There is hardly a shortage of advice out there on how to build unshakable confidence and start believing in yourself again. Self-esteem is a major celebrity in the field of psychology—in fact, it’s probably one of the most researched topics of all time.
We do need high self-esteem, though, so that we feel worthy and valuable human beings—that’s undebated by scientists, unlike the ways to go about getting to that sunshine state of mind or what outcomes our elevated self-beliefs can actually help us achieve.
But one thing is for sure, I believe—to be able to nurture and grow your self-views, you need know not only the right paths to take that will lead to self-enhancement, but equally —the ones not to venture into.
Here are 3 things about self-esteem that I’ve found are not true, contrary to somewhat popular beliefs.
1. Self-esteem and confidence are the same thing
In fact, this is not quite correct. ‘Self-esteem’ comes from the Latin term ‘aestimare,’ which means ‘to appraise, value, weigh.’ ‘Confidence,’ in turn, derives from the word ‘fidere,’ or ‘to trust.’
Simply put, self-esteem is internal—it’s about how much you value yourself, what you believe your worth is. Confidence is the external projection of these inner feelings—it’s the outer expression of self-esteem.
Goes without saying, they are hitched—one can’t exist without the other. But, if you try to fake confidence without feeling it on the inside, a clash is imminent. This so-called ‘surface acting’ is mentally exhausting and you can’t keep up the act for long, many studies have uncovered. So, a better way to go about it is not to fake it, but feel it on the inside.
Yet, another view to describe the difference between the two terms is that self-esteem is your opinion of yourself, while confidence is how certain you are in these opinions, as Prof. Richard Petty nicely puts it in his Ted Talk.
2. Self-esteem is stable and can’t be changed
Self-views are largely established around the tender age of 5, research tells us, and are fairly consistent through our lifespans. But this is not the full picture.
On the whole, self-esteem is comprised of 3 main faucets—global (trait), state and domain. Global (trait) self-esteem is what we generally think about ourselves—it’s a barometer of how much we like or dislike ourselves if we think we are a worthy person. And these opinions are fairly stable, indeed.
State self-esteem, or feelings of self-worth, relate to how we feel in the moment. For instance, getting a promotion may boost your self-esteem, while a divorce can plummet it. It’s the events that happen to us, that can affect whether we feel good or bad about ourselves. It’s self-implied that these opinions are temporary and can be flipped somewhat easily when the next success or failing comes around.
Domain self-esteem means how much we evaluate our abilities and skills. For instance, you may be an excellent student, therefore— have a high academic self-esteem, but may be mediocre at sports, which puts your athletic self-esteem somewhere on the low end of the spectrum.