Confidence and Self-Esteem
Confidence and Self-Esteem are terms that are often used interchangeably and can be perceived to be similar in meaning. And one can understand why, by the inherent connection; boosting self-esteem leads to greater confidence. Confidence in one area can lead to confidence in other areas. And greater confidence can sometimes serve to boost one’s self-esteem.
Essentially, however, they have very different meanings.
The word confident stems from the Latin root word fid meaning “faith” and thence confidere, meaning “to have full trust”. So self confidence means faith and trust in self. Trust related to action, our faith in ourselves that we can succeed at doing something. Confidence is ‘domain specific’, which means that you can be confident in one aspect of your life, but not at all confident in another. For example, you could be confident about being a great cook but not at all confident about swimming. “I can effortlessly prepare dinner for 6 people but I can’t swim to save my life!”.
On the other hand, the word esteem derives from the Latin aestimare, meaning “to determine the value of, or appraise”. Self-esteem, therefore, is our appraisal of our own worth. How much we inherently value, and therefore respect ourselves, determines our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, how we relate to others and the external world. Along with how we allow the external to see us and behave toward us.
It’s usually easier to build confidence than to build self-esteem. Being good at something brings rewards and praise, yet it only refers to that at which we excelled. No matter how many awards one receives, it is still possible to feel unlovable. One could also use confidence as a mask; it’s possible to be highly self-confident in certain areas yet internally carry a deep sense of low self-worth. Therapies that address root causes of these feelings, like psychodynamic counselling and EFT, can go a long way in making long term change.
So what does it mean to have a healthy mix of confidence and self esteem? It doesn’t mean we feel good about ourselves all the time, however it does mean that we are more able to adapt to the ups and downs of life. When we value ourselves enough, we also allow ourselves to be valued and respected by others. We have clearer boundaries with people and situations. All of this allows us to be more flexible in our responses to life, no matter what it brings.
Negative Self-Talk is one of the obstacles to self-esteem and confidence.
What are we saying to ourselves? This is a process of awareness, being mindful of what we are thinking.
Very often, our words may have originated from a parent, sibling, teacher, or someone else who had a big impact on us in our childhood. Our power now lies in realising that even though the original voice may have belonged to someone else, it has now become our voice, our self-talk. The good part? If it belongs to us, we can change it.
Only we have the power to change our current limiting beliefs.
Some steps we can take to develop a a healthy mix of confidence and self esteem:
- Focus on Strengths: We are all capable of doing some things. Focus on what we can do as opposed to things we cannot. A credit for trying. Pats on the back (to ourselves, really!)
- Seeing the process: Accepting ourselves on the path to improvement, not only when we have achieved our goals.
- Take Risks: New experiences seen as opportunities to learn rather than win or lose situations. Seen this way, we open ourselves up to new possibilities. Otherwise, we turn every new choice into a possibility for failure, and stand in the way of our own personal growth.
- Become aware of our self-talk: Only when we know what we are thinking can we start to change it. For example, when we catch ourselves expecting perfection, reminding ourselves that we can’t do everything perfectly (no one actually can), that it’s only possible to try to do things in the best possible way. This allows us to accept ourselves in this moment, while still striving to improve.
- Self-Evaluate: Learning to assess our own achievements. Over-dependence on others’ opinions only results in confusion and indecisions. Focusing on how we feel about our work/behaviour/project etc., gives us a stronger sense of self. Our power is ours. Developing our intuition is a good way to access how we feel about situations/people/ourselves.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
What would you do differently in your life with an improved sense of confidence and self-esteem?
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