For one of my college classes I was assigned to read “Confronting The Myth of Self-Esteem” (my review of it several years later). Sitting in education classes where the focus was often on how to help children feel good about themselves, it was interesting to start to read this book. But by the end I understood. Self-esteem and confidence are not the same thing. Self-esteem focuses on what others think of you while confidence is focused on what you think of you, and more importantly, what God thinks of you. With a correct focus our confidence can wax strong in the presence of God.
This summer I found it interesting to see articles in Scientific American about how self-esteem really isn’t this great thing that it’s been touted to be for years – Self-Esteem Can Be an Ego Trap, How to Avoid the Self-Esteem Trap and How to Stop Chasing Self-Esteem. I remembered the book, which is decidedly religious in nature, and thought it interesting that main stream science is now saying the same thing.
Chasing self-esteem makes us afraid to fail, which makes us afraid to try. We are too focused on what others think of us, of looking good for others, that we do not notice where we can improve, or we are afraid to notice where we can improve. Self-esteem is an illusive mirage in front of us we will never arrive at. It is a bubble that will burst at the slightest disturbance.
But when we focus outwards, when we focus on helping others, or on what a loving Heavenly Father thinks of us and our short comings, we are standing on a more sure foundation. Empathy, service, divine love, those are not illusive mirages that will disappear when we reach out for them.
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
Doctrine & Covenants 121:45
Serve others and your confidence will wax strong, the heavens will make up for your short comings. That is true strength.