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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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