Tag Archives: positive psychology

The Marriage of Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

When we think of self-esteem, the first thing that comes to mind is feeling good about ourselves. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the classic, The Power of Positive Thinking, is considered the father of self-esteem. He made the idea of positive thinking a phenomenon. In his follow-up book, Positive Imaging: The Powerful Way to Change Your Life, he said, “There is a powerful and mysterious force in human nature that is capable of bringing about dramatic improvement in our lives. It is a kind of mental engineering… So powerful is the imaging effect on thought and performance that a long-held visualization of an objective or goal can become determinative… This releases powerful internal forces that can bring about astonishing changes.”

Merely thinking good thoughts and speaking positively may provide temporary benefits, resulting in pseudo-self-esteem. Psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding That Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology, describes pseudo-self-esteem as “an irrational pretense at self-value” and “a nonrational, self-protective device to diminish anxiety and to provide a spurious sense of security.”

Genuine self-esteem goes beyond imaging and visualization. Those things may play a role, but they are just one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is doing good, according to Hartwell-Walker, a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist and author of Self-Esteem: A Guide to Building Confidence and Connection One Step at a Time. She states, “Cultivating genuine self-esteem takes work and awareness. It’s a lifelong process. It means balancing ‘our feelings with our doings.’”

Though self-esteem and self-confidence often seem to go hand in hand, it is possible to have one without the other. Confidence is often the result of successful activity. The more success one has, the more confident that person will be on the next attempt. Therefore, confidence largely operates within the realm of the known. But esteem has to do with perception of one’s own inherent value.

According to Hartwell-Walker, the two parts of genuine self-esteem constantly interact with each other. “Feeling good about ourselves is the outcome of doing good things and doing good things (things that contribute to our community and to others’ well-being) is what makes us feel good.” Positivity without action leads to pseudo-self-esteem, and action without positivity leads to confidence without esteem.

What do you think about the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

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The Key to Happiness? Just Try.

If you want to be happy, new research indicates that it may simply be a matter of trying to be happier.

Yuna L. Ferguson and Kennon M. Sheldon published the results of two studies in The Journal of Positive Psychology that present the results of two experiments on this topic. In the first study, participants listened to “happy” music. Those who actively attempted feeling happier reported higher levels of positive mood after the study. In a second study, participants listened to “happy” music over a two-week period. Half of the participants were instructed to try to improve their levels of happiness. The other half were told to simply focus on the music. Those who attempted to improve their happiness levels reported a greater increase in happiness at the end of the study.

These studies challenge earlier research that suggested trying to become happier was counterproductive. According to the researchers, what made the happier group so much happier was both a combination of trying to be happier and using the right methods, suggesting that people interested in becoming happier might need to take a more active role in improving their mindset.

This study supports an assertion by Martin Seligman—one of the psychologists at the heart of the positive psychology movement—who theorized that 60 percent of happiness is genetically determined, while 40 percent is up to the individual.

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