A Self-Assessment: Confidence, Cockiness, Self-Esteem & Self-Respect Written By Charity Butler
The Dove® soap company hired Gil Zamora, a Forensic Artist trained by the FBI, to conduct an experiment in self-perception. Without seeing his subject, Gil sat on the opposite side of a curtain sketching with his pencil while asking the person to describe herself. He drew her image based on the description alone.
This process was repeated with a number of individuals. After describing themselves, the subjects were then asked to describe another person they met while waiting to be sketched. Each participant ended the experiment with two sketches, one created from her own description and one drawn based on the description of the stranger. The artist did not get a glimpse of the subjects until all sketches were complete.
The resulting images were rather shocking. In each case, the pictures were obviously related but the self-described image was much more harsh and unbecoming than the likeness described by the stranger. This experiment depicts a difficult truth: we tend to view ourselves more cruelly than others view us.
In our culture, increased self-esteem is the automatically assumed remedy for the predisposition toward negative self-perception. Today in the US, the concept of increasing self-esteem is almost fashionable.
A simple Google search provides pages upon pages of information, evaluations, tests, tips, tricks, and curriculum geared toward increasing self-esteem.
In light of these popular notions, Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s observation may seem abrasive and potentially offensive: “Of all groups in the United States, convicted murderers are said to have the highest levels of self-esteem.” He further explains, “This makes sense… To kill someone else, you must think quite a lot of yourself.”
To understand more fully, consider Rabbi Lapin’s follow-up explanation: “Self-esteem is what you gain when you haven’t achieved anything and thus don’t deserve any self-respect.
The difference in self-esteem and self-respect seems trivial, but the disparity could not be more significant. Based on dictionary definitions, self-esteem is an “exaggeratedly favorable impression of oneself,” unwarranted thoughts without underlying substance. Self-respect, on the other hand, is “proper esteem for the dignity of one’s character or integrity”.
Building on the example above, convicted murderers generally maintain an unrealistically positive image of themselves and lack character or integrity. Using an extreme example makes a point, but the same concepts can be very real and applicable to our lives as coaches and as people in general.
On the field, I liken these concepts to the ideas of confidence and cockiness. Cockiness is basically self-esteem, thinking very highly of oneself without putting in the time, effort and energy to back up the big head. Confidence, on the other hand, is backed by proper preparation and results in genuine self-respect.
Would you rather coach a player with high self-esteem or high self-respect? We all know players with exaggeratedly favorable impressions of themselves. In my experience, players like this are more likely to cause trouble in a program. These are the kids who may be very talented but usually lead the way in making poor choices. When faced with consequences, they start a resulting full-team punishment workout with a smug grin. It sometimes seems that in their own minds (and many times in the eyes of their parents) they can do no wrong. These players are exhausting!
On the other hand, players with real character and integrity are the kids that encourage and lead the team through those difficult days despite their own pain and suffering.
Without hesitation, I would sign a less talented player with true confidence and solid self-respect over a cocky kid reeking of high self-esteem and entitlement.
In my book Prep Steps™ 31 day guide to success for female Student-Athletes, I tell girls plainly, “Don’t act better than others… work hard to improve so you can really be better! When you push yourself and work hard, you earn the right to confidence.”
Self-respect, like confidence, must be earned. It is the consequence of discipline and resulting achievement.
Although the Dove® experiment focused solely on the physical attributes of people, negative self-perceptions are more deeply rooted than appearance only.
Unkindness and disrespect incubate internally and surface in subtle ways. We tend to speak harshly to or of ourselves, sometimes without realizing it. Mental discipline requires the most personal control and restraint.
One of my routine thoughts following an absentminded mistake: “Wow, I’m an idiot.” When my mistake affects someone else, I will usually follow the line above with, “I am so sorry!”
These responses sound rather ordinary and quite insignificant, but the effects of seemingly innocent words can be subconsciously powerful.
“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life,” shares Robert Kiosaki, “it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power!”
In the past, the word idiot was used in the field of psychology to describe “a person of the lowest order in a discarded classification of mental retardation, having a mental age of less than three years old and an intelligence quotient under 25.”
Psychologists no longer use the word because it is considered offensive. The same professionals with the expertise to diagnose people as legitimately psychotic will not use the word idiot to describe others, yet I use the word regularly when referring to myself?!
Furthermore to say, “I am sorry” is to say, “I’m wretched, poor, useless, and pitiful.” Wow, how harsh!
In light of this understanding, I try to replace the typical “I’m sorry” response with words that more properly convey regret: “I apologize” or “please forgive me”.
Quite often we are subconsciously cruel to ourselves, but the value of kindness to and patience with oneself is refreshing, powerful and ultimately practical.
According to Ayn Rand, author of The Virtue of Selfishness, “The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.”
Being kind to and confident in ourselves is not selfish. In fact, it is one of the most selfless skills we can learn. It is difficult and requires great self-control.
A person who develops a strong foundation of self-respect is then capable of more highly valuing others. We become better at working with people, motivating people and encouraging people. Others esteem us, we respect ourselves and ultimately we are healthier and better equipped to positively impact the world.
The discipline of kindness to ourselves does not make us weak but stronger and more effective than we could imagine. We must first understand and value ourselves before we can truly understand and value the world.
The Ancient Greeks sum it up in two words: “Know thyself.”