In looking for ways to describe human nature, and of understanding ourselves better, we use terms like Self Esteem, Self Worth and Self Confidence. The problem with these terms is that if we look at what they actually mean we find that they are often left undefined (even in heavy tomes on psychology) or defined in ways which contradict other authors.
This lack of clear and consistent definition has led to many popular writers using, say, Self Esteem to mean just about anything the author wants it to mean – again often without offering a definition. (One exception is Caroline Myss who offers a definition of Self Esteem, but not the other terms).
This lack of definition comes at a cost. Not having a definition leave things vague and uncertain. What is the difference, if any, between Self Worth and Self Confidence? How do they fit together? Vagueness and uncertainty do not contribute to self empowerment.
We do have some kind of instinctive sense of what Self Esteem is, even if it is not so always easy to say exactly what the term means. We can build on this instinctive understanding and create specific definitions. We can define terms like Self Esteem, Self Worth, Self Confidence and Self Respect in ways which show their interconnection and how they interrelate. When we define these terms we then have a relatively simple way of describing the complexity of human nature.
Having definitions opens a whole new range of possibilities. It creates a model of human nature which fits into our natural way of looking at ourselves by using fairly common terms and clarifying their meaning. This increases our ability to understand and to communicate.
Here then is a beginning. An attempt at defining some terms in common use but almost as commonly left undefined, or defined in vague or contradictory ways. I suggest that there are four compatible senses of self which interrelate and interconnect.
• Self Respect: is the sense of value we have for our purpose or goals.
• Self Worth: is the sense of value we have for our own self.
• Self Confidence: is the sense of value we have for our intelligence, skills and abilities.
• Self Esteem: is the sense of wellbeing which naturally arises when we have sufficient and balanced quantities of Self Respect, Self Worth and Self Confidence.
We could think of it like a three-leg stool. The three ‘legs’ are made up of Self Respect, Self Worth and Self Confidence. Self Esteem is the top bit of the stool which holds it all together. Conversely; Self Respect, Self Worth and Self Confidence build and uphold our Self Esteem. If the legs on a three-leg stool are of uneven length, or one or more legs are too weak, then the stool will be out of balance or wobbly. If we are out of balance in either Self Respect, Self Worth and Self Confidence it is harder for us to live our life in a balanced way and we become wobbly too. If the ‘three-leg stool’ has ‘legs’ of equal length, and sufficient strength, then we have a firm and stable place from which to function in daily life.