Reflective Parenting

Respond rather than react to your children

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Self-Esteem Versus Self-Confidence

Hello Parents!

What is the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence?  Many people use the terms interchangeably, but I believe there are distinct differences.

Self-esteem has to do with how you feel about your “self.”  Stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself, “Do I like myself?”  and “What do I like about me?”  Do you find yourself hesitating?  Are you finding this task difficult?”  Do you find yourself listing your faults rather than your strengths?  If your answer to any one of these questions is yes, your self-esteem needs work!

Self-confidence has to do with how you feel about what you do.  Often when I ask about clients about their self-esteem, I find they start listing off their accomplishments and achievements.  “I’m a great golfer.”  “My friends say I make a delicious cheesecake.”  “I’m good with dogs.”  What statements like this “say” are that you have confidence in what you do, not in who you are!

One would think that self-esteem and self-confidence go hand-in-hand.  But they do not!  This concept can be clearly illustrated by an example in my own life.  Several years ago I taught Drama.  I had worked hard to develop my own Improvisational Drama program for two community centres.  At one point, I organized a two-day conference.  I presented at two sessions, and the Recreational Director was present at one of them.  She made an observation about me  which has stayed with me for numerous years.  She indicated that I had “two personalities.”  When I was teaching and presenting about drama, she noted that I was this confident professional.  However, as soon as I stepped away from the role of presenter and teacher, I became my other self…introverted and shy.  Although I agreed with her observation, I wondered why I was like this.

Many parents, mine included, believe that if they involve their children in activities, that self-esteem will grow. And that’s not a necessarily correct belief.  They will grow in confidence in “doing” the activity, but that confidence doesn’t translate into good self-esteem (how one feels about oneself).

Children’s self-esteem reflects how their parents view themselves.  An example.  Although my father had many wonderful qualities, growing up as his daughter was less than pleasant.  He seemed to see the negative in most everything, and it was worrisome and concerning to me.  In my 30’s I had the opportunity to substitute teach at the same school my father taught at.  I can still remember sitting next to him in the lunch room.  He was positive, joking, laughing.  Was this my dad?  Unfortunately, this “cape” of positivity came off the minute he returned home.

Just like me, he was confident in his role as a teacher.  He was not comfortable, however, “being” himself.  Without his role as teacher and administrator, he returned to his negative beliefs about himself.  And his lack of self-esteem had a negative ripple effect on all his children.

What meaning do I take from these experiences?  It’s good to have children be involved in activities so they can gain confidence.  But don’t mistake self-confidence for self-esteem.  If you can’t define who you “are” then you lack a sense of self.  And a good sense of self is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself and your children.  Good self-esteem will see you and them through the ups and downs of life.

While you are making “to do” lists, also make “to be” lists.  Who are you when you are not in the role of parent, employee, soccer coach, speed swimmer?  I will explore this topic more in an up-coming post.  In the meantime, think of who you are…   Stay tuned!

As usual, I welcome your comments!