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After five years of working exclusively with college students on stress management and anxiety "control", themes become noticeable. Believe it or not, these themes stand true from season to season and year to year. For instance, around August freshmen leaving for college start to panic. The stress is something they have never felt. Around October each year, the overwhelm of managing mid-terms is...overwhelming. Students have never had to manage academics at the collegiate level, in conjunction with maintaining wellness necessities (sleep, diet, relaxation, exercise), executing daily skills like managing distractions, prioritizing and forward thinking, deciding social priorities, all while missing family.
One theme that has remained constant in my practice (albeit not EVERY client struggles) is the challenge of feeling self-confident at all times in all situations. Feeling self- confidence and possessing self-esteem.
Are these two "self-entities" the same thing? Can you be "full" of one, and lack in the other?
Let's start with self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the act of or how you value your self. It is how happy you are with yourself (not your abilities). Self-esteem is the degree to which you respect yourself, trust yourself and to a certain extent, love yourself.
Having deep levels or self-doubt, self-worth, and self- limits is proof that your self-esteem is suffering, challenged, compromised or low. This often looks and feels like overthink, perfectionism, avoidance, hyper-criticism, a sense of failure, irritability, depression, anger, afraid, hesitancy, uncertain and a sense of overwhelm, mentally.
Self-esteem is the foundation to building self-confidence.
Self-confidence is a skill, not a personality trait. It is not fixed or constant, and often depends on what situation you might be in.
By definition, self-confidence is your thoughts about your abilities. How capable you feel about navigating yourself in this world. When compromised or in need of development, low self-confidence looks like negative think, mental chaos, thoughts about being flawed and incapable, and feeling exaggerated shortcomings about yourself. If your self-confidence is low, you might downplay or hide your positive attributes and accomplishments. You might under appreciate the good in your life. You might question or not believe your good qualities.
So, there is a distinct difference between self-confidence and self-esteem. While the two co-exist, you can be missing self-esteem yet feel confident about an ability such as maybe how well you can draw. Drawing charcoal portraits may be one area of life where your confidence resides. Other feelings of failure or self-acceptance may be challenging enough that you hesitate to engage in other areas outside of drawing, like... sharing in a relationship, or admitting to feeling sad, or making unhealthy choices in life situations, or feeling "not as good as".
There are all kinds of ways that low self-esteem can manifest itself, and you know when you feel lousy about YOU. You know when you feel inadequate, unworthy, shameful. The most powerful thing to acknowledge is that...
No one feels confident and at the top of the esteem game one hundred percent of the time. It is impossible for humans to walk through every day feeling comfortable with every aspect of their existence.
When, however, you practice self-love, acknowledge that your belief system about yourself may be flawed, and actually learn that emotions can teach you about yourself and not devalue you, you begin to extend yourself in what used to feel like risky situations (going to a restaurant alone, making eye contact with the young lady, asking a group of friends to tag along). Self-esteem is an emergence. It happens when you practice self-awareness and trust your emotions to guide you, not hurt you.
Helping students understand the slight discrepancy between self-confidence and self-esteem is a tool used that jump starts the process of self-acceptance. You CAN have one without the other! Helping students acknowledge skewed perceptions of themselves and tap into their inner guidance system (intuition) is powerful in their journey to growing "the self".
Here are a few ways to do some solo work and begin to accept the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem
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