Confidence and self esteem (part 1)
Updated: Aug 31
It is a common misconception that confidence and self-esteem are interchangeable terms that observe our inner belief of self; however this is not strictly true.
Self esteem is how favourably we value ourselves. Those with high self-esteem will value themselves highly which reflects in their internal processes, cognitively and emotionally and their external behaviour and connection to others. Individuals with healthy self-esteem often refrain from sabotaging behaviours, avoid toxic environments and substances, and respect their health and mental/physical well being. They also feel very little need to compare themselves to others and have little regard for the external validation held by status. People with high self esteem are resilient, open to constructive feedback, willing to take risks to encourage personal growth and are forgiving both in terms of self and others.
Confidence is more a belief in one’s abilities. For this reason, it is possible to have confidence in one area, such as singing but have low confidence in others, for example driving. When people are confident, they are more likely to engage with opportunities, to take ownership and responsibility and to effectively problem solve should issues arise.
Although these two are not mutually inclusive, they can help to spur each other on. However, in some cases confidence can be found where self esteem is lacking or even absent.
Tips for confidence
We are all born with an innate thirst to develop and grow, fueled by our primitive survival instinct. However, fear kicks that same survival instinct into protective mode which debilitates this thirst. With this is mind, it could be said that courage is the birthplace of confidence.
The good thing is that with courage, you can increase your confidence, the challenging thing is, it will require effort, practice, and commitment.
Fake it until you make it!
How we dress, present ourselves and engage with others, does not just communicate a message to others about who we are but it communicates a message to ourselves. Therefore, “becoming the part” will allow you to eventually assimilate a belief of confidence for real. Maintaining eye contact, greeting others with a confident hello and a smile, will engage a response from others that means eventually this habitual behaviour will become a natural process. This in turn will allow you the potential to interact at greater depth, increase your circle and engage in different opportunities.
Remember the song “Ironic”? “Mr play it safe was afraid to fly, he packed his suitcase and kissed his kids and wife goodbye”. We know how that ends. His reality was that the flight went well but that he waited his whole life to do it through fear. We all have moments of catastrophising, where we tell ourselves that the worst will happen. Its important to challenge these thoughts by reality testing them and validating the outcome in terms of its consequences (both good and bad) to our feelings, thoughts and behaviour. If we do this, and the outcome is good, we are more likely to hold onto the reality of the experience as opposed to the catastrophised thought and engage in similar activities again, thus boosting our confidence.
Accept imperfection and disapproval
You are going to mess up! A toddler doesn’t learn to walk without a few stumbles, but resiliently, they will still learn to walk! Don’t internalise failure as a message about who you are. Stick it in the F!*$ it bucket and move on. Perfectionism seldom serves us any purpose other than the infliction of discomfort and self-depreciation. When building confidence our key observation should only ever be improvement. Further more you cant please all of the people all of the time, so its really important to validate your engagement internally and not from an external frame of reference.
What are your strengths?
A little insight to me…I can’t run for toffee but I can swim like a fish, so guess what, I spend more time swimming than I do running. I don’t avoid running but I know that my confidence would take a huge knock if I spent all my time puffing and trying to keep up with those svelte athlete type runners whilst I was flaying around in the background like Phoebe from friends.
It is important to challenge yourself and to place yourself out of your comfort zone, but it is really important to retreat back to a place of comfort and build on strengths you already have. (I always wanted to be a mermaid anyway!)
Compliment others and partake in appreciation
I think this is pretty vital for all aspects of mental health. When we learn to appreciate what we have, it does not detract from our ability to do or obtain more but it offers us the opportunity to positively reflect on the things, people and abilities that we already have. This focus will bring contentment that translates to optimism which feeds growth, development, and confidence. Complimenting others invokes the same response. When we say something nice to others, often the smile or acknowledgment that we receive in return will fuel the same process.
Stretch not panic
Our comfort zone is where we feel safe, it is risk free but offers us mediocracy. A vast majority of people live here but it is not the home of growth or of confidence building. The panic zone is full of fear, anxiety, stress and tension, which is also detrimental to the development of confidence. Our aim should be to push into the stretch or learning zone with small, well prepared steps that offer us challenge and risk but that does not have a damaging effect on our mental and physical well being. As we grow, our comfort zone expands into the stretch zone and the things that once panicked us become our learning zone. The key is to be aware of what equates to comfort, stretch and panic for you as an individual and act upon this with courage and decisive action. As mentioned before, it is important to repeat and practice this behaviour to build confidence in your abilities.
Although building self-confidence is beneficial, it is important not to capsulise confidence with self-esteem. An array of achievements or certificates will not fill the void of self-worth if you suffer low self-esteem. This requires separate work, which can be far more complex depending on the reason that you have low self esteem in the first place.