was a supervisory member of the Honor Guard Unit. From 1999 - 2003 Betsy hosted various programs for the Law Enforcement Television Network and served as a content expert.
A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command, Betsy writes for numerous law enforcement and government publications including and is a regular columnist for many police websites including Police Link. A content expert and instructor for the Calibre Press "Street Survival" seminar since 2003, Betsy also serves as an on-air commentator and advisor and was a featured character in the Biography Channel’s “Female Forces” reality show. Betsy has been a law enforcement trainer for over 20 years and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences throughout the United States and Canada and beyond.
Betsy is the lead instructor for the Calibre Press “Street Survival for Women” seminar and manages Dave Smith & Associates. Together, Betsy and Dave teach courses through “Winning Mind Seminars,” an Illinois based company. She can be reached through her website at www.femaleforces.com.