People often tend to use both these terms interchangeably and have a general misunderstanding about what they actually mean. When that happens then you are caught in a vicious cycle of trying to become better doing something, being the best in studies, climbing up the corporate ladder, earning loads of money, getting better looks and more. All this in the fond hope that it’ll will help enhance one’s self-esteem. Even yours truly has been guilty of believing in it for a long time and recommending it as a possible way to many others around me.
It’s only when I got down to think deeply into this matter that I realized how far away from the truth I am.
Have you ever wondered why so many celebrities like actors, sportspeople, the rich and powerful, award-winners, the beautiful feel depressed and end up doing harm to themselves? You start to think why such a successful person who has received so much accolade in his field of work would commit suicide, do drugs, become a recluse, and even go to jail?
Our thinking is probably influenced by our misunderstanding of the concept of self-esteem and self-confidence. All those people who I referred to in the above example may appear to be and are highly self-confident in what they do but not necessarily comfortable in their skin.
The fact is self-confidence and self-esteem bear only a passing relationship to each other.
What then is self-esteem?
It is how we see ourselves and how worthy we feel in the world we are in, just as we are. It refers to our acceptance of self and the value we place on ourselves. It is intrinsic in the word ‘esteem’ which means ‘to regard highly’. High self-esteem therefore would mean we regard and value ourselves very highly and low would mean we regard ourselves low.
What then is self-confidence?
Self-confidence on the other hand relates more with our competence. It is the level of confidence we have in the area of our work. For example we would have won several awards and accolades at work or in school and therefore feel very confident about the very skills which got us those awards or recognition.
The negative effects of this confusion
People often confuse self-confidence with self-esteem. They put all their effort into being the best parent, spouse, child, employee, sportsperson, actor in the world and they’re very confident about their abilities, but despite all that it does not make them happy.
This misunderstanding between self-confidence and self-esteem often makes people choose the wrong road in order to become that person who is settled in their skin. I have seen many who spend extraordinary amount of money and resources on their appearance feeling that it would make them love themselves more only to find that at the end of it all they still seem to be not liking themselves.
I have also seen people who think that by amassing wealth they would be happy and start becoming better and better at earning and amassing wealth. They eventually realize that the more they do chase such solutions the more they find the goals moving further and further away. This leads them to start thinking about the futility of it all, as no amount of wealth has made them to be happy. It is a never-ending cycle.
Where did it all begin?
Your self-esteem probably was influenced and set in your early childhood. If you were given unconditional love and acceptance as a child then it would influence whether you accept yourself unconditionally. If you always felt or made to feel that you had to be at your best behavior and meet all expectations of your parents in order to be accepted by them then that would influence your acceptance of self as being based purely on your achievements. Isn’t it the case with most children? They grow up never really understanding and accepting themselves for who they are, always trying to put on a show, eventually losing the sense of self-worth.
That’s what happens for example in the case of celebrities, when they operate out of fear that they would lose all acceptance of others when they get old, look less attractive, become weak with age and retire. Since their sense of self-worth was always built around extraneous factors which actually was only helping improve their self-confidence, they fall flat.
I am in no way suggesting that working hard to be good at something you like is necessarily a bad thing. My only submission is that gaining high self-confidence is not going to automatically lead to feeling better about yourself.
Self-esteem involves working on self-acceptance and self-love than trying to ‘fix’ yourself by doing what you do, better and better. It is a thin line with a profound difference.
Have you felt this way? Are you high on self-confidence and still not happy?
Maybe, its time you re-examine your approach!
“Self-confidence relates to your Body and Self-esteem relates to your Soul”