I am learning a lot about self-esteem in the psychology courses I am taking. One of my text books stated something that I struggled with for months. I am a believer in helping people learn to value themselves and find their worth… hello! That’s the whole point of this blog! You know, trying to help people improve their lives by improving their views of themselves. But one of my textbooks said that there was hardly any evidence at all that self-esteem creates anything in our lives! As in, it doesn’t matter what your self-esteem is, that it wouldn’t really impact your life that much.
Whoa! Wait! What? The author goes on to talk about the research showing that self-esteem is more of a result based how our lives are going at the time, rather than the cause of things going well. So, I took a step back and examined this in my own personal life and did some extra reading. Turns out, I think they have a point.
When my life feels organized, productive, and under control, I feel better about myself. I feel more positive and relaxed. I can more easily shrug off any criticism or negative feedback that comes my way when I’m feeling good about myself. But it’s not just when things are going well.. sometimes it seems to be completely out of my control, like I just wake up feeling really good on some days. Turns out some of it is outside our control and related to biology. Our hormone levels impact our confidence — hormone changes around the time of ovulation result in higher confidence for women, and in general higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) and lower levels of cortisol result in higher confidence. But confidence and self-esteem are not actually the same thing.
What’s The Difference?
Self-esteem is essentially your own beliefs about your own worth. Confidence is different. Confidence is related to the beliefs you have about your ability to do something. For example, a person may feel that they are worthy of love as a human being, but not feel confident in their ability to find a suitable lover/partner. A person may not like much about themselves at all but be able to acknowledge their ability to cook well and experience a feeling of confidence in the kitchen. Make sense?
The good news is that confidence can be built. It’s not something people are just born with. However, as I mentioned earlier, if you are born with higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, you may be naturally more confident than someone who has different hormone levels. But there are things that can be done to grow confidence! And as your confidence grows, you will find that you are achieving more of your goals or that life starts to turn in a good direction and whamo! — self-esteem also goes up! Confidence is not something you have, it’s something you create.
STEPS TO TAKE
Know your purpose — what do you want to accomplish and why? Once you know why you want to do something, you will have the ammunition to fight the doubt and uncertainty that naturally taunts you. If I know that my purpose for this blog is to encourage others, than when I sit down to write it I can fight off all the questions of “what if they hate it?” with “as long as it helps one person, I’ve done what I set out to.”
Be aware of limiting thoughts — instead of asking “why am I not successful?” ask “Why shouldn’t I be successful & accomplish all my goals?” Remind yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way. When fear tells you that you will fail, remind yourself that anyone who is successful has failed and that failure is not the end all, be all. It is simply another stepping stone towards learning, growth, etc.
Use power poses — I’m linking an article here that is amazing! A power pose is the difference between standing like Superman and Snow White’s little friend, Bashful. Research shows that power poses can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol (thus increasing confidence) even after only 2 minutes! (I’m starting this today!)
Try being positive — instead of thinking how things might go wrong, think of the possible ways they might go right. And can we all please get past this “if I don’t get my hopes up, I won’t be disappointed” thing?! You will still be disappointed. It happens. It sucks. But you can move past it. Not getting your hopes up is a dysfunctional coping mechanism that is meant to protect you but is about as effective as trying to stay dry using a cocktail umbrella in a thunderstorm. First step: replace negative words with positive ones. “Can’t” becomes “can.” “Go wrong” becomes “go right.” You get my drift.
Focus on growth — confidence doesn’t mean you won’t fail, but that when you do, you keep going and grow from the experience instead of giving up. We all fail. We fail in business. We fail in academics. We fail in relationships. It’s okay. Just get back up, learn from it and grow from it.