Is Self-Esteem Intrinsic to Meaningful Work, and Vice-Versa

Dead cedar removal by:  Junaluska Thigpen – QLCA Climber/Sawyer near Tulare, California. Photo courtesy of the author.

Doing what you love and loving what you do. Is this simply an inverse parallelism, i.e., stating the same idea twice? Well, not exactly. When it comes to meaningful work, is the work meaningful as a matter of our own valuation of it, or is the work, simply by its necessity, important? All tasks, roles and job functions, however menial they might seem, are important, or no one would be paying someone to do them, correct?

Undoubtedly, the question of meaningful work has long been pondered, even since ancient times. To be blessed to endeavor in purposeful work in one’s life is, some would say, the highest privilege. However, I would argue that more important than simply being fortunate or positioned to attain such privilege is the pursuit of acquiring it.

Since we know that, while a rewarding career is not the only pillar of achievement and self-confidence, it is certainly a factor in attaining and maintaining a strong self-esteem. That is why we ought to take a deeper dive into learning more about the intrinsic connection between our life’s work and our own self-esteem.

The foundation of doing any meaningful work is our attitude toward it. Our tendency to make the most of our abilities, even when challenged with obstacles, frustration or exhaustion while rising to the task, will, above all else, derive for us a great reward emotionally and boost our self-confidence. As has been said, the greater the battle, the sweeter the victory.

Often, when we find ourselves at wits’ end when our day-to-day work, career ambitions or future employment outlook become stagnated, we suffer emotionally and our self-esteem becomes bruised. Drive diminishes and our energies may fall to a low point. The silver lining in all this is that we are forced to reevaluate our priorities.

Forced to refocus our attention by the desire for a better tomorrow, it is in this crucible of challenge or hardship that we will many times be jump-started into some sort of required action. This is when we begin to see things in a different light. The necessary paradigm shift takes hold in our mind. We learn to be grateful, value the importance of keeping things simple and acquire the necessary humility that allows us to learn, grow and expand our abilities.

Gunnar Anderson, (left) QLCA Climber/Sawyer, mentoring Jack Wood, (right) QLCA Climber/Sawyer on a Directional Notch cut in Paradise, California.

We gain a new understanding that we are equipped to overcome obstacles and impediments that have held us back. We may realize avenues we had left unexplored. Our life begins to teem with new possibilities, new energies and renewed abilities. When we realize that nothing is wasted, even if it took us a long time to get there, we understand it was all part of our training and maturing.

That is why I feel blessed and uniquely positioned to be in such a great field as the tree care industry. In how many industries do you have, for example, professional climbers who go on “rec” (recreational) climbs on their days off? It is the love of the sport and profession that drives the top performers in our industry. How many jobs out there carry such a thin line between what is considered “work” and recreation?

Furthermore, the literal nature of our industry keeps the whole thing honest. The dangers and rigors of the job tend to keep one humble, which subsequently has a way of weeding out the ride-alongs and check collectors. The qualifications required to do the work are among the hardest to be feigned. Also, a lot of the job has to do with respect – for each other, crew cohesion, open and clear communication, knowledge, the tools and equipment we use and the safety protocols. It is also respect for the environment and the centenarian trees we sometimes work with, as well as for the public and property we work around. These qualifications are what I find to be so unique to our industry.

I often see climbers with great abilities who are humble and privately derive the reward of their work’s passion. These humble servants are, quite often, unsung heroes of a sort.

In what other industry do you derive the immediate gratification you receive in arborist work? In many other trades, it takes days, weeks and even months before any visible progress is made. However, in the arborist industry, many times you quickly see the progress, for example, on a trim job of an old heritage tree – the beautification of the tree and ensuring its weight-bearing potential for future generations. Or when dead, hazardous or decaying trees are removed almost instantly from the landscape and skyline.

Kenneth Jones, QLCA Climber/Sawyer (left) and Martin Leyva (right) after collaboratively felling a large, decaying Douglas Fir in Placer County, California.

For these and many other reasons, many of us have found our niche in this industry.

Look at the diversity in our industry – the different socioeconomic, educational and ethnic backgrounds represented. Different age groups, prior work histories and amenable or even insubordinate personality types become attenuated by the work in this industry. For many, arborist work has been their new lease on life, an avenue and proper channel for their energies, drive and passion.

Why is this industry affording passionate, hard-working individuals the best opportunities as an emerging and newly recognizable trade? I think the answers are simple. Room to grow. New challenges. It affords certain individuals the right amount of technical aspect to their work without overdoing it, providing opportunities to use distinct, acquired motor-skill sets and a wide array of equipment and techniques. It also presents an engaging challenge, the occasional adrenaline rush, rewards – both monetary and emotional – and yes, a boost to one’s self-esteem.

Be good at what you do and be sure what you do is good. Always work hard, work safe and stay motivated!

References

“Self-Esteem at Work” by Ellen McGrath, Psychology Today, October 1, 2001, last reviewed June 9, 2016.

How To Build Self Esteem At Workplace?” by Dr. Bhakti Murake, PharmEasy Blog, 2018.

“Differences Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation,” by Kendra Cherry, MS, verywellmind.com, January 15, 2020.

“Assessing the Impact of Meaningful Employment on the Self-Esteem of Male Veterans,” by Gary Grimes, ucf.edu, 2018.

10 Ways to Build Your Self-Esteem in the Workplace,” by Zeta Yarwood, psychologist & NLP life coach, zetayarwood.com, November 3, 2016.

Carlos Ramirez, CTSP, is in charge of field-site safety with P31 Enterprises, Inc., a TCIA member company based in Oroville, California.

6 Comments

  1. Wow brother, that was very well put. It’s an honor to work with a man of your caliber. You are so insightful and always encouraging. Thank you and congratulations on getting published.
    Your friend Ken

  2. I am so proud of my son Gunnar Anderson who approaches is this dangerous job every day with a positive attitude and professionalism! He takes great care of his team and I am so proud of him!

  3. We are all so proud to celebrate and honor our tree surgeons. We are Blessed with wonderful talent in our organization… It takes a different breed to do this type of work and those who possess extraordinary qualities to do the job. Their “Bravery is courage that has said it prayers…” So continue to “Send it!!” my brothers!

  4. Taking the time to make the World a better place is the path of a righteous man. By far, this is one of the most well written articles I’ve read speaking truth to the love of profession in the tree industry 🌳. My admiration overflows in knowing the author and individuals mentioned firsthand, respect would be an understatement. I love these guys!
    Thank you for making the World better for all of us 🙏

  5. I am proud and humbled at the devotion, bravery, and drive of these fine men! Your efforts have resulted in helping so many devastated communities. Thank you all!!

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