Sometimes, we equate high self-esteem with setting high goals … After all, why would you reach for the stars if you didn’t know you could touch them? It’s also pretty common to link self-esteem with beauty, great grooming habits, or a perfect fashion sense.
The thought is that anyone who takes the time to look that good (or simply is that naturally attractive), has to feel great about themselves. But the truth behind self-esteem is far more complex than how well you do at work or what your external appearance is like.
True self-esteem comes from within, and that’s sometimes hard to detect. So, take this quick, score-it-yourself quiz to find out where you fall on the scale of self-worth. You might be surprised by the results:
1. In terms of how you feel about yourself daily, your job performance is:
A. Hugely important — in fact, my self-perception is kind of reliant upon it. (10)
B. Somewhat important — I have integrity and the desire to do well, so I can get bummed (or excited) depending on my results at work. (5)
C. Not important — who cares about my stupid job anyway? (0)
2. The status of my relationship (past or present) is important to how I view myself because:
A. Without a mate, I have nothing. (10)
B. It’s not important to my worth, but it is tied to my happiness. (0)
C. The ebb and flow of my love life teaches me lessons about myself and my partner(s). (5)
3. True or False: I put tons of pressure on myself and am seriously upset when I fail to meet my expectations.
A. Always true (10)
B. Sometimes true (5)
C. False (0)
4. People would describe me as a perfectionist …
A. Are you kidding? My picture is next to perfectionist in the dictionary! (10)
B. Not really, but they would say I have standards and care about what I’m doing. (5)
C. No way. Exactly the opposite. (0)
5. Ok, I admit it, I care about what other people think.
A. All the time. I get dressed to peek out the window. (10)
B. When they’re important to me, of course I do. But I’m not obsessed. (5)
C. I don’t. I walk completely to my own drummer. In fact, I make a point of it! (0)
6. True or false: One failure (or poor performance) rocks my confidence in all areas.
A. True (10)
B. False (5)
7. My self-esteem can best be described as:
A. A day to day affair — it can be super high or totally low, depending on how things go. (10)
B. Pretty solid — I’ve got a sense of myself and even if I’m not always perfect, I’m ok with that. (5)
C. Excellent — I’m motivated entirely by my own interests. (0)
8. When it comes to my own weakness, I feel:
A. Difficulty acknowledging them, only because I always strive to be better. (10)
B. We’re all human, so I can live with them (and improve myself sometimes, too). (5)
C. I don’t have them … at least not a lot of them. (0)
Brave face. You may think your self-esteem is in tact and that your devil-may-care attitude says you’ve got confidence in spades, but that brave face might actually belie a disconnected interior with limited to little self-esteem. How you ask?
For starters, while you shouldn’t let your image dictate your life, those who value themselves care at least a little bit about how they’re perceived by the people closest to them — even if they don’t always agree. They recognize that what others think of our decisions, strengths, and weaknesses has a lot to teach us. We’re supposed to care about our relationships. And on that note, all your “not caring” may really be your attempt (subconscious or otherwise) at avoiding self-examination — perhaps with the idea that your effort won’t actually get you anywhere, anyway.
And it usually follows that walking to your own drummer is a great thing (and indeed a sign of strength), however, trying to be an island is not. Likewise, don’t mistake your “I do as I please” creed with turning inward. There’s a difference between an examined life and hiding like a turtle in its shell (beneath a tough, protective exterior). You are worthy … and once you cultivate those feelings, you may find a lot will change.
Solid foundation. Life impacts everyone — for better and for worse. That said, despite the ebb and flow of your personal ocean, you seem buoyant and steady. You feel generally positive about yourself and your prospects. You view yourself as equal to other people (as opposed to superior or inferior), and recognize that making connections is an important and fulfilling aspect of existence. You’re not hugely affected by the day to day events of your life (though of course, everyone can be shaken sometimes), because you are comfortable with both having weaknesses and expressing strength. You’re not afraid to accept responsibility for your mistakes or give credit for someone else’s success. That’s because you’re not threatened, which is a very positive place to be.
To grow even stronger in your core confidence, try taking time out for personal fulfillment. Do things that are enjoyable to you as often as possible — particularly when they’re not linked to work or home or any exterior obligation. What you’re likely to find is that you feel even better about yourself and make an even more positive impact on the world.
Seeking affirmation. You’re probably a go-getter with insanely high standards. No doubt you sometimes fail to meet your own expectations — and then beat yourself up for that. People assume you to be confident, self-assured, and even cocky. In fact, you’re the picture of high self-esteem. The problem here, is that your self-esteem is not as strong as you (or they) think.
While you may be biting off more than you can chew (likely from every area of your plate), your inability to hold steady overall satisfaction is tied to a quest for external approval. If that weren’t true, your feelings about you wouldn’t tank when things go poorly, or soar when success is in your grasp. They’d stay relatively even in good times and bad. Before you can move forward into more truly self-aware, confident territory (which for someone with your drive, you will undoubtedly do), you have to recognize that validation from an outside source does not make you a better person. You’re already good enough … just as you are. There is nothing to prove.