Are you the kind of person who others at first glance would assume has it all together when in fact you’re struggling with self-esteem and confidence issues? Do people look at you and say, “I wish I could be more like you”, and your response is to silently form the reply, “If you only knew; no you wouldn’t”?
I think many would be surprised to learn just how common this is. When I say that I run into people on a daily basis who are coping the best they can with issues of personal worth, self-esteem and self-efficacy, I’m not exaggerating. On the outside they appear to just be ordinary folks, blending in and going about their business, but they do so with higher degrees of personal stress, anxiety, and doubt.
These people face a number of personal challenges. First and foremost because they appear ‘normal’; (and the word itself is up for debate and defining) they don’t attract concern or empathy for what they feel. While they do their best to mask any visual clues that might reveal a lack of confidence and self-esteem, which helps them in some ways, they simultaneously make it harder for those around them to acknowledge their experience and provide support. The result is that people around them may hold them to higher expectations than they are capable of performing at, and when they falter, the cause of their failure may be incorrectly attributed to a lack of ability rather than a lack of self-confidence to perform a task.
Placed in the right environment with supportive people around them, such people can and do not only function well, they thrive. The issue then becomes finding such workplaces that have the right combination of supportive co-workers and management; where the culture is one of building up each other and people are truly valued as the most important resource the organization has.
It’s also easy to understand why people would try their best to go about concealing their lack of self-worth and low self-esteem. They certainly don’t want pity, nor do they want to be viewed as broken or fragile; even if from another’s point of view fragile they are. The last thing they want to is to be labelled as weak and vulnerable. So disclosing and sharing their self-doubt with respect to their abilities could cost them jobs at interviews, or opportunities for advancement when working and looking to make an internal move within an organization.
I find that low self-esteem is often deeply rooted in people who have been belittled and put down over long periods of time by others in positions of trust and authority; people who held meaningful places in their lives. It could be parents who said their children weren’t smart enough, strong enough, good enough for years. Then it could also be an abusive partner that preyed on them with the message, “You’re nothing without me” or, “You’ll never amount to anything”. Hear these kind of messages enough and you can understand why a person might just come to believe them.
It is of critical importance therefore that we all then become good caretakers of those around us. We do this when we extend thanks for work performed, acknowledge the good work of others around us or just check in with how someone is doing. It can be a genuine compliment on some action a person is taking, a word of appreciation for help received; small things perhaps but each one building on another. The cumulative impact of these small gestures can and does have a remarkable effect on long-term change for the better.
But to you…
You’ve got this nagging self-doubt about what you’re capable of and the fear of living up to what others expect from you. You fear failure; even the appearance of failure. You wonder about the implications of that and how that might alter what others think of you and what you don’t need is further proof that you aren’t up to what needs doing. You might be thinking it’s best not to try at all because you’re likely to fail and then what? More evidence that ‘they’ were right all along…
May I tell you that you need not live up to others expectations. Yes employers do have expectations of their employees, and just like everyone else, you want to do your best to meet those expectations. Start with work that has a high likelihood of success. As you master the basics and string together small victories and successes, you’re personal confidence will improve. If you look around with an objective eye, you’ll see every around you has their ups and downs, success and challenges. Some of us actually have the most spectacular fails but look and see how they still have the respect of those around them and still go on breathing and working; as will you.
We all have our own self-doubts; times when we call in professionals, excuse ourselves from participating because we are out of our areas of expertise. Likewise we all stretch ourselves just a little at times to take on new challenges to find out what we are capable of and grow.
Rebuilding your own self-worth, self-esteem and coming to realize your contributions are valued as are you as a person make take time. It is strength to share your feelings with someone you trust, and that can make all the difference.