The image of our self and our capabilities are going through a daily trial: by others and by ourselves. It is this image which will determine where the road to our self-esteem will take us.
All the people who know us, have formed an opinion about us. Depending on how long or how well they know us, this opinion can be rough and trivial or polished and solid. Of course, an opinion is always subjective and it can be more positive or negative depending on the person’s predisposition to us. It is also dynamic, which means it is subject to change.
It’s interesting however, that not only the others have an opinion about us, but we also have an opinion about ourselves. Everyone has an opinion about themselves. Therefore, for the overall image of our self, both our own opinion and the opinion of others matters.
Let’s take the simplified case shown in the diagram, where we have 4 variations: on the vertical axis the opinion of others, which can be positive or negative and respectively on the horizontal our own opinion, which can also be positive or negative:
- When both parties (we and the others) see us positively, then we have confidence and our self-esteem is heading north.
- When the others have a positive opinion about us but our view is different, we feel insecure. As the others believe in us, they accordingly have high expectations. On the contrary, we do not believe in our self and so we are afraid we will let them down. Hence, we lose steam and start to have emotions of sadness, stress and remorse.
- In the case when the others see us negatively while we see our self positively, we can become aggressive. We try to prove what we worth (often in vain) and this causes us annoyance and anxiety.
- Finally, when both we and the others have a negative opinion about us, we become cynical. We may feel disappointment or even hopelessness. We usually adopt a style of contempt and arrogance.
When we experience low confidence, we do not believe in our capabilities and – for exactly this reason – we do not take advantage of them. Then we produce poor results. But there is always this part of our mind which knows that we can do better and judges us for these poor results. Our poor performance is taken as proof that we do not have capabilities or we do not try enough, which lowers further our self-confidence.
A paradox which comes with low self-esteem is that the more other people praise our capabilities the more our self-esteem lowers (we go from cynical to insecure). This happens because of the increased differentiation between our opinion and the opinion of others.
However, as we travel into the road of our personal development, the opinion we have about our self obtains a positive sign. Eventually, we will enter the area of confidence and our self-esteem will keep increasing slowly but steadily.
See also our article on: An introduction to our emotions