4 Reasons The Strongest, Most Confident People Couldn't Care Less About 'Self-Esteem'

And what they focus on instead.

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Self-esteem is often a vague concept. Often when I ask clients to define it, they aren't sure.

They know it has something to do with feeling strong, confident, and good about yourself all the time.

But this limited definition of self-esteem sets people up for failure. It's un-achievable. 

Instead, we should focus on building strength — because that's where natural confidence and self-esteem originates. 


After all, you’re not going to get things right all the time. What then? What if you’re not fearless and confident at every moment?

Fear and doubt can be a voice of warning when a person or situation feels off. It tells you when you’ve come to the edge of your comfort zone — and that is where the magic happens.

This is the area of big potential growth. You want to recognize it when you’re there, not blindly force yourself to plow through. 

RELATED: How I Finally Rebuilt My Self-Esteem Through Complete And Total Radical Acceptance

Four brutally honest reasons self-esteem is overrated — and what to work on instead

I’d like people to swap self-esteem for self-compassion, and confidence for inner strength


What’s the difference?

1. Trying to improve self-esteem makes us focus on our failures.

Working on self-esteem drives people to do things and feel things that aren’t a natural fit — yet.

You think, If I had high self-esteem, I’d be able to set better boundaries, speak up for myself, and do things that scare me.

Then, when you don’t do those things, you feel bad about yourself.

You beat yourself up for having low self-esteem. You’re trying to feel good about yourself while focusing on all the things you're doing wrong. When does that ever work?

Replacing that focus on self-compassion allows you to treat yourself with love. It’s not letting yourself off the hook. It’s saying I know this is hard for me and I’m doing the best I can. From this point of view, you naturally feel better about yourself and, voila, you’re building a positive self-image. People who are kind to themselves, feel better about themselves. 


Instead, try focusing on what you’re doing right.

What skills do you have? How are you showing up in the world in positive ways? That’s self-compassion. A shift in focus from all the things you think you need to improve in order to feel good about yourself, to all the things you’re already doing well.

Which do you think will make you feel better?

RELATED: What Is Self-Compassion? How To Be Kinder To Yourself With Deep Self-Love

2. Self-esteem can undermine your truest forms of strength.

Inner strength is about resilience. It’s confidence in the self, not in the end result. You may screw it up. You may not get it right. Heck, you may fail big time. Confidence says, “I’ll get it right” but inner strength says, ”whether I get it right or not, I’ll be okay.” 


When you know you’ll be okay either way, that is when you feel strong. You’re able to take risks. The way you feel isn’t dependent on the outcome. This is fostering resilience, not perfectionism. 

3. Self-esteem asks us to push away our fears (instead of embracing them).

Inner strength starts with recognizing the fear, allowing yourself to feel it, and then continuing to take small, incremental steps forward. It’s not about forcing the fear away or feeling bad that you’re afraid. It’s about allowing your feelings to be what they are and accepting yourself. If you can take a small step forward, great! If not, that’s okay, too. 

A deep sense of self-compassion will help you discern what you’re really ready for and what is too much. 

RELATED: How You Can Be One Of The Most Fearful People On Earth And Still Be One Of The Most Brave


How do you sit with fear?

One way is to notice your automatic reactions. Commit to pausing before making decisions. Get a request to speak at a meeting? Your friend invited you to a large social gathering where you don’t know anyone? You’re thinking about committing time to a new creative endeavor?  


Before you say no, ask yourself why you want to move away from it. What are you afraid of?

RELATED: How To Reframe Fear And Allow Yourself To Embrace Joy

In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert shares her method of personifying fear. She invites it to the table for a conversation. After all, this is a part of you and all parts should be welcome (this is self-compassion). When they’re not, they get relegated to the shadow and nothing good comes of that.


So, have that conversation. “Hi, old friend. Thanks for coming. What is it you’re afraid of?”

Negotiate. Tell fear it can ride along, but it doesn’t get to drive the bus. Give it a job you both can agree on.

Fear is a protective instinct. How can you allow fear to protect you, but in a way that fits your goals?


4. Self-esteem doesn't actually build inner strength. 

Rather than blind self-confidence or allowing fear to shut you down, when you pause, consider the reason for the fear, and consciously move in the direction that’s right for you, you strengthen trust in yourself. 

Self-trust builds inner strength. It strengthens your ability to feel good about the outcome, no matter what that is, because you thought things through.

You made a decision that was right for you at the time, and you know you will be okay, come what may. Self-compassion helps you love yourself, even when you decide not to act, just yet. 

This combination of self-compassion and inner strength is an actionable process you can work on rather than focusing on a vague concept like self-esteem.


RELATED: 15 Ways To Build More Trust In Yourself And Live Your Absolute Best Life

Nicole Corbett is a certified hypnotherapist and shamanic healer who combines spiritual and intuitive traditions with hypnosis to help clients reframe and release old patterns.