VOD: 6 Lessons Kanye West Can Teach Us About High Self-Esteem

These days when you see Kanye West‘s name in the headlines you automatically expect a story about him throwing a temper tantrum at paparazzi, saying something politically incorrect in an interview or tabloid gossip about his girlfriend/reality star Kim Khardashian. It’s true that Kanye West’s antics often detract from the power of the things he is saying, but rest assured he’s saying something you should listen to.

This week he stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live! to talk about their “Twitter beef.” Kanye began to explain why his emotions get the best of him and the mission he is on to change the world. Kanye’s ambition often gets confused for a lack of gratitude for the opportunities he’s been given, but during the interview he dropped some serious knowledge and advice about what it takes to succeed in today’s world. Regardless of your personal opinion of Kanye, these six lessons are important to take note of for any artist, minority, or person trying to overcome the odds and make a difference.

  1. Don’t sell yourself short – “If I didn’t call myself a genius, I’d be lying to all of you and myself,” Kanye says in an earlier part of the interview. At first listen that is possibly the most arrogant statement, but it proves that Kanye has the utmost faith himself. Take note. If you know you have an ability or a gift to offer the world, don’t wait for someone else to acknowledge it before you embrace it for yourself. You don’t have that kind of time. Embrace your gift and work at it. “I spent 10,000 hours at this, I’ve been working at it my whole life,” Kanye explains. When you put that much effort into something, you don’t have to be humble about it. When you take notice of yourself, everyone else takes notice too.
  2. Don’t limit yourself to one label or category – As human beings we naturally contain multitudes of passions and talents. Don’t force yourself into one small labeled box. If you love art and music, don’t think that you only have to pursue one – that your ideas only can come from one place. Kanye’s battle comes from his frustration of trying to break into couture fashion but not getting the respect he wants as a designer because he became famous as a rapper. His message here is clear: people are going to try and tell you that you can’t do something simply because you come from a different world. They’re wrong. If the passion and the work is there, your ideas are valid no matter what your primary “occupation” or “title” is. Don’t be afraid to go after everything if that’s what you want.
  3. Protect your dreams – The world is full of naysayers, unfortunately. We are not advocating that you attack those naysayers with curse words and violence as Kanye has been known to do, but we do advocate not allowing someone to make you shelve something you believe in. You have to build a wall around those dreams, around your heart that protects it from people saying you can’t do something. Don’t believe people who tell you that your idea is stupid or you should do something else. Use your voice and speak up, even if everyone around you is telling you to be quiet. That’s how you are heard.
  4. Don’t try to fit the mold – This is similar to the last lesson but Kanye nails it a few minutes in when he says, “I refuse to follow those rules where society is set up to control people with low self-esteem – through improper information, with branding and marketing.” We are bombarded by images every day that tell us the “right” way to look and to act and we compare ourselves to these mainstream images. We get conned into thinking that if we don’t fit into that mold that we are doing something wrong, and by allowing ourselves to feel low we are allowing the projectors of those images to climb higher on our backs. Stop the cycle. Get the right information you need to empower yourself. You don’t have to stay down there – there’s enough sun for everyone. You just have to be bold enough to stand up and see for yourself.
  5. Have heroes to aspire to  – Kanye quotes Steve Jobs, Michaelangelo and Jesus as a few of his heroes. He honestly, deep in his bones, believes he has the power to make the same impact as these legends. You should too. Find people who inspire you to be better. Look up to them and make a conscious effort to climb to their level, otherwise what’s the point? We may not reach the level of the pedestal we put them on but Heroes inspire us to reach and push farther than we could on our own.
  6. Set the expectation for mutual respect – Once you’ve convinced yourself that you are a person with a voice and something worth saying, then you have to convince everyone else as well. You do that through respect – you set the expectation that as a person of value (ie, a person period) you deserve a certain level of respect. This means you stand up for yourself when someone falls below that line of respect, but it also means that you treat others with the level of respect you expect them to give you (admittedly, Kanye has some work to do on this last part, at least in public).

What do you think of Kanye’s interview? Is there anything you can take from it? Tell us in the comments below! 

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