Every now and again, a client will come to me and ask directly for coaching to increase self-confidence. More often, though, issues with self-confidence show up while we’re coaching toward other things. Important things like clarifying a career direction, writing a resume, practicing for an interview, or coaxing shy desires into the light. Usually, a client will ask me a question that let’s me know that there’s something about self-confidence there to explore.
Here are some typical questions:
Aren’t self-esteem and self-confidence the same?
Is, ”Fake it 'til you make it.” a viable strategy for building self-confidence?
If I were more self-confident I wouldn’t feel afraid, would I?
What gives me the right to call myself an expert?
If someone exudes confidence it means they feel confident, doesn’t it?
I don’t feel confident about this, so I guess I never really ever was, right?
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that you harbor at least one inaccurate or incomplete idea about self-confidence that affects your success no matter what success means to you. Most of us do. I’ve got a few of my own.
Recently I wrote about three beleifs that I call, myths. Starting today and on into the next few newsletters, I'll be writing my response to the above questions. As you read, you just might find a question that is just like yours - or a close relative. You might be surprised by some of my answers. For new readers, you might want to begin here.
Here we go.
Self Esteem and Self-confidence, aren’t they the same?
Well, no, but perhaps you’ve noticed that people confuse the two or use the terms interchangeably. Maybe you do it too. Not a big deal, but, if you want to help yourself or someone you love to develop either one it would be a good idea to know the difference.
Here’s how I think about self-esteem. Self-esteem is the way you feel about you. You might say it’s a relationship between inside you to inside you. Are you a friend to yourself, do treat yourself well – inside? Do you matter? Do you feel worthy of love and belonging? If yes, you probably have a healthy level of self-esteem.
Recent research shows that when self-esteem is high we are best prepared to be happy and take initiative. However claims that high self – esteem directly correlates with success persist even though there is no evidence to support them.
Surprised? I was too.
Turns out, there’s a good deal of research about how very high levels of self esteem cause other problems…a lack of self reflection or the ability to modulate behavior and make necessary adjustments and changes for satisfying work and relationship outcomes. When it comes to self-esteem, there seems to be a just right range – a Goldilocks level, if you will. Too high and we run the risk of losing our grip on reality, too low and we are vulnerable to the list above.
Still, there are huge benefits to striving for moderate (“normal range” ) levels of self esteem like a predisposition to being happy and to taking action. So if your self-esteem is low, it's obviously desirable to improve self-esteem. And, it's possible.
You can develop greater self-esteem through increasing your awareness of how and when you apply qualities such as kindness, integrity, self-responsibility, purpose and empathy to your life. I have some tools for how to do this - contact me if you’re interested.
Self confidence is a kissing cousin of self-esteem.
We usually feel confident about “doing” something, whether it’s learning a new skill, demonstrating our skill or taking on a new challenge. Self-confidence can be global, or about a specific area of life or work. If self –esteem describes how you are in relationship to you then self-confidence is more about your relationship to the outside world.
If you’ve already come to the conclusion that self-esteem and self-confidence affect each other- you’re right. They are interconnected.
Is it possible to feel confident in certain areas of life with low levels of self-esteem?
Yes. You probably know someone who has an accurate assessment of his skills in his area of expertise but doesn’t feel happy or satisfied with life in general or is continually involved in highly dysfunctional relationships.
Or, you may know someone who isn't able to see her skills and strengths though they are apparent to you. Self-confidence is our knowledge of and trust in our skills, and, in our experiences too. We have agency – the ability to figure out what is needed and the skills to get it.
A healthy level of self-esteem allows us to venture into those areas in which we may not feel confident – yet – so we can acquire the skills and experiences we can rely upon. Self-confidence helps us take the next steps in the direction of our hearts.
Together, self esteem and self confidence contribute to our flourishing.