Forget everything you thought you knew about what it takes to be successful and listen up: your soaring self-esteem might actually be holding you back. Letâ€™s just digest that for a second. Contrary to the popular adage that confidence is king, there is actually compelling evidence to suggest that as our self-esteem levels increase, so too does the likelihood that we will fail to live up to our full potential. Hereâ€™s why.
Fear of failure
While having low self-esteem can be problematic in its own right, having high self-esteem isnâ€™t the automatic path to success we might have assumed. At the crux of it, our self-esteem is determined by how we value ourselves â€“ yet most of us seek that validation from outside sources, such as praise and other accomplishments. In these instances, our self-esteem is intrinsically entwined with a fear of failure.
This means that unless weâ€™re fairly certain that weâ€™ll achieve the goals we set out to â€“ whether itâ€™s winning a competition or landing our dream job â€“ weâ€™re reluctant to even attempt them as the judgement of others has the potential to shatter our confidence and self-worth.
Do you have high self-esteem? If so, you probably wonâ€™t be surprised to hear that when we do try and “fail” at something, feelings of depression and anxiety are common side-effects. As Dr Kristen Neff, a psychology professor at the University of Texas points out, â€œWe tend to eviscerate ourselves with self-criticism when we donâ€™t meet our high standards. As soon as our feelings of superiority slip â€“ as they inevitably will â€“ our sense of worthiness takes a nose dive,â€ she explains. â€œWe swing wildly between overly inflated and overly deflated self-esteem, an emotional roller coaster ride whose end result is often insecurity, anxiety and depression.â€
Switch up your mindset
Instead of placing emphasis on our self-esteem, concentrate instead on your self-compassion. Hereâ€™s the difference: while weâ€™ve already established that some of us with high self-esteem will shelve our dreams until weâ€™re certain we can achieve them (whenever that might be), those with high self-compassion are actually going for theirs without giving outside judgement a second thought.
Why? Because those with high levels of self-compassion donâ€™t punish themselves when they fall short of their goal. â€œSelf-compassion doesnâ€™t demand that we evaluate ourselves positively or that we see ourselves as better than others,â€ explains Dr Neff, the author ofÂ Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. â€œRather, the positive emotions of self-compassion kick in exactly when self-esteem falls down; when we donâ€™t meet our expectations or fail in some way.â€