The self-esteem movement has swept through Western culture over the past 50 years, with parents and teachers alike doubling down on the idea that improving children’s self-confidence will lead to improved performance, and more successful life in general (Baskin, 2011).
This movement started with a book published in 1969, in which psychologist Nathaniel Branden argued that most mental or emotional problems people face could be traced back to low self-esteem. Branden laid the foundation for the Self-Esteem Movement with his assertion that improving an individual’s self-esteem could not only result in better performance but could even cure pathology.
Since then, there have been thousands of papers published and studies conducted on the relationship between success and self-esteem. This is a popular idea not only in literature but in more mainstream mediums as well. Before we begin exploring the complexities of self-esteem it is essential to unpack the differences between the overlapping concepts of self-efficacy, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” E.E. Cummings
Self-confident people seem at ease with themselves and their work. They invite trust and inspire confidence in others. These are all attractive characteristics to have.
But it’s not always easy to be confident in yourself, particularly if you’re naturally self-critical or if other people put you down. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to increase and maintain your self-confidence.
This article explains what self-confidence is and why it matters. We’ll explore how to believe in yourself and how to project this belief to others so that you can be more effective and happier in your life and work. (You can read more in the next article)
Note: Self-confident People perform better at work, so it’s important to nurture your team members’ self-confidence, too.
What Is Self-Confidence – and Why Is It Important?
Self-confidence means trusting in your judgment, capacities, and abilities. It’s about valuing yourself and feeling worthy, regardless of any imperfections or what others may believe about you.
Self-efficacy and self-esteem are often used interchangeably with self-confidence. But they are subtly different.
We gain a sense of self-efficacy when we see ourselves mastering skills and achieving goals. This encourages us to believe that, if we learn and work hard in a particular area, we’ll succeed. It’s this type of confidence that leads people to accept difficult challenges and keep going in the face of setbacks.
Self-esteem is a more general sense that we can cope with what’s going on in our lives, and that we have a right to be happy.
Also, self-esteem comes, in part, from the feeling that the people around us approve of us. We may or may not be able to control this, and if we experience a lot of criticism or rejection from others, our self-esteem can easily suffer unless we support it in other ways.
Confidence and Behavior
Take a look at the table below, which compares confident behavior with behavior that’s associated with low self-confidence. Which thoughts or actions do you recognize in yourself?
|Confident Behavior||Behavior Associated With Low Self-Confidence|
|Doing what you believe to be right, even if others mock or criticize you for it.||You are governing your behavior based on what other people think.|
|Being willing to take risks and to go the extra mile to achieve better things.||Staying in your comfort zone, fearing failure, and avoiding risk.|
|Admitting your mistakes and learning from them.||Working hard to cover up mistakes and hoping that you can fix the problem before anyone notices.|
|Waiting for others to congratulate you on your accomplishments.||Extolling your virtues as often as possible to as many people as possible.|
|Accepting compliments graciously. “Thanks, I worked hard on that prospectus. I’m pleased you recognize my efforts.”||Dismissing compliments offhandedly. “Oh, that prospectus was nothing. Anyone could have done it.”|
As these examples show, low self-confidence can be self-destructive and may manifest itself as negativity.
Self-confident people are generally more positive – they value themselves and trust their judgment. But they also acknowledge their failures and mistakes and learn from them.
Why Self-Confidence Matters
Self-confidence is vital in almost every aspect of our lives, yet many people struggle to find it. Sadly, this can become a vicious cycle: people who lack self-confidence are less likely to achieve the success that could give them more confidence.
For example, you may not be inclined to back a project that’s pitched by someone who’s visibly nervous, fumbling, or constantly apologizing. On the other hand, you’re persuaded by someone who speaks, holds their head high, and answers questions with assurance.
Confident people inspire confidence in others: their audience, their co-workers, their bosses, their customers, and their friends. And gaining the confidence of others is one of the key ways to succeed. In the following sections, we’ll see how you can do this.