Confidence and Self-Esteeem: Two Sides of the Same Coin?
Many years ago, when I was in school in India, I had a classmate who was very confident in taking initiatives. He could do things that we, as children could not. Some of us thought that he was outstanding. He would, for example, be smart in replying to teachers' questions in informal settings where others would be left fumbling for words. He had participated in radio programmes and had done plays on the radio, a medium that was inaccessible for many in India in the late sixties. Undoubtedly we were impressed.
In hindsight, I remember, this same classmate used to be easily excited. He was highly nerve strung. He could not sit still with ease. He chewed his nails. He was suffering with anxiety. Whatever activities he participated in, he gave the impression he was confident. But he had low self-esteem. He participated in these activities to get attention and to deal with his own anxiety.
It is now apparent to me that because his self-esteem was low, he tended to take initiatives more than others. Obviously, it impressed everyone around. But the real need was to get attention. To hide his own fears and anxiety, he had to be seen to have confidence in what he was doing.
A sense of self-worth is termed as "self-esteem." People who feel anxiety in the company of others may have a low self-esteem. They may talk a lot and are considered "life and soul" of the party. On the other hand, someone who has a high self-worth may not talk a lot in a party situation. This person could be termed "unsociable" by others. They would talk less but whatever they say carries weight. They may not look for attention and so they may come across someone who does not have confidence. In crisis situations, they will be the ones who you can depend upon.
Confidence can be internal- what a person feels inside them. Self worth is the measure of "internal confidence." Confidence can also be external- which is based on how confident one looks. The more the person engages in activities to seek attention, the lower is the self-worth or self-esteem. So anyone who looks confident in a particular situation, may not necessarily have a lot of self-worth . And someone who does not talk much may be having a high self-esteem and would be more grounded than others.
With experience, you will be able to distinguish between the two.
Pradeep K Chadha is a psychiatrist who specialises in helping patients with meditation and imagery using little or no medication. He is the author of The Stress Barrier-Nature's Way To Overcoming Stress published by Blackhall Publishing, Dublin. He is based in Dublin, Ireland.His website address is http://www.drpkchadha.com