The title of this post is similar to a recent one at Herald-Net, which appears to be an on-line newspaper in Washington, USA. I’ve added the question mark! Their post has a sports focus, so its unsurprising that the argument is very much in favour of self confidence being the key factor.
The author James McCusker states that coaches preparing teams for games know that the enemy isn’t the opposition, but a lack of self confidence. And, as in other aspects of life, self confidence is frequently the key to success. He throws in a great quote:-
Automotive pioneer Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” That is what self-confidence is all about, the belief that you can do what needs to be done, that you can succeed.
Self Confidence not same as Self Esteem
Unfortunately people interchange “self confidence” and “self esteem” as if they are the same thing. Mr McCusker gives a neat definition of the difference:-
“Self-confidence is built on achievement; self-esteem is built on opinion.”
If you have a good opinion about yourself, if you believe in your worth as a person, you generally have high self esteem. If you depend on the opinions of others to feel good, then your self esteem has a very shaky foundation.
Self confidence is based on our judgement of our ability to do things. Can we do what we need to do? A belief in oneself to achieve, rather than a love of yourself as a person.
In one of my first posts, looking at this difference, I said that self esteem is somewhat passive, not something others can observe about you. Whilst:-
“Self confidence is more active, and describes our abilities and willingness to interact with the world around us.”
So Self Confidence is More Useful?
In a sporting context its fairly obvious that you want your players to be confident, to think they are good enough to win. And watching them play, spectators would have no idea if any are suffering low self esteem.
McCuskers argument is this should carry forward into all areas – its more useful for an employer to have a self confident workforce than know they have good self esteem. This goes contrary to the efforts in some education systems (such as the USA) to raise self esteem in students.
Self Esteem is Still Important
I would agree with McCusker that more can be done to improve self confidence, particularly within education systems. And as a manager, I know someone exuding self confidence at an interview is more likely to be appointed – and then do well.
But… just because you cannot see self esteem doesn’t mean its not important. Without good self esteem it can be hard to sustain the performances you are good at or, as you strive more and more for unreachable perfection, the cracks start to appear.
Also, building self confidence to perform particular tasks as a team – as they do in the military and sport – doesn’t always leave someone able to function well outside that context. Sadly many find that once they leave that task focussed team environment life becomes difficult.
And whilst self confident staff may be good for any organisation, this argument forgets about the effect on individuals. Going through life with low self esteem isn’t fun. However confident you may appear, if you are suffering low self esteem then you don’t enjoy the benefits of your endeavours.
Self esteem and self confidence can be built together in a nurturing environment. But using military style techniques to build self confidence, as McCusker concludes with, may be short sited. But what do you think?
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