Self-esteem has been often one of the most touted top characteristics of successful people. In a way, this can be true because our belief in ourselves certainly matters. But to what extent should you place importance on it?
In the self-development field alone, much has been said about self-esteem’s all-encompassing significance. In fact, many have taken as far as to say that it can manifest positive outcomes in itself. Throughout all this talk about the virtues of self-esteem, how much is really true and how much is just pure hype? Is self-esteem really that consequential when it comes to working for yourself?
If one of the things that have been stopping you from freelance is because you think you don’t have what it takes then this one is for you. Take heart because self-esteem may not be the cure-all pill you need to get started in chasing your dreams.
An extensive review of the literature about self-esteem by Roy Baumeister and his colleagues revealed surprising things about the trait that everyone holds on a pedestal.
Below are just some key perspectives clarifying what’s really factual and what has been largely overrated all along.
Self-esteem Doesn’t Always Lead to Good Performance
Past research has shown that self-esteem is correlated with above average performance. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that self-esteem causes good performance. What Baumeister and et al. counters are that your self-esteem increases from the result of doing capable work. Not the other way around. Similarly, your self-esteem improves after attaining some sort of success and not vice versa.
So the excuse that you should improve your self-esteem first before plunging headfirst into building your own business doesn’t hold any water.
This could be largely attributed to the fact that individuals with high self-esteem have been found to handicap themselves or to procrastinate more. This is especially true if they think that a particular task would reveal their low ability in a specific area.
Another aspect that affects self-esteem and its connection to performance are where it’s contingent on. Does your self-esteem largely dependent on your work? If it is, then having a high self-esteem can lead to a good job performance.
Depending on where your self-esteem is rooted, it’s bound to fluctuate in line with your success and failures.
Self-esteem can also serve as a motivational force in the things you do. You’re more apt to invest your time and energy to things that you resonate with. If being successful is one of those, you’ll definitely think it’s worth dedicating your time and energy in making that happen.
This is why it’s important to choose healthy things to base your self-esteem on. If you root your self-esteem in others’ approval of you or in other external things, then you’re giving them more power than necessary. A healthy self-esteem should be able to give equal weight to other aspects of your life. Otherwise, you’re likely setting yourself up for a long string of misfortunes.
Self-Esteem Can Undermine How People Handle Failure
Self-esteem has also been touted to be connected with how others regard you or how you are regarded by others.
What the latest research tells us is that having a high self-esteem doesn’t necessarily mean that others will see you as attractive or appealing. This is because there’s a thin line between having a high self-esteem and being narcissistic. The two can often be misinterpreted by many people. As what the common adage says, too much is always a bad thing.
This is why people who have too much self-esteem may convey a sense of entitlement. They may often refuse to acknowledge personal failures that majority may find off-putting.
In the field of entrepreneurship, being entitled and closed minded about failures can spell your doom.
These are all relevant information to know. Why? Because it expands our understanding of how our self-worth plays into how we handle future endeavors.
Achievement Lies in Improving Your Self-Esteem
The purported advantages of self-esteem have been discussed extensively. Nowadays, many think it’s a basic need that everybody should aspire to possess. Even prior research has claimed that humanity as a whole evolved in order to strive toward a high self-esteem.
Researchers have stated that pursuing self-esteem can be costly. However, the real benefit lies not in having a high self-esteem, but in striving to improve it.
Nonetheless, this isn’t often the case. More people are hell-bent on preserving a good image of themselves at the expense of true learning. When your only goal is to validate your worth by only acknowledging the good parts of yourself then it’s likely that you’re sabotaging your growth. Case in point is when people who have a high self-esteem erroneously believe that they’ve already improved even when a present assessment says otherwise.
Moreover, having a high self-esteem also doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll achieve more, work better, or keep from engaging in harmful vices. That seems like a tall order for just one trait, don’t you think?
People with high self-esteem are as prone to making the same choices, achieving the same things, and delivering the same work that low self-esteem people are capable of. The difference between successful people and those who aren’t cannot just be based on self-esteem alone.
What has been proven, however, is that self-esteem makes you more persistent in the face of challenges. It also enables you to take initiative, and have pleasant feelings. These are all amazing things to have but is nowhere near the long list of beneficial claims that self-help gurus have long peddled.
When done right, pursuing self-esteem doesn’t have to be costly. So don’t overvalue having the need of having a high self-esteem in order to get started on your entrepreneurial path.
Success Doesn’t Require Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is important and essential enough in any entrepreneurial efforts. Nonetheless, it doesn’t wholly determine the outcome of your career or business. There are many successful people out there who are on the top of their game, who are gifted, and who have achieved things that 99% of the population could never hope to achieve but still regard themselves so lowly.
Cameron Russell, a beautiful, successful model who has graced Victoria’s Secret and other designer runway shows, admitted in her TED talk that she felt insecure despite her status.
J. Cole, one of today’s top young hip-hop artists, said in an interview that “[he] was unhappy when amazing things are happening that [he] should have been grateful for.”
Amy Cuddly, body language expert, has also shared how she originally felt like an impostor during her stints in Princeton and Harvard.
All these examples show that it is entirely people to achieve exceptional things in your field. But still, be hounded by self-esteem issues. This is known as the impostor syndrome where someone thinks that they don’t really deserve what they have attained.
From these instances, we can glean that self-esteem is not a prerequisite toward your bid towards success. It’s something that you should consciously decide to nurture. Only then you’ll see your self-esteem improve along the way.
There’s More to Success than Just Having a High Self-Esteem
If you take the time out to comb through the breadth of articles about self-esteem in the self-development field, you’ll see a common pattern. The common logic in most of them is that you can’t possibly do well in life unless you wholly and utterly believe that you’re this wondrously, confident being.
Belief in yourself is important, of course, but overrating its value you will do you no good as well.
Giving this kind of unadulterated importance to a single aspect of yourself can result in unhealthy consequences. It makes you fear mistakes. Moreover, it makes you focus on the things you do well so you can keep a positive impression about yourself.
Stroking your ego is not a recipe for success, it’s a recipe for disaster. Rather than stubbornly holding yourself to only the good things about you, why not embrace the fact that you’re human and it’s completely normal to fail?
You know what’s better than self-esteem? Self-compassion. Research says it’s a much better way to increase self-improvement motivation. Not only is it much better for your sanity, but it does wonders for your ability to handle whatever setbacks you may face in your freelancing journey.
Also published on Medium.