Who should you listen to; confidence versus competence
Early on in my career, I was part of a ‘team building’ exercise that involved having to work as a team to build a vehicle out of some specific materials that were set out for us. The winning team would craft a vehicle that travelled the farthest down the ramp.
I remember the chaos involved when some of the members of our team were very vocal about how they thought the vehicle should be built. Others seemed quieter and less forthcoming with their ideas and opinions.
What I learned from this exercise is that the loudest and most insistent people are not always the most competent. Imagine my surprise when my ideas didn’t work very well, even though I offered them freely. We lost, (and by lost I mean we didn’t come first) and I hate losing (obviously)!
People who have confidence in speaking their opinions often have high self-esteem. Self-esteem has two components to it; one is a feeling of self-worth and the other, a feeling of self-efficacy. Self-worth comes from believing you are a person of value by virtue of being alive. Self-efficacy is a confidence that you can be successful at performing tasks. People are sometimes confused when they have a low level of self-worth and a healthy self-efficacy. They are confident at work but feel ill-equipped to deal with relational and emotional issues. Conversely, people with a high level of self-worth often feel good about themselves but shy away from accomplishing tasks, often because of their fear of failure.
To bolster self-worth:
- eliminate negative self-talk
- recognize your strengths
- take care of yourself
- set limits
- accept mistakes
- accept rejection
To increase self-efficacy:
- develop skill sets
- model competent people
- seek specific feedback
- reinforce positive learnings
Self-esteem can improve if you are intentional about it. My suggestion is to take one bullet point from above and be intentional about improving it. One of the items that I have been intentional about improving is my “negative self-talk.” I try to catch myself when I criticize myself by saying: “that was stupid,” “I should,” or “I shouldn’t.” Other times I might compare myself to someone I think is better than me at something and end up feeling inferior. I try to catch myself when I am critical of myself and replace those judgements with more helpful comments like, “next time I could improve by doing that differently, it would be more helpful to …., or give myself credit for learning and improving rather than focus on perfection.
Having a strong measure of self-esteem is proven to lead to a happier, more productive and more fulfilling life. It’s never too late to start!