Self-Esteem: The Leadership Life Skill that Starts Within You

When the cameras are rolling, Mike Moh is ready, confident and able to hit his mark.  


That’s because Moh, actor and ATA martial arts instructor, has put in time not just rehearsing his acting and honing his Taekwondo skills, but also developing the vital life skill of self-esteem.

One of the skills taught in the ATA Leadership Program, self-esteem is defined as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself” by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or as the leadership program booklet states:  “It is the joy of being myself.”

“I think personally I feel like I’m doing my best work- physically, mentally, creatively- I’m at my best when I’m feeling good about myself,” Moh said.  “Not only being comfortable in my own skin but being comfortable with the decisions I’m making.” 

Moh, father of three, star of the miniseries “Street Fighter” and most recently in Marvel’s “Inhumans” is also the owner of Moh’s Martial Arts in Madison, Wisc. Moh says he is not sure how he would juggle his career and family responsibilities that come with self-esteem like he’s learned through martial arts.

“To me, martial arts has been a vehicle to say  ‘I’m really good at this.’…I’ve been able to parlay that into acting and the entertainment business,” Moh said.

Moh has played Triton in “Inhumans,” the character of Ryu in “Street Fighter:  Assassin’s Fist” and “Street Fighter:  Resurrection” as well as Steve Cho in a recent season of “Empire.”  The balance of all of these roles, and the roles of dad, husband and business owner, mean really pushing yourself to new levels.

“Anybody can go online and search for inspiration and self-esteem…In order to improve yourself in the life skills, you have to put them into action and the ATA has such a great platform to do this,” Moh explained.


Wings and Pillars


The eight pillars of self-esteem are confidence, positive attitude, self-awareness, accountability, gratitude, generosity, humility and forgiveness.  Practicing and incorporating these pillars into your daily life creates a positive mindset and truly leads to confidence and satisfaction in oneself.

“I try to teach my students that making positive decisions is a habit,” Moh said. 

The ATA Leadership Program self-esteem booklet shares the tale of the eagle and the turkey.  The baby eagle’s parents instill him with self-esteem from birth and urge him to use his wings and get stronger while the baby turkey’s parents protect him, keeping him in the nest and unwittingly curbing his self-esteem and keeping him from learning to fly- with unfortunate consequences.

Moh talks about making this symbolic tale a reality with his students “to discuss what it is about them that makes them feel good.”

Moh said learning good habits through simple acts like shaking hands and making eye contact can lead to a positive perception by others, which will in turn affect one’s own self-esteem and lead to further good decisions, like surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people, like family, friends and mentors.

A student with good self-esteem makes good decisions in the Taekwondo school, Moh said, “which leads to good decisions elsewhere.


See. Think. Do.


There are three levels of self-esteem as broken down by the ATA Leadership Program:  what we see, what we say and what we do.

What we see, and think, about ourselves, our society, and our world is directly affected by our self-esteem. 

A well-trained, confident martial artist will like what he sees in the mirror each day and think of himself as strong, healthy and smart, without being affected by negative opinions and events.  He will likewise have a greater appreciation for the talents and strengths of others, as well as seeing society as a place to interact with people and try new things and a world that is a perfect place in which he can feel safe and confident.

“Now that I’ve got a little bit of wisdom in me and some years of experience, I have learned the happiest I can be is to focus on my strengths,” Moh said.

Self-esteem positively affects what we say.  Whether we are speaking to ourselves, others, society or the world, if we have self-esteem, we recognize and project a positive image and use the powerful impact of words to empower others and improve our society and the world around us.  Respect for others, speaking up and becoming involved in school or other organizations, using our voices to be heard by our leaders, all can have a positive impact on others and the world around us, thank to self-esteem.

And of course it’s often said that actions speak louder than words, so what we do- for ourselves, others, society and the world- will have a tremendous impact.  If we train hard and celebrate our victories, earning a black belt or winning a championship, we have treated ourselves well, enhancing our self-esteem and leading us to do positive things for others even if it’s just something as simple as paying someone a compliment.

Likewise, our society and the world benefit from positive behavior influenced by a high level of self-esteem, which can lead to everything from obeying laws and helping others, to donating to good causes or caring for the environment.

“Now I’m starting to teach those life skills, those same exact ones I teach my students, to my kids,” Moh said.  “I wouldn’t say anything to my kids I would say to my students. That speaks to what a great program ATA is.”



Eight Pillars of Esteem


  1. Confidence
    Confidence is believing in our abilities.  To improve our abilities we must practice over and over until we create a habit.  Confidence makes it easier to take risks, try and learn new things.

  2. Positive Attitude
    A positive attitude is when we see every circumstance in our lives as a positive experience.  It’s a happy feeling about what we do, who we are and everything that happens to us.

  3. Self-Awareness
    Self-awareness is being aware of what we are doing and what is happening around us.  It is understanding that our choices and actions (or lack of actions) affect the world around us just like the world as an effect on us.

  4. Accountability
    Accountability is following through with promises and the ability to accept the consequences of our actions.

  5. Gratitude
    We must be grateful for all the blessings we receive in our lives, like having our parents, family and friends.  We must always express this feeling by showing respect and honoring those who have helped us in our lives.  We can do this by telling them verbally, writing them a letter or showing them with our actions.

  6. Generosity
    Generosity is simply giving without expecting anything in return.

  7. Humility
    Humility is being open to the knowledge and experience of others.  It is the ability to take responsibility for our actions and share the credit with others.

  8. Forgiveness
    Forgiveness is the absence of any negative feeling toward any person who has made a mistake, including us.  First we must forgive ourselves, then we will learn to forgive others. 


Author: Jenny O'Connor | Originally published in Vol. 23 no. 3 of the ATA World Magazine. Updated Oct. 26, 2017.


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