Self esteem without competence is a recipe for failure
For the longest time, in the United States and elsewhere, educational policy makers bought into the idea of self esteem. Please understand that self esteem is a good thing. Nobody’s disputing that. However, according to this educational policy philosophy, for students to perform well in life, they need to have their self esteem built up and encouraged early on.
Again, just like the observation that self esteem is a good thing, this seems pretty good on the surface. What’s there to argue about. The problem is if you are going to be building your self esteem based on affirmations and being made to feel good about who you are without any accomplishments or physical results produced by your efforts to back it up.
You are building your house on sand. This is precisely what happened with generations of youth fed on the steady diet of self esteem stimulation. That’s really what it is. You just stimulated the formation of self esteem not through actual achievements, accomplishments, sacrifice, hard work and other traditional indicators of success.
Instead, people got self esteem by being respected for showing up. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. You just need to show up and you get a prize for participation. According to this school of thought, your feelings are paramount.
If only things worked that way. Sadly, a lot of people who base their self-esteem on the fact that they happened to show up know deep down inside that their confidence is hollow. They know that this is not the way real life works. They know that the world may have some rude surprises waiting for them. No wonder, many people with supreme self-esteem are very frustrated and confused.
As long as you’re feeling okay about yourself, then there’s really not much difference between what you think and what everybody else thinks. You are entitled to your estimation of yourself, the rightness of your action, so on and so fort.
What this created is self esteem that produced a very hollow self confidence. People definitely can feel that they can do stuff, but they can only do it in theory. When they’re actually given challenges to produce and deliver results, most people, who focus primarily on self esteem without the matching competence, fall apart like a house of cards.
Self esteem without competence is a recipe for failure. If you’re having a tough time in any area of your life or you feel you’re frustrated or stuck in any area of your life, maybe it’s because of this. Sure, you feel good about yourself and it seems like you have a high estimate of your ability to get things done.
Unfortunately, unless and until that high estimation is based on actual experience and results, you’re just wasting your time. It’s probably going to be very hard for you to overcome challenges. It’s probably very tempting for you to just quit the moment you’re confronted with actual difficulty.
Competence is the true building block of real confidence
Let’s get one thing clear. There are all sorts of fake types of confidence out there. After all, the whole idea of faking it until you make it is actually still popular in the United States. A lot of people are under the impression that as long as you look successful, that’s all that matters. Real success will eventually catch up with you.
By the same token, there are no shortage of people who believe that as long as other people buy into the idea that you know what you’re talking about then this is as good as the real thing. These are the types of people who make a big deal out of formal titles or one’s placement on any kind of organizational chart. The idea is that your role defines you. In other words, if you carry a title, your title somehow some way bestows some sort of instant competence on you.
Both of these idea involve magical thinking. There are simply too many leaps of faith as well as logic required for people to accept these and for these to have actual effects. Sadly, there are so many people who believe in faking it until they make it. The line of people who believe that their titles or how others view them truly determines who they are is actually quite long.
Of course, as everybody knows, all this is a fallacy because there’s a profound difference between looking like you know how to do things and actually being able to deliver. Sadly, we have a society that is so obsessed about self esteem that it equates it with self confidence which turns out to be a false type of confidence.
Remember, it doesn’t really matter whether you think you know how to build a bridge or not. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re a genius or not. What matters is whether you are able to perform what society asks of you.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, a lot of people who place a lot more importance on self confidence built on self esteem fall apart. They just crumble like a house of cards because they have build their confidence on something that’s not real.
Competence is the true building block of real confidence because it’s tried, tested and you only develop competence when you face adversity, challenges and failure. Sure, there’s a tremendous amount of discomfort and inconvenience getting to this point, but that’s precisely the point.
It’s not something that you get just for showing up. It’s not just some sort of door prize. It’s something that you fight for. It’s something that you earn. It’s something that you sacrifice for.
You get less competent the more you run away from challenges
Believe it or not, personal competence is actually like a muscle. If you haven’t been to a gym before and you start lifting weights, what do you think will happen?
Well, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that in the morning, you’re not going to feel all that well. It seems like your muscles are aching all over the place. It’s like they’re screaming at you to stop working out.
You put a tremendous amount of pressure on muscles that are not used to that stress and pressure. What do you think will happen? That’s right, a lot of pain. The secret here is that you must work through the pain.
A lot of people are under the impression that if their body is telling them that it’s in pain that this is their signal to stop. This is the most common mistake rookies make. When you listen to your body, you’re basically listening to that part of yourself that is telling you to take it easy. You’re listening to that part of yourself that does not want to be stressed, confronted and challenged.
What do you think it will ask for? That’s right. It will ask for you to take it easy. It will ask you to do something else that is more pleasurable. It’s going to ask you to just lay off anything that may involve discomfort, inconvenience or sacrifice.
But it turns out that if you want to make the pain go away, you go to the gym and lift more weights. Sure, it feels like murder the next day, but if you keep going, the pain evaporates. It turns out that the pain is temporary. It’s the small price you pay to achieve higher levels of muscle discipline and strength.
The same applies to your competence. If you want to just focus on your current level of expertise and knowledge, you’re not going to improve. You’re not going to be curious about what else is out there. You’re not going to challenge what you think you know. You’re not going to break things apart and try to put them back together and figure out how to connect the dots and see the big patterns.
You’re not going to achieve any of that. Those are the things that will take your knowledge to the next level. Those are the things that will enable you to become a greater expert and authority in whatever field you’re in.
Unfortunately, a lot of people think that they can coast or take it easy based on their current level of expertise. They end up running away from challenges. They focus on the things they know. They focus on the ‘tried and proven.’
Unfortunately, the more they do this, the less competent they become because the value of their knowledge erodes over time. Also, if you don’t want to challenge yourself, chances are you’re not going to figure out better ways to articulate what you already know.
Every challenge is doable if you chop it down to size
It’s very easy to get so worried about the challenge facing you that you just freeze up and quit. It’s very easy to get discouraged. It’s very easy to feel that your problem is so big and so scary that there’s really no way you can get out from under it.
You might as well just give up. You might as well lose all hope. If any of these enter your frame of mind, you are simply just taking the path of least resistance. You’re looking at the situation from the perspective of somebody who wants to do the least work.
If you are serious about coming out on top and achieving unstoppable victory, every challenge does not have to be scary. Every challenge does not have to have the potential of crushing you and stealing your dreams.
Instead, if you have the right mindset, every challenge is actually going to be an opportunity. Think about it. If you are faced with a challenge that really pushes you back against the wall and incentivizes you to step up your problem solving skills, what do you think will happen?
That’s right. Your natural imagination, resourcefulness and creativity are triggered. You figure out a way. If you can’t get through the front door, you will try the roof. If the roof doesn’t work, you try the basement. If the basement is blocked off for whatever reason, you will try the side door. If that doesn’t work, then you will try the back door.
If today is not an option, then you will try tomorrow. If that is off limits, then you will try the next day. In other words, you challenge yourself to become a more competent person all around by tackling every challenge you come across.
One of the most powerful revelations you could ever realize is that every challenge is doable if you chop it down to size. Every challenge actually has many different moving parts. If you pick these apart and you attack one piece at a time in many different sequences, chances are you will achieve a breakthrough.
If anything, you become a different person as you go through this problem solving process. This is what a lot of people miss out on. They’re always looking for the short cut or, worse yet, they’re waiting for somebody to pull them out of their situation because they have completely given up on coming up with a solution of their own.
Self confidence is paid for in terms of problems solved
A lot of people are under the impression that self confidence is some sort of magical jacket that somebody gives you just for showing up to an event. That event, of course, is called life.
I wish I could tell you that this thinking is absolutely spot on. Unfortunately, if I were to do that, I would be flat out lying to you. If I were to tell you that any of this is true, I would just be setting you up for a massive disappointment later on.
Life is not some sort of dinner party where respect, admiration, competence and self confidence are awarded as door prizes. It would be great if this were the case, but unfortunately, we live in reality. The reality is life is unfair. Life can be chaotic. Life, often times, doesn’t have some sort of rhyme or reason.
We can cry about this, we can scream to the heavens that all of this is unfair, unwarranted and uncalled for, but let me tell you, if you do that, nothing will change. Life will go on.
You really have a choice at this point. Either you’re going to have to take on life based on its own terms, or you’re going to just crawl in your shell and hope that somehow, someway, the world conforms to how you wish it was. Which is it gonna be?
Let me tell you, if you want to stay in this world and actually produce some kind of result during your stay, then you need to deal with the world as it is. One key aspect of this is to deal with problems.
A lot of people get so freaked out about problems and challenges. It’s almost pathetically funny. They think that it’s the end of the world if they confront some sort of challenge and it seems like the challenges don’t end.
In fact, some people have such romantic notions of how life should be fair that they’re completely blind sided by the fact that people can be mean and there are many unjust things happening in the world. One challenge after another completely crushes them. This really is too bad.
If you look at real self confidence, and I’m talking about your perception of your ability to get things done, it’s paid for in terms of the problems you solve. That’s the bottom line. In other words, it is based on competence. It’s based on what you do. It’s based on actions you take. That’s what the world pays attention to.
It definitely doesn’t pay attention to your feelings. Do yourself a big favor. Redefine your self confidence based on terms and based on a process that will leave you in a better position. Real self confidence is no joke. Real self confidence is something that nobody can take away from you because it’s not a product of your circumstances.
Your competence erodes the more you coast through life
Before we dig deeper, let’s just establish one basic fact about the human condition: with everything else being equal, we’d rather take it easy. It doesn’t matter which part of the globe you come from or what you do for a living or what you look like, if you are like most people, you’d rather have it easy. You’d rather coast. It seems that this tendency is built into the human consciousness.
There’s a big problem with our very normal human tendency to coast through life: it erodes our personal competence. Bad news. Competence, just in case you are not already aware, is crucial to any kind of success in life. The bottom line is that you have to know what you are doing. You have to meet certain basic levels of competence to move on, much less succeed, with your life.
Personal competence is like a muscle. Your muscles get stronger and more powerful the more you stress them out by putting pressure on them. You’re not going to develop huge, well defined and toned muscles if you just eat, eat and eat.
If you don’t hit the weights, if you don’t do push ups, if you don’t put any kind of stress on your muscles, you’re not going to develop them. They’re just going to get wider and wider because of the fat accumulation under your skin.
You have to remember that any personal trait of yours that you want to improve and take to the next level can be improved only if you challenge them. In other words, you have to use them, you have to put pressure on them, you have to challenge them. That’s how it works.
Competence is not any different from this. It’s really like a mental and emotional muscle. Unfortunately, if you have stopped challenging your personal competence, it gets softer and softer. It starts to erode. Its value goes down. It becomes irrelevant.
You may think that you’re at the top of your game. You may think that you have a lot of people in your network. You may think that you have a lot of things figured out as far as your select body of expertise may go.
Unfortunately, this is all in your head because as you coast through life, the world moves on. The body of knowledge that you think you’re competent in starts to change. Unless you put pressure on your competence to at least stay abreast or keep in touch with the latest developments, chances are you will find yourself left behind. Not exactly a good position to find yourself in.
That’s how it works. It’s a muscle and for that muscle to get stronger or to remain toned, you have to put pressure on it. You have to use it. You have to challenge it.
Click here for a practical approach to build self confidence by challenging yourself strategically. By using this system, you can develop the self confidence you need to achieve continuous and predictable victory in many areas of your life.