Self Esteem vs. Sense of Self


(revisited original post Nov 2019)

Going back to explore a topic that I find super important Self Esteem vs. Sense of Self.  Definitely gets a bit rambly, tries to tie some topics and will need to revisit to bring out the topic of more single actions and behaviours don’t define us but our that requires knowing ourselves. Hopefully this is a good start –

A Triangle in a Round and Square World Inventing Resilience

Exploring what it feels like to not fit in and be a Triangle in a world that feels full of Circles and Squares. Older post revisited with some new thoughts and examples. Scattered as always.
  1. A Triangle in a Round and Square World
  2. Empathy – Because More
  3. Accountability: Why it builds Resilience and Saves us from A**holes
  4. Unpacking Privilege
  5. Thinking Critically – Ranking, Prioritizing & Evaluating your Values

In terms of resilience I believe there is an important topic to explore, Self Esteem vs. Sense of Self. Recognizing the difference, and understanding how they play a role within our daily lives, relationships and ourselves may open up ways to Invent Resilience while also fostering it in others.

I would like to try to mark the difference between Self Esteem and Sense of Self. Self Esteem in my mind is the ability to have confidence in yourself, your abilities, and have a high expectation around what you deserve out of life. Self Esteem is linked to self worth. Sense of Self on the other hand is an awareness of who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, values and how you interact with the world around you. Because my mind works in point form, here is how I separate them:

Self Esteem –

  • the ability to have confidence in one self
  • high expectation of what you deserve, self worth
  • acknowledgement of your strengths, value of self
  • Self Respect

Sense of Self –

  • Recognize personal strengths
  • Recognize weaknesses and failures
  • Understanding personal values
  • Understanding and care of how we affect others and how others respond to us

It is necessary to acknowledge that it is possible to have any combination of Self Esteem and Sense of Self. It is natural as humans to assume that everyone is just like us, they think like us, feel like us, have confidence like us but you know what they say about assuming – it makes and ASS out of U and ME. Acknowledging that one’s Self Esteem and Sense of Self might be vastly different from our own gives us a step in building empathy, which in turn encourages us to be kind.

I myself have Low Self Esteem and a High Sense of Self. It is consistent that others’ perception of me is that I am ‘Self Assured’ or ‘Confident’, this is simply not the case. I do however have a strong Sense of Self, this is displayed in strong opinions, standing rigid with my values and acceptance of my weaknesses. I would break down my Sense of Self as follows –

  • Strengths – Passionate, Intelligent, Hard-working, Empathetic, Caring, Friendly, Good presenter, Charismatic, Sensitive, Genuine
  • Weaknesses – Unwavering, Overly Sensitive, Assumes Capabilities and Similarities, Physical attributes, Argumentative, Impulse control, Blunt
  • Values – Fairness, Accountability, Generosity, Openness, Innovation, Diversity, Intelligence, Work Ethic, Empathy, Thoughtfulness

Why am I sharing this? Well I mentioned one of the reasons I decided to start a blog was to vent a bit but also to provide context to my thought process. As mentioned I have a high Sense of Self but Low Self Esteem – what does this look like and how does that work if I can acknowledge my strengths. Well I have only just started to acknowledge my strengths and to focus how I spend my time and energy on those, this includes my job searches, parenting style and friendships (this is going to be a whole other topic).

Anywho, historically I have focused on my weaknesses and countered every strength with a weakness. So passionate becomes unwavering and argumentative, empathetic and caring is overly sensitive (caring too much), charismatic is loud and exhausting, etc. This affects my relationships and in turn my ability to have good self esteem, i.e. self worth. I am wired this way because someone I love and admire is wired this way, intelligently I understand that they are this way because how they were raised and so on.

Now I am going to diverge a bit and go a bit deeper into the why I am how I am. I want to do this so those that know me and read this can understand me a bit better and/or hopefully others can take my story and maybe apply it to those in their lives. Think of it this way, the saying goes no one really knows a relationship like those in it. Your relationship with yourself is the same; it can only truly be understood by you because you are the one living it. Sharing with others, being open and honest is the hopefully a way to allow others a way to care and understand (empathize).

My mother and I have a contentious relationship, there rarely, if ever goes a get together that doesn’t have some sort of a quarrel. My mother’s mother was one of the hardest women I have ever met, she picked favorites, was unfair, lacked empathy and kindness. One example of this would be my 7 or 8 year old self having an asthma attack (allergy induced) and my grandmother saying to me to just breathe. Not in a relaxed, calming, you’re going to be ‘OK’ tone, but in a you’re being a drama queen that needs to just stop tone. Knowing what she was like and acknowledging that helps me to understand my mom, and her capacity to be positive, to be fair, and pay compliments. She never got them from her mother, she was raised to believe she wasn’t as worthy as her brothers and not to go for everything she was capable of. Her own Self Esteem isn’t good and I’m not sure she has a strong Sense of Self either.

As a parent my mother was not 100% like her mom. She was more generous, she is caring and more forgiving however the negativity made it through. The only reason why I ever knew that my mom thought anything positive about me was that I found a list her therapist made her write when my parents got divorced. I could not tell you a time where I received a compliment from her or positive affirmation and if I could it wouldn’t be without an immediate negative to counter. It’s just how she is wired. This is important to know, my own nurture and experience has taught me to be suspicious of my strengths while always believing my faults and because of this I continue to struggle with self worth. When I fail at something or perceive failure I inherently go back to believing that I am worthless.

Interestingly I believe my strong Sense of Self was born because of my low Self Esteem, out of a kind of necessity. On the days where I feel worthless or that I am really struggling with what I am doing; I go back to ‘Who am I?’. I am able to invent the resilience to go forward by finding hope in my potential and my intentions.

Because even though others might think I am purposely rude by interrupting or that I don’t care about what they have to say. I know that I do care but have a hard time, a physical reaction, almost like nausea with impulse control especially when there is a topic I’m passionate about or want to discuss. The strong Sense of Self allows me to forgive myself for my weaknesses. It also gives me the ability to accept differences; to know that I am unique and not in the snowflake way but in the I am a culmination of the events lived, relationships experienced and nature of me; and so is everyone else. This is where kindness and empathy comes in.

I try my best to keep in mind that everyone else has their own Self Esteem and Sense of Self. That their experiences, relationships and nature, affects whether or not they have had to develop a Sense of Self or if they have Self Esteem. Maybe they are like me, acutely aware of faults and they need some kindness, some understanding maybe they have high Self Esteem but are lost when it comes to a Sense of Self; this also requires patience and kindness because they are genuinely unaware of their actions and their affect of others.

This was longer than anticipated, a bit scrambled and somehow I feel still not all the way out but for another day. I realize I haven’t looked as much at Self Esteem as I did Sense of Self but this is because I am still working on it. I hope the sharing (maybe overly so) was at least a bit helpful. I would encourage everyone to take some time, evaluate yourself and all those you are in contact (not just family and friends but co-workers, teachers, etc.). Go forward with an open heart and mind, aim to care to understand the individual, their Self and not just their actions.

I have included one link to an article I found super interesting in my rabbit hole of reading about Self-Concept (my terminology is Sense of Self). If you aren’t yet done with the topic.

Until next week… thanks for stopping be, for reading and please share your own thoughts below in the comments or on the contact page.