• Bowie Matteson

Self-Confidence, meet Self-Esteem

I got my hands on a great article outlining the differences in self-confidence and self-esteem. I thought it perfectly apropos of our discussion on finding the balance between self-confidence and arrogance in kids.

From a distance, esteem and confidence seem interchangeable. Someone with high self-esteem is generally perceived as being self-confident and vice-versa. And while they are similar and can work off of the other, when it comes to developing each in your kids, there is very special distinction.

Mentioned earlier, confidence is rooted in experience and is the child's belief that they can accomplish a task or outcome. Esteem, which literally means "to appraise, evaluate, or value", is given to those whose effort and presence is of worth. So self-esteem refers to how much you value yourself.

Please note the difference: Confidence is one's belief that they can do something. Esteem is the perceived value and worth of that thing.

Zooming out a bit, self-confidence applied to our child's life is a great thing. They believe that they are competent and able to achieve. It's rooted in their practice and experience handling situations and can denote an ability to learn and improve. Developing confidence has been shown to enhance student's performance in school.

Self-esteem, although very important, is more easily led astray. Value can be applied to just about anything. Overvaluing the wrong things can lead to poor outcomes (re: narcissism, arrogance, meanness). In terms of school work, to encourage low-performing students to regard their performance just as favorably as the top learners is a mistake. But even with their sights set higher, undervaluing the right things can also lead to poor outcomes (re:depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior).

Courtesy "Why Self-Esteem Hurts Learning But Self-Confidence Does The Opposite" by Sara Briggs

So while it seems self-confidence takes the cake in terms of value in your child's life, its not so clear cut. Imagine a person at the pinnacle of their given field, let's say a rock star entertainer or elite-level athlete. Their confidence in their ability to perform in front of sold-out crowds persists day in and day out. But before long, you hear about their drug problems, family-issues and self-destructive behavior. It seems that they don't believe their talents, or even themselves, hold that much value.

Therefore, a self-confident person with no self-esteem can believe themselves to be just as "not good enough" as the next guy. They may even be afraid to try new things, for fear of not being good at them. And the low-confidence person that holds themselves to the highest esteem? They live atop their throne of nothing, learning little, achieving less and believing it to be a gift to the world.

Both these people are not well and very unhappy.

When it comes to developing these traits in your children, understand the difference. A realistic belief in their abilities combined with positive encouragement and a curiosity to learn more goes much further than believing that what they've got is all they'll ever need. To confront difficulties and short-comings early on may harm self-esteem in the short term but it lays the groundwork for developing self-confidence in the face of adversity and actually understanding their self-worth.

As a parent, coach or teacher, it is important to pose opportunities to demonstrate progress and develop confidence. Depending on the child, it's then necessary to either help grow self-esteem ("that was great work, you should be proud of that") or keep it in check ("That was good, but I think you can do more").

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