Today I’m going to start a ‘mini-series’ on what I see as possibly one of the most crucial elements to any success story: self-esteem and self-confidence. I’ve put them his way round for a reason that will become apparent as you read on …
So let’s start at the beginning …
What are they?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as follows:
- noun confidence in one’s own worth or abilities
- noun a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement
At a first glance they may seem to be the same thing. Indeed, they are very close, but self-confidence is based more around what we can do whilst self-esteem is based more on who we are; our worth.
Both are incredibly important in shaping our lives and enabling us to achieve our potential. If we have no self-esteem then achievement becomes much more difficult and we often sabotage our own efforts (at least mentally) before we start or give ourselves chance to achieve anything. Without self-esteem there is little or no foundation on which to develop self-confidence.
Our lives are a tapestry of events; some good and some bad. The proportion and magnitude of these events can be highly significant in developing our self-esteem and ultimately, self-confidence (or lack thereof).
Here’s a couple of simple scenarios which help to demonstrate this (based on two friends of mine):
Friend A came from a family where achievement was the norm. Mum and dad were both high flyers and the level of expectations in the family was high. Older brother was at university studying astro-physics and younger brother was a brilliant pianist. Unfortunately, my friend was less academic although he was extremely practical. You can imagine that when his test and exam results came in, he was not at the top of the list. He was frequently berated by his parents for underachieving. His self-esteem fell. He felt that he was worth little because he could not do what was expected of him. Not surprisingly he rebelled and became a real problem … until he left home and eventually set up his own business repairing cars, servicing and tuning engines. His reputation spread and he became a very successful businessman. Not surprisingly he also became very confident and happy with his lot! It wasn’t that this young man had no ability; it was that his abilities were overlooked because he did not fit into the expectations of others. He needed the chance to discover and apply his many talents, and when he did …
Friend B came from a totally different background. The members of his family were not high achievers. His dad worked at a local company as a storeman and his mum worked in a local bakery. My friend was very good at electronics and always had things in pieces. His sister loved art (but was not top of the class). Both parents were full of encouragement for my friend and his sister. Fast forwarding ten years … both my friend and his sister became very successful in their respective fields. And both were very confident people. When they speak of their parents, they both speak with great affection, with genuine thanks for how they were trusted and for the confidence that was instilled in them because of this. They were valued as individuals and given the chance to experiment and fail, knowing that their parents were always behind them. They knew this and it shaped their high self-esteem and self-confidence.
Now I know that these two examples are probably towards the extreme ends of the spectrum, but they are real examples which demonstrate how important self-esteem is for developing self-confidence. I also understand that in order to achieve some things, we need to aim high and be motivated and pushed on by those around us. But if our core belief doesn’t allow us to accept those things we need, then we will not achieve our potential; we will only be driven into greater self-doubt.
We may look at ourselves and think that we have very little to offer. Is that the truth? Or is it because we lack the self-esteem and self-confidence to see beyond that to what potential we really have? It’s often how we see things that makes the difference.
It is also worth considering what impact we have on the self-esteem and self-confidence of others … but that’s for next time.