Our self image
The image we have about our self and our capabilities is going through a daily trial. Both by others and by ourselves. This image determines the level of our self esteem and self confidence.
The opinion of others about us
All the people we know, have formed an opinion about us. It may be rough and trivial or polished and solid, depending on how long or how well they know us. Of course, an opinion is always subjective. 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.
Our own opinion about our self
It’s interesting however, that not only others have an opinion about us, but we also have an opinion about ourselves. Everyone has a self-opinion. Therefore, for the overall image of our self, both our own opinion and the opinion of others matter.
Self opinion vs Opinion of others
Consider the diagram below. It shows what other people think about us. Also, what we think about our self. The opinion of others about us on the vertical axis, which can be positive or negative and on the horizontal axis our self opinion, which can also be positive or negative:
- When both us and the others have a positive image, then our confidence and our self-esteem are heading north.
- When the others have a positive opinion about us but our view is different, we feel insecure. As other people 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 experience 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.
Low self esteem
When we experience low confidence, we do not believe in our capabilities. This is the reason that we do not take advantage of them. So, we have poor results. But there is always a part in our mind which knows that we can do better. That part keeps criticizing us for the poor results. Our poor performance is taken as proof that we either do not have enough skills or we do not try enough. This, lowers further our self confidence.
The self esteem paradox
There is a paradox which comes with low self esteem. The more other people praise our capabilities the more our self esteem lowers (we move from cynical to insecure). This is the result of the greater contrast 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 gains 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