For a coach, when he listens or makes observations
of clients exhibiting various attitudes or behaviors, he has to explore
what could be the possible drivers of such attributes of the clients in
relation to the desired outcomes.
We will discuss the possibilities of self-esteem
and / or self-confidence as the areas of focus.
Distinctions Between Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
For a start, we pre-suppose that there are major
differences between self-esteem and self-confidence. And it is important
to make the distinctions in understanding the clients’ situation
before considering what treatments to be applied.
We will explore a few cases that point to the
differences between self-esteem and self-confidence and later determine
the general principles and guidelines:
An employee was requested to perform a
new task, which he is not familiar at all. Mr. X responded: “I
don’t know how to do it, but I will like to try”. We can say he
has shown good degree of confidence and he has decided it is worth his
If something is worth my effort, I can also say
that my worth or value can match with the worthiness of the task or
challenge in front of me to take it up. Likewise, if you ask me to queue
up for hours in order I can save $5, I will say that it is not worth my
effort. My worth or value is more than $5, as I may be able to make a
few hundred dollars in those few hours using my knowledge or services.
So, my self-esteem is worth more than $5 and I have no problem (having
the self-confidence) to carry out the task, if I want to.
We can conclude that Mr. X has both self-esteem and
In another case, Mr. Y responded, “
“I don’t know how to do it. And I do not want to do it. Please get
somebody else to do it.” This is usually interpreted as lack of
motivation, or lack of initiatives, or lack of pro-activeness, or
co-operation! The treatment by management is usually a lot of
so-called “coaching” “counseling” (perceived as lecturing, or
imposition of values, by the staff concerned) or the staff is sent to
motivation training courses, or team building programs.
But the issue may be in the area of self-esteem and
/ or self-confidence.
We will explore further.
Mr. Y1 is thinking ‘What is it for me?
How do I benefit from venturing into new task?” He is evaluating the
worthiness of the new task. If it is worth it, he could try to learn
whatever maybe needed to perform the new task. We can say that he has
an overall self-esteem of himself, just that he needs to evaluate this
particular worthiness and from there, he could develop or mobilize
self-confidence to carry out the new task.
Mr. Y2, rationally knows that the new
task is very challenging and promising in the sense that it could lead
to greater benefits like faster career promotion or greater market
worth as an employee with such new experience.
Here, we explore a few possible cases, assuming
that the person knows the positive aspects of the new challenge.
Mr. Y2a initially expressed some anxiety
and difficulty. But his self-confidence level picks up as he learns
and progresses along the way. We can conclude he has the overall sense
of his worth, or self-esteem and willing to increase his knowledge and
skills to gain more self-confidence in the new tasks with different
Mr, Y2b, knows all the good potentials
and benefits in the new task, but he has other priorities in life and
other strategies for his career advancement, and he declines the new
task offer. We can conclude that he has his own self-esteem and
self-confidence, just not in this particular task or field.
Mr. Y2c, again understands the enormous
opportunity and future benefits, but he does not see the needs to take
up such challenges for the time being. He is quite happy with his
current situation. We conclude he is not “ready” (assuming he may
see the needs later in his life.) He goes on with his daily routine,
carrying out his present task diligently and happily. He is exhibiting
his current level of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Mr. Y2d, fully agrees with the good
learning opportunities for a more promising futures, but he has deep
reservations. Although he constantly receives feedback of his proven
capabilities, and it should not take him much effort to learn a bit
more for the new task, he is unsure, anxious and feels disturbed. It
is like a student who consistently scores very high in the school
examinations, has high sense of anxiety in the next coming
examination. Usually these people expresses the problem as lack of
self-confidence, in spite of numerous proven successes, it is more
likely that it is a case of low self-esteem. Sometimes, they use other
“excuses”, like, he is not ready, other priorities, not really
fulfilling the needs, too much external pressures etc.
Often, we notice some high achievers, who have many
successes and many achievements, but they behave as if they have not
really achieved anything. They don’t appear to be at peace with
themselves, always in the high anxiety state of mind. There is no lack
of self-confidence, as they take on great challenges, the more the
better, even in areas not within their current capabilities. They are
forever trying to prove to themselves they are OK.
These people likely suffer deep sense of low
self-esteem, with very low worthiness of themselves.
We can also have a situation that with such low
esteem, and trying to prove himself or herself, he lacks capabilities
and make mistakes and blunders, although the person tries to boost his
or her self-confidence. The failures he or she then experiences, further
deteriorates his or her self-esteem and self-confidence.
High Self-Esteem and High Self-Confidence
In discussing a case of “high self-esteem and
high self-confidence”, we do not imply that this is the ideal goal for
everybody. In NLP, we have the pre-supposition that “every behavior
has its good intention”. There is no right or wrong, good or bad
judgment of behavior, but we have to take into consideration the
intended outcomes and consequences with respect to the stakeholders or
In this illustration, we are again trying to show
the distinctions between self-esteem and self-confidence.
As we study great men and great women from the
perspectives of self-esteem and self-confidence, we see the attainment
of both high self-esteem and high self-confidence by these great people.
For example, Gandhi of India and Mother Teresa and
when we trace to the earliest years when they embarked on their journeys
to greatness, we notice that they were just like ordinary people. They
may not have imagined the ultimate achievements they had made, but they
had deep sense of their capacity to love and to liberate, and they had
confidence at that earlier time to make some contributions or take small
steps in the direction of their visions. They knew they have some deep
sense of purpose in their life.
They were humble and did not behave boastful in
anyway, nor did they impose their values or standards on others, They
just “did it anyway”.!
Over years they expanded or reinforced their
capacity and capabilities, and they continued to achieve greater
results. We conclude that they have high self-esteem (high worthiness
and they manifested such quality attributes in the many things they
achieved, in their capabilities and self-confidence.)
Now, we turn to great evil men in history. We also
notice enormous high self-esteem and self-confidence in creating evils.
For example, Hitler, not only was his capacity of hatred of a particular
race (Jews) high, millions millions of Jews did not even deserve a tinny
speck in his “room of capacity” or his worthiness and they were be
to completed wiped off from this planet. Hitler certainly had great
self-confidence and capabilities to carry out his mission, mobilizing
the many scientists and engineers to create innovative weapons and
devices of mass destructions.
We can now draw the concepts of self-esteem as
equivalent to capacity (to create good or evils) and self-confidence to
capability to do the things.
A Cartesian Matrix
From the above discussion, we can draw a Cartesian
matrix to see the various situations of self-esteem and self-confidence.
Self-Esteem and High Self-confidence
capacity to create intended results (good or evils), and high
capabilities to achieve the intended results.
touch and believe in his sense of mission or purpose
behavior is congruent with his sense of mission or purpose and
does not generate conflict to his state of mind.
may appear to others having high state of self-confidence.
Self-Esteem and Low Self-Confidence
ideals, high goals, but lack of knowledge and skills.
may appear to others as having self-confidence, say from his talk
of high ideals.
not know what direction to take yet, what focus?
over years, high self-esteem may erode or diminish when he could
not face or cope with the realities of life.
years, a large number may fall into this category, from the above
both self-esteem and self-confidence are correspondingly low, they
may appear to others as having good self-confidence.
summarize their life as neither good nor bad, a mediocre.
get defeated by life or system over years
be a child under negative environment of abuse or neglect.
Having a perception of others as exhibiting
self-confidence and happiness may be misleading, as that self-confidence
may not necessary bring about the best outcomes, nor reflecting the
underlying self-worth or self-esteem.
We will find that for a general healthy growth of a
human being, there is migration from one state to another state in the
above four categories, depending on context and stages of maturity.
For that, we can find examples of great men with
different migration stages in their life, or for that matter, evil men.
Likewise for successful people, or those with life of disastrous
With the above linked concepts between self-esteem
and capacity, and self-confidence with capability, we can draw a
metaphor of “container” for self-esteem / capacity, and “filling
up the container” as capability or self-confidence.
In the case of high self-esteem and
self-confidence, we imagine a person with huge container, and the
ability to fill up the container over time. We can further imagine he
has no conflict in doing so, as the container is there, and he has the
ability or acquire new capability to fill up the container in the
timeframe he chooses.
This is in contrast with another person, with very
small container (low self-esteem), yet he wants to achieve greater
results in life. There is no “room” or “congested room” in his
container, as he desires to pour in large quantity of water. He will
create stress to himself, and the water will overflow, making him feel
his effort as worthless. Imagine you have a small physical room and you try to
pack many things into it, and you still have much more items to bring
Another person may adopt different strategy, for
example, he builds and enlarges his container (self-esteem) at bit at a
time with corresponding capability and ability to fill up the growing
In another extreme case of zero self-esteem and
zero self-confidence; no room, no capacity and no capability or ability,
except follow the basic instinct to survive, we can think of example of
some beggars, without any sense of dignity.
(Note: Many organizations are seeking to build
capability of their staff in achieving the organization visions or
business objectives, and they meet obstacles when they do not pay equal
attention to the individual and collective self-esteem or capacity
issues. And they are met with problems like low morale, low motivation,
negative mindsets and behaviors.)
Limitations of the Metaphor
Although the “container” concept was used in
the above metaphor, there are limitations. This is because the
“container” connotes a physical object with fixed dimensions. In
actual case, the capacity is not a tangible object, but an intangible
space or universe of infinity. Think of capacity in love and kindness or
excellence or ideals.
Some seem to be destined with such enormous
capacity at births, others need to grow and nurtures or removes the
obstacles to growth.
After we draw some distinctions between self-esteem
and self-confidence, we are better informed on how to carry out more
effective coaching to clients in the behavior they are in, in the
directions of the desired outcomes.
In the next articles, we will discuss the various
approaches used in coaching self-esteem and self-confidence.