Self-esteem and success
When it comes to succeeding in school, self-esteem and self-confidence play a big role.
Self-esteem refers to the value given to one’s self, while self-confidence is a learnable skill or ability.
Counter-intuitively, one can have confidence without believing in the inherent value of oneself. Likewise one can believe they are inherently valuable, but lack confidence in specific abilities or skills, needless to say, they are different, and you can have one without the other.
“With the brains capacity for learning our confidence can definitely grow,” said Shelann McQuay, a registered psychologist working at SAIT in Student Development and Counselling Services.
Because confidence is based on a skill set, it is easier to develop confidence than self-esteem.
“Self-esteem can have a really big impact on school, by how they cope with the demands of school,” said McQuay.
Esteem can affect how open a student is to new experiences, whether they seek help, and how they respond to setbacks, according to McQuay.
While someone with a healthy sense of self may see a failure as a growing opportunity, someone who doesn’t believe in themselves may lack the resilience to persevere.
“Self-esteem will really determine whether or not one seeks help in improving confidence in an ability or skill.”
School is a time of growth and decision-making, it requires students to take risks and leave their comfort zone.
“People who lack self-esteem may avoid making decisions because they don’t have the confidence and abilities to cope with the outcomes.”
This could lead to stagnation or ultimately of course failure, when it comes to planning the future, or deciding how to approach a project, they avoid making decisions altogether.
Lack of self-esteem can mean not taking opportunities where there is the risk of failure.
“They don’t believe in the probability of success,” said McQuay.
Esteem can affect overall well-being in so many ways. It can make one more likely to be taken advantage of and prevent one from establishing healthy boundaries or asserting one’s needs.
“When you have an unhealthy belief about yourself it’s more likely that you’ll choose relationships that match that belief, or sabotage good relationships because they don’t fit into your idea worth,” said McQuay.
Although developing a healthy self-esteem is harder than just learning a new skill it can be done.
“Knowing that it’s a process, it’s not about putting on rose coloured glasses — It’s about looking for evidence that supports different ways of thinking about yourself.”
Self-awareness is key to looking at the inner critic and inner supporter and realizing that this is a common shared human experience.
“Our mind is generally attracted to negativity; we are wired to look out for danger or for threat,” said McQuay.
Sometimes, individuals become a little more attuned to looking out for negative things and that can alter their ability to persevere.
“We have to make an intention to look at experiences and relationships that challenge those negative beliefs about ourselves and really foster healthy beliefs about our value and our worth.”
The messages in our heads come from previous experiences. Becoming aware of those messages and making the connection between those messages can affect our self-esteem.
McQuay suggested shifting those messages to more compassionate ones.
“It’s important to relate to ourselves from a position of kindness instead of judgment or criticalness.”
McQuay said it’s best to choose one area to start on, whether it’s relationships, academic, employment, fitness, or emotional and psychological. SAIT offers free professional support in all of these areas.
“Self-esteem can touch so many areas of one’s life and know that there are so many services here to help improve one’s self-confidence and one’s self-esteem,” said McQuay.
Services include the Lamb Learner Success Centre, Student Employment Centre, Student Development and Counselling Services, and the Recreational facilities that offer personal training and fitness classes beyond the standard gym facilities.