When we talk of self-esteem, we are speaking of one’s overall emotional evaluation of their own worth or attitude toward the self view. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs (e.g. competence and worthiness), and emotions (e.g. pride, triumph, despair, shame). It is the sum of self-confidence (our capability) and self-respect (personal value). I will speak of this from a personal experience perspective, as much as it is from many others I have known over my life.
Ultimately, I have always felt less confident than I should, regardless of my ability. What I did do well, I downplayed as not being of significance or of much worth. Ergo, my self-esteem was never all that high. I have typically held a self image that I was lacking versus those often around me. As a child, I felt that either more was expected of me because I was somehow behind in what I should be doing, or that others were more capable. As a result, I developed a rather cynical self and world view.
On one hand this did not serve me well, as it held me back from acknowledging my talents and furthering some of my interests. On the other hand, it did provide a drive to know more, to practice more, and to try to excel when I was very keen on something. This is common for those that have low confidence yet high competence, its a gap between what one can do versus what we believe ourselves able to do.
For years I sought to improve my knowledge and general level of sophistication; constantly seeking information and additional skills on my own, as well as to learn from others via their mistakes and successes. Primarily, this was focused on one core concept – to understand people and why they behave the way they do, and to master myself. I steeped myself in mythology & lore (beliefs and values of cultures and peoples); evolutionary behavioralism (our wiring’s bias in action); existential psychology (the internal workings of our “rationale” and experiences); physio-neurology (structure of the brain, plasticity, hormones); communication modes (verbal, body language, micro-expressions, autonomics, mirroring, etc); NLP & hypnosis; imago therapy; patterning; etc. ad infinitum.
It is my belief I have come far along through the years, and as a result of working to be more competent, have also become a more confident Dominant and individual. This further allows me to give much over the years to others – time, attention, and effort; an effort that demonstrated to myself that I do indeed have competency. By doing so, there was appreciation, gratitude, and acknowledgement that what I passed to others was valuable. Feeling valuable or of worth also goes into our sense of competence, but cannot be gained without using it.
Through this experience I learned that proficiency and giving moved me towards higher level of confidence. Yes I may make an error, but I must accept that mistakes are eventual, and embrace that as an opportunity to learn about myself or something new. So while I pursue excellence, it is within reason – tempered by both the desire to be a man of many talents and skills, realistic with time and opportunity, and endeavor to keep a sense of humility in what I have developed over the years. This was the lesson in embracing my own sense of vulnerability and not cave in to unfounded fears or anxiety about what might happen.
Also, as I have undergone major life changes or events, I am given to reflection… the primary skill of the natural Introvert. The review of our past is important to avoid making the same mistakes (new mistakes are ok, thats how we learn, but that took years for me to accept in myself). So I retrace how things may have led to a given outcome or event, or alternatively, where the path may lead or deviate in the future. In contemplating these changes, my feelings about them, and my projections about what may you be, I have sought feedback from others, others whom I have trusted or come to trust over the years as reliable and sensible individuals. Why? For objectivity – or at the very least, obtaining a reasonable assurance that I wasn’t distorting my own view.
What emerged was a cycle then: (1) Building competence, (2) giving of myself in those areas, (3) embracing my vulnerability in fear of failure, (4) reflection and self-evaluation.
Feedback and input came from family members, friendships both personal and professional, and even those from prior intimate relationships. This exercise, sometimes referred to as a 360-degree review, I learned in my professional life as part of one’s performance review process for management. The feedback I gathered by way of these individuals is this: That I am fairly harsh on myself; Demanding of others but usually hold myself to even higher standards; Generous and more than patient with the effort, challenges, or difficulties of others than myself; Confident because where proven, not pretended or illusionary. Genuine and authentic, with no apologies for it.
I mention this because there is a misunderstanding in projecting confidence. It comes from learning to choose to have faith in capability, effort, and intent – and knowing when its realistically justifiable. Confidence is said to have no real benefit other than making yourself feel good (despite this cultures focus on it) . In fact, it has been argued that assuming a position of confidence is actually harmful because it distorts reality, hides points of underdevelopment, and leads to a warped self sense of ability that doesn’t exist (i.e. empty arrogance).
While I agree with that danger, I might argue that the benefit is really for the other – for it’s something that provides comfort and security, structure and expectation, and pleases those who often looked to it as a stabilizing force. As such, “justifiable confidence” is worth that effort…
Much of being a Dominant is projecting confidence, strength, responsibility, security, wisdom; but it’s all bunk if it doesn’t come from a place of honesty within the individual. For myself, I had to learn to value and have confidence in my ability and what I am, yet do so realistically and with humility. That is what separates the genuine from the pretenders or outright arrogant.
What helped me learn this?
– accepting a compliment gracefully
– letting go of firm expectations
– building better skills
– allowing myself to be appreciated
– insisting on respectful behavior & speech
– distancing myself from toxic personalities
I have learned much in my life, experienced much. Even still, I continue to learn, grow, observe, listen, and work… I continue to dive into recollection, self evaluation, and accounting for both my mistakes and successes, and keep pressing forward while learning all I can.
This is how I embrace one of my most valuable core principles – to strive for excellence, and let go of perfection. I remind myself of this everyday, and often remind others everyday of this very same lesson because they too are trying to overcome the bias between their personal sense of value and their actual capability.
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