“Esteem” in Latin means to appraise, value, rate, weigh, or estimate. Simply stated, your self-esteem reflects what you believe about yourself – positive, negative, or neutral. Your beliefs in turn influence the quality of your emotions. And, in many cases, it is the quality of both your beliefs and emotions that strongly influences and shapes your behavior.
Self-esteem generally covers two primary types of belief. The first involves beliefs related to self-efficacy. This fancy word means the degree to which you believe you can succeed at something or accomplish a certain task. For example, if you have a strong sense of self-efficacy and your boss assigns you a difficult project you may think, “Wow, this won’t be easy, but I can get it done.” Weak self-efficacy responds, “There’s no way I have what it takes to complete this assignment.”
In addition to believing you can be successful at something or accomplish a task, self-esteem also involves having respect for yourself as a human being. It may involve how you perceive your position or status in life or the belief that you live your life consistently with your values, dignity and honor. If you do not possess both self-efficacy and self-respect, you will not have a healthy self-esteem.
Now, let’s talk about self-confidence and its relationship to self-esteem. The word for “Confidence” in Latin means to trust. Self-confidence is the feeling of trust in your abilities, aptitudes, qualities, and judgment. It helps you feel ready and prepared to take on new challenges, confront difficult situations, embrace new opportunities, and assume responsibility when things don’t go as planned. Ideally, genuine self-confidence is a product of the rational, realistic, and positive self-beliefs that comprise your self-esteem.
So, confidence is a feeling. Feeling confident is critically important for making and following through with good decisions. But as great as it is to make positive decisions, a decision is useless until it is backed up with action. When you feel confident that you can complete a task, solve a problem, or try something new you are also likely to feel motivated, inspired, eager, and energized – feelings you need to fuel action.
When confidence motivates you to act and you make progress towards your goal it reinforces and strengthens your confidence even more by generating more positive emotion such as satisfaction, joy, gratification, etc. This process is what is referred to as a positive feedback loop. A positive feedback loop is what’s necessary to help you move away from the disappointment of low self-confidence towards something new and healthy – unshakable self-confidence. Until you can create positive feedback loops in your life, desired changes are not likely to occur.
You’re probably thinking that in some areas of your life you see yourself as capable and competent and able to make good decisions and exercise sound judgment. However, there are other important areas where these beliefs are not as strong or perhaps absent altogether. Keep in mind that possessing self-confidence doesn’t mean that you think you are limitless in what you can do, but rather it reflects a certainty that if something is important enough to you and realistically achievable, you can work towards gaining the necessary knowledge and skill to accomplish it.
When you evaluate your self and your life as objectively as possible – taking in to consideration your strengths and weaknesses – you will be able to assess what you can do to build your self-esteem and your self-confidence.
Can you think of a time in your life when you accomplished something you had never done before? How did that build your confidence? If there is an obstacle standing in the way of something you want to improve in your life, how will you overcome it? We would like to hear from you in the comments below!
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Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.