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Clarity on the difference between self worth and self confidence

It’s an easy mistake to make…


….but a crucial one.


Confusing self worth with self confidence.


All too often these 2 terms are used to mean the same thing.


And that’s why…


Sometimes people believe it is a bad thing to develop self worth.


And it’s not!


But if you confuse the 2 concepts, it is easy to give people unrealistic self confidence.


Let me explain the difference….


Self worth is about who you are.
Self confidence is about what you do.


Let me just say that again…


Self worth is about WHO YOU ARE.
Self confidence is about WHAT YOU DO.


So praising your child (or colleague or friend) for who he or she is as a person is always good (providing your praise is authentic and you really mean it.)


Comments like…


“I really value your kindness.”
“I love your enthusiasm and energy”
“I feel really respected when with you. Thank you.”


You see…


These are all comments (or “strokes” as psychologists often call them”) about who the person is.


Feedback on what a person does is very different.


It CAN and SHOULD be a mixture of both the good and the areas to improve. It should be realistic.


And what’s more…


It’s actually harmful to praise people for what they have done if it’s not accurate and true.


Telling your child she did a wonderful job in her maths homework when actually she didn’t is misleading.


So parents who tell there children that everything they do is good, even when it isn’t, are giving those children unrealistic self confidence.


And what happens when that child goes out into the world of realistic feedback?


They get a shock!


Let’s take an example.


Your 17 year old is terrible at giving presentations.
But you tell him he is wonderful at them.
So he believes he is wonderful at presenting.
His first job interview comes along.
He has to present as part of the interview.
He fails the interview due to his awful presentation skills.


So he reacts.
Either by feeling deeply disappointed.
Or by rejecting the interviewer as misguided.


Either way it’s not good.


So it’s much better to give your 17 year old realistic feedback on what he does (his presentation) to help him improve.


And by the way…


You can still give him authentic feedback on who he is to realistically grow his self worth.


Something like….


“Son, I think you would really benefit from organizing the slides in a more logical order. Also your voice pace when presenting is too slow, which may mean some of your audience lose interest.
What I loved is your passion for the topic – which is something I really admire in you. When you speak about something, it is authentic and heartfelt.”


Realistic feedback about what he does. (linked to self confidence)
Praise for general qualities he has as a person (self worth)


And what’s more…


The more you grow your self worth.
The more realistic and at ease you are with your abilities (what you do)


Think about it…


Often when people are over confidence or under confident it’s due to low self worth.


Over confident people are trying to convince you or themselves that they are actually ok. So they boast. They exaggerate. They over-estimate their abilities.


And under confident people often undervalue how good they are, stemming from underlying beliefs that they are not good enough as a person (low self worth).


I’m off to praise myself and others for who we are as people, and be realistic about our abilities to do things.


How about you?


To your happiness and fulfillment.





Steve Neale
“Europe’s Leading Expert on Personal and Professional Growth”


Psychologist, Executive Coach, EI Practitioner, Award Winning Trainer, International Author, Psychodynamic Therapist, Hypnotherapist, Mindfulness Instructor, International Speaker, Creator of the LPS, Creator of the Accredited Masters in High Performance Leadership

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