Why Self Esteem is NOT the Key to Confidence

On the third Thursday of April 2020, twenty-one of us pulled ourselves back indoors from the beach, the woods, the dikes and dunes and our backyard BBQs (or stayed right there) to join the second ever WBII online monthly networking event. We grabbed our wine, beer or other refreshment as instructed and got ready to socialize, share and learn together. Lisa Hall, WBII treasurer, and Dymphna Elsink, WBII vice president, welcomed us all and facilitated everything to run smoothly. They made it look easy and long-time WBII member Teresa Moynihan shared that as a result of the confidence she gained from her experience at the first online networking event she is now also successfully coaching and training via Zoom.

Following Dymphna’s reminder of the WBII’s purpose and its connections with the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) and Nederlandse Vrouwen Raad (NVR), each of the 21 in attendance, including potential new member Elizabeth Fontaine of Pilates Core Sense, introduced themselves, stating where they’re from and of course their business.

Can Self Esteem lead to Authentic Self Confidence?

Guest presenter Dovile Corrigan of Azkua facilitated us through a process to understand Why Self Esteem is NOT the Key to Confidence, starting by asking us whether increasing self-esteem can lead to authentic confidence. By defining self-esteem and confidence, Dovile gave us insight into what they actually mean and we realized that, while there is a connection, they are definitely not the same. Self-esteem is related to self-respect, self-conceit and the ego, while confidence is about certitude and consciousness. One key difference is that self-esteem is powered by outer elements and confidence is driven by inner values.

With the quote,

“I know who I am.
I know who I am not.
And both are OK.”

DeAnna Murphy

Dovile pointed out that a confidence based on one’s intrinsic value does not fluctuate (unlike the stock market). Dr Kristin Neff, author of the book Self Compassion and teacher of Mindful Self Compassion, says “high self-esteem is not a problem, but pursuing it is, as it is usually based on a feeling of being special and above average or better than others.” Further she notes “when we fail, self-esteem deserts us, which is precisely when we need it most.”

With these additional insights into self-esteem and confidence, Dovile asked us to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10 for both and then asked to reflect on whether confidence comes from external success and validation, or inner knowledge that your value cannot be reduced by external events. In small breakout groups we discussed this question shared how we had rated ourselves and why. Upon returning from the breakout discussions we shared our insights via the chat. In my group we explored the connections between self-esteem and confidence, and the impact of status and culture. In another group they discussed the way education has approached building self-esteem in children. A helpful acronym for fail: First Attempt In Learning, was shared during this discussion.

Four Building Blocks for Self Confidence

Dovile provided the group with 4 Building Blocks for Self Confidence and fostering self-compassion. They are:

Self-Awareness – Ask yourself what you are good at, when you’re at your best and what others rely on you for. Dovile encouraged those who are not sure to ask those close to them.

Trust in Action – What small step can you take today? How can you break a bigger goal into smaller sub-goals? Dovile gave the example of a manager who wants to run a marathon who took the small step of taking a bag of gym clothes to the office trusting that would make it more possible to stop at the gym on the way home.

Find Your Passion – Understand the values you stand by. Ask yourself makes your heart and mind dance. Do those things and in so doing gain energy for other tasks that don’t bring you joy. Over time, live more and more in the “passion” zone.

Self-Acceptance – Are you comfortable with your strengths and weaknesses? How loud are your saboteurs? Three ways to practice self-compassion, drawn from Kristin Neff’s work, were brought into focus here:
Self-kindness – use understanding, not punishment
Sense of common humanity – realise everybody goes through this
Mindfulness – neither ignore nor exaggerate feelings of failure. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel.

To finish Dovile’s presentation, she challenged us to choose a focus from one of these four building blocks for the coming two weeks and to practice trust in action by taking at least one small step.

Following the presentation, those who could stayed to discuss and network further in small groups in the break out rooms, just as we do at the Carlton Ambassador F2F Monthly Networking.

Thank you to the WBII for your leadership and commitment to providing these ways to stay connected to each other and keep learning during the Dutch intelligent lockdown.

Colleen Reichrath-Smith
CJS Career Consulting
WBII member since 2008