Numerous articles and blogs equate self-esteem and confidence as essentially the same thing, including Psychology Today. When dealing with people on a personal level, it’s important to understand the critical differences between the two terms.
Confidence is a word in our language that has different meanings depending on the context. To have confidence in someone means to trust them. To take someone into your confidence is to trust them not to share information. Then there is self-confidence which is a direct reflection of how you present yourself to others around you. Self-confidence is what people experience when interacting with you, it’s how they perceive you, what they see.
If you’re not sure of your abilities when interacting with others, it may appear as a lack of self-confidence. A major reason for a lack of self-confidence is low self-esteem. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself.
Rarely do other people know your true feelings about yourself. It may show in the way you present yourself. Then again, there are many people who present themselves well around others and have extremely low self-esteem.
Many performers show their audience tremendous confidence, while experiencing self-esteem issues as with the late Robin Williams. Lady Gaga openly talks about having to over come low self-esteem. This makes the point that what you show others and what you feel inside may be two completely different aspects of who you are.
The feelings you experience when you look in the mirror or when you are alone are a reflection of your self-esteem. How you feel about yourself may also be expressed with a myriad of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. Physical symptoms may show up as migraines or aches and pains through out your body. Emotions may show up as feelings of anxiety or depression.
The mental side is your self-talk, those words in your head that many times become your inner critic. This harsh inner critic contributes to a negative perceived self which perpetuates feelings of low self-esteem. What is your self-talk saying? Do you experience as a constant barrage of criticism in your head? If the majority of your self-talk is negative, it is vital to find ways to change it.
How one feels about their-self may distort their view of situations. An example would be if someone believes that others don’t like them, they are more likely to avoid interacting with them. They are often quicker to react defensively, cynically, or even lash out. And it’s not uncommon for them to turn to destructive behavior.
There are characteristics to look for when you’re wondering if someone you know has low self-esteem. Here are the most common signs:
- Not happy with the way they look.
- Not happy with their life.
- Depression: Feelings of guilt or shame, worthlessness, lack of energy, etc.
- Anxiety: Excessive worry, restlessness, muscle tension, etc.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Eating disorders.
- Weight issues.
- Harder on themselves than others.
- Overachiever or underachiever.
- Giving their personal power to others.
- Not being able to establish boundaries or stand up for their self.
The signs of low self-esteem may be clear, but to understand why is more complicated. Our lives are an accumulation of experiences and these are the references which our sub-conscious draws from. Let’s refer to these references as the ‘data base’ where all your memories, feelings, and beliefs are stored. This is the basis from which your programs are developed. Programs are the things you do automatically without conscious thought.
Your data base records experiences of what has happened to you, along with what you heard, saw or perceived from someone else. As a child until about the age of 7, you were basically an input device with no filters. Everything to which you were exposed went directly into your data base. As you got older you began to develop filters. However, many of these filters were determined by what was already in your data base or by what others said or their actions.
Most children generally experience their parents being too busy, being punished, not receiving praise or of harsh siblings on occasion. However, when this is ongoing, it’s recorded in the data base as how you should expect to be treated in life. This is true for verbal or physical abuse, neglect, and being left alone. It’s especially true for any experience that left you feeling fearful.
Fear is the fuel that keeps it all going. Underneath all so-called problems, lies this fear: fear of rejection; fear of failing; fear of not being good enough; etc. Whatever you tag it, it’s all fear based. When you are in a fearful state, especially as a child, the experience goes directly into the data base bypassing all filters.
Your subconscious is quite literal and has no ability to draw logical conclusions. It’s simply a recording and playback mechanism. And it draws from your data base to create the experiences in your life today. Your data base will give you ‘proof’ over and over again, reinforcing your beliefs and fears.
What can be done to overcome low self-esteem?
Many blogs suggest affirmations. According to Bruce Lipton in his book, ‘Biology of Belief’, affirmations depend on the references in your data base. If your data base has no reference for the affirmation, your subconscious mind will reject it as not possible. Also, understand when behaviors have been part of your life for a long time, it’s unrealistic to expect things to change overnight. But you can change them.
Here are five simple and very effective steps you can take to raise your self-esteem:
#1 is simple physiology. Physiology is the body language you use that represents how you feel and it shows in your posture, how you stand. Is your back hunched forward, shoulders curved in with your head facing down? These are typical signs of low self-esteem. A quick and easy way to give yourself a lift in how you feel is to stand up straight.
Straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, center your weight over your hips, raise your head with eyes looking forward or slightly above eye level. This posture is one of a positive self-image. It tells the rest of your body to lift how you feel as well.
#2 is my blog series, ‘6 Steps to Better Health’. A good place to find ways to breath better, be properly hydrated and learn the benefits of exercising. You will find easy ways to de-stress and how to ‘Lighten Up’ your life. All of the steps will help you feel better. Doing something worthwhile for yourself raises your self-esteem. If you would like the series, click here.
#3 is developing coping skills. These will disconnect the limiting, outdated programs from your data base. This is very important for long term results. Remember that your programs involves memories and experiences tied to emotional feelings from the past. The emotions behind the scenes in the subconscious are the source for bringing more of the same into your life. Sever the emotional ties and break the cycle.
My work with clients involves coping methods that work to disconnect the emotional ties. One that I teach is very simple to learn which you can do on your own.
#4 is to love yourself. And it’s probably the most difficult one. The coping skills I teach will help you release whatever you hold against yourself and be able to fully love yourself for who you are.
#5 is doing something that makes you feel good. Take up a hobby, volunteer, or find a way to help others. When you help others feel good, you get a good feeling as well. When you do something you love, it’s very rewarding and raises your self-esteem.
Making lifelong, permanent changes in the way you see yourself takes dedicated effort. Listen to your thoughts, make note of the ones you wish to change. Start and end each day with finding something to be grateful for. Every change you make will raise your self-esteem. The higher your self-esteem, the better you’ll feel which will reflect in all areas of your life.
MindWorks by Anne Linden
1. Monsters and Magical Sticks by Steven Heller, PhD & Terry Steele
Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton
Conquer Cravings by Suzanne Giesemann