You live with yourself 24/7 so wouldn’t you say that the way you view and feel about yourself is something that should not be overlooked? Whether you know it or not, your self-esteem affects all areas of your life. It has an impact on your career and on your personal life. It affects your relationship with your spouse, partner, friends, family and co-workers. But most importantly it affects your relationship with yourself.
Before I go further in on self-esteem I feel it is important to clear out the difference between the terms self-esteem and self-confidence. Often we use the two terms as they are the same. But they are not. I for a long time did not know the difference. A few years ago I was given the question “How good is your self-confidence if you rate it between 1-10?” I answered 8, without a hesitation. The only reason I did not give it a higher rating was because there is always room for improvement. I then got the question “How good is your self-esteem if you rate it between 1-10?”. And I stumbled, I did know what to say, I mean didn’t they mean the same thing more or less?
Although the two are linked there is an important difference between the two and I would even go to the extent and say that one weighs heavier than the other, at least in my opinion.
To simplify it; self-confidence is linked to action and self-esteem is linked to value.
Self-confidence is about whether or not you trust yourself to get the job done. It’s a belief that you can succeed at something. This means that you can be confident about one area or aspect of your life but completely unconfident about another. For example, at work you can be confident about producing reports but have a lower self-confidence when it comes to presenting or dealing with employee issues. Or you can have great confidence in your social skills and private life but totally unconfident when it comes to career or work or vice versa.
Self-esteem on the other hand is about how you value yourself. It is the overall opinion we have about ourselves and how we view ourselves. This comes to play a vital role because life throws at us challenges including bad decisions that we make and less comfortable experiences, basically I’m talking about what we all go through at one point or another. For example; not getting that promotion, being without a job, getting dumped or being rejected, a failed marriage, losing friends, conflicts, negative comments from other people etc. When these things happen we have a tendency to believe that our own worth decrease in value, that we are worth less and we are worth more when everything is going great (according to the norms of society). With a good self-esteem, you yourself know that your value does not decrease, your value is exactly the same as when you get that so-called outer “recognition” and “confirmation” of your worth aka promotion, job, praise, compliments, partner etc. It is stable. When these things happen and you have a high or healthy self-esteem, you will feel sad about it sure but the difference is that your value does not decrease in your own eyes.
I think the perfect paradigm to use here is to compare it to money. If you have a 100 dollar bill and it gets wrinkled or it gets dirty, you will still want it right? This is because you know it hasn’t decreased in value, it is still worth a 100 dollars. And the same can be applied to our own self-worth, no matter what we go through, our worth remains the same, and that I think is one of life’s biggest lessons.
A person with low self-esteem will tend to have a negative and critical self-talk or inner dialogue as we refer to it in psychology (aka that inner voice). Therefore, one way to work on your self-esteem is to become aware of your inner dialogue, basically, the way you talk to yourself. This is actually one of the most powerful pillars of self-esteem and I will go more in-depth on how you can do that in another post. You can also read my post “Why you should be picky with your thoughts” where I touch upon this topic.
Self- Esteem is learned
So are we born with a low or high self-esteem? There is a reason why a lot of people struggle with their self-esteem (many more than you think). This is because it is a belief that stems from previous experiences you’ve had in life and the messages that these experiences have given you about the kind of person you are. Because of this they often appear to be facts although they are actually really just opinions. These experiences can include neglect or abuse from an authoritative person when you were younger, an absent parent or parents, failing to meet expectations and standards, bullying at school etc. etc. Negative beliefs about yourself can also be caused by experiences later in life such as abusive relationships, traumatic events or bullying at the workplace or among “friends”. Hence understanding where your negative beliefs come from is an important step in improving it.
Ideally, when it comes to self-confidence and self-esteem you want to aim to have both, value yourself and have confidence in yourself. However, I would almost go to the extent and say that self-esteem weighs slightly higher because self-esteem is about how you value yourself as a whole, It’s therefore not a view that changes a lot since it is related to your broad sense of self-worth. It is a reflection of how you see yourself and therefore it usually reflects in all areas of your life. So why should you work on your self-esteem aka self-worth? Because a low self-esteem is very much comparable to a house of card (the deck of cards, not the TV show…). If you, for example fail in any of the areas that you are confident about, you take any of these away and your whole sense of self-worth goes with it. Basically, your own sense of self-worth crashes and it crashes fast. The beauty though is that just like low self-esteem is learned, you can unlearn it and train your self-esteem so that it becomes much more solid and hence it will make your life easier.
Nothing is more important than how you feel and think about yourself. Why? Because the way you feel about yourself will affect you as a friend, as a partner, as a parent, in work and career and in your social life. The way you feel and view yourself will affect your actions and choices, who you choose as a life partner, it will affect whether you dare to take chances in life, and overall allow you to enjoy life much more.
So to wrap this up I would like you to remember this; your worth never decreases, ever. I might know this; other people might know this but the most important is that you know this. And when you do, it becomes much easier to handle life’s ups and downs.