You have seen them – the people who walk with purpose, looking strong, confident, and smiling at everyone they pass by in the hallway. You know them too. There’s the co-worker who is always comfortable and ready with her presentation, or the dad that can say, “I’ll take care of that” to every problem that comes his way. They exude self-confidence with every move they make. But, as self-confident as they are, do they also have high self-esteem?
You may be thinking to yourself, “Aren’t self-confidence and self-esteem the same thing?” No, they actually aren’t. “Okay, but if you have one, wouldn’t you also have the other?” Another no. Being self-confident doesn’t automatically mean that you have positive or high self-esteem. So what’s the difference?
Self-confidence is something we gain through work we have done to achieve certain goals. If you have studied genetics for years you may have a great deal of self-confidence when it comes to your ability to explain why some people have blue eyes and others have brown. Or, if you have been training to run a marathon you might have a lot of self-confidence when it comes to your fitness level. Neither of these things, however, means that you will have high self-esteem.
Self-esteem has more to do with social perception. It is how we feel about who we are and our worth to those around us. Knowing that we are well educated or physically strong doesn’t mean that we automatically have that “I’m good enough” feeling when relating to other people. In fact, the things that we feel confident about can often act as a mask for low self-esteem. Consider the student that immerses herself in her studies, but is also certain that no one would actually want her to come to a party. She is academically self-confident, yet suffers from low-self esteem socially.
Self-esteem is a more emotional and subjective determination, whereas self-confidence is rooted in absolutes. Good examples of people who are often very self-confident, but also suffer low self-esteem can be found in performers. It isn’t uncommon to find that those with an ability to act and entertain question their own worth to others when they are not performing. In fact, there are a number of celebrities whom suffer from depression, or abuse drugs as a way to escape their own self-doubts and worries that they aren’t good enough. Many of us would find that surprising since they seem so confident on stage or in front of a camera.
The reverse can also be true. People with positive self-esteem can lack self-confidence when it comes to things they don’t feel they do well. For instance, a person who feels comfortable with who they are and how people relate to them, may be terribly uncomfortable joining team sports because they have very little confidence in their athletic ability or that they will add any value to a team.
Can You Have Both High Self Esteem and Self Confidence?
Yes, it is possible to have both positive self-esteem and also be self-confident, but it really isn’t that black and white.
For most people, these feelings ebb and flow depending upon the situation or phase of life. We may not have been confident as students, but are very confident as working adults. Or, perhaps you feel good about the person you are as a friend, but suffer low self-esteem when it comes to how you fit into romantic relationships.
Events that occur in life can also change these things within each of us. Divorce, for instance, can rock someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence. These types of occurances can create a need to re-evaluate who we are and how we approach things in order to rebuild confidence and self-esteem.
So as you look at those around you it is important to remember that the cover isn’t how you judge a book. What you see on the outside is only part of the picture, or perhaps not even that. That very confident co-worker may also wonder whether anyone actually likes her, and that ‘I-can-do-it-all dad’ might be hoping that no one notices he can’t help his own kids with homework because he doesn’t understand it.
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