Career & Radar


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Confusing self confidence with self esteem is a common mistake most people make, often times because one ends up masquerading as the other. More surprisingly, self confidence and self esteem don’t always go hand in hand.

Self-esteem is a term used in psychology to reflect a person’s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth. It is a judgment of oneself as well as an attitude toward the self. It relates more to the concept of being happy. Self confidence, on
the other hand is the feeling of trust in one’s own abilities, qualities, and judgments. This relates more to self efficacy. In 1969 Nathaniel Branden aptly combines the two concepts into a definition of self-esteem as “the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness.” According to Branden, self-esteem is the sum of self-confidence (a feeling of personal capacity) and self-respect (a feeling of personal worth).

As you can see, it is understandable why most of us end up conflating self esteem with self confidence, often masking the lack of self esteem with a well built fort
of awards and achievements, i.e. self confidence. Sadly, no list of achievements is long enough to truly help you achieve the sense of self esteem.

Through the ages, several theorists have put forward the integral importance of self esteem for motivation and its role as a basic human need. American psychologist Abraham Maslow included self-esteem in his hierarchy of needs. He described
two different forms of esteem: the need
for respect from others, and the need for self-respect, or inner self-esteem. Respect from others entails recognition, acceptance, status, and appreciation, and was believed to be more fragile and easily lost than inner self-esteem.

Carl Rogers, who is considered the greatest exponent of humanistic psychology, uncovered that the origin of problems
for many people despise themselves and they consider themselves to be invaluable and unworthy of being loved. He further summarized the concept in the following sentence:

“Every human being, with no exception, for the mere fact to be it, is worthy of unconditional respect of everybody else; he deserves to esteem himself and to be esteemed.”

Self esteem, in general, applies to the global extent where the idea of one being a good person and feeling good about oneself comes into play. However, its implications are more significant in particular dimensions such as in an organization where one is employed or in one’s occupation. This is referred to as OBSE: Organizational Based Self Esteem.

A person high on OBSE considers him/ her important, meaningful, acceptable, effectual, and valuable in the context of the employing organization. Right off the bat, you can tell that this can be detrimental to the performance of an individual in an organization.
A meta-analysis by Bowling and colleagues found that OBSE is predicted by the dispositional, “hard wired” traits of general self-esteem and self-efficacy (the belief a person has that he/she can achieve goals).

Additionally, job complexity, autonomy, perceived organizational support, and social support from managers and coworkers were work conditions that predicted OBSE in employees.

As for outcomes, the present study found that OBSE was positively related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, job involvement, performance, and organizational citizenship behavior.

For employees, OBSE is also related to
a lower likelihood of depression and physical health symptoms. Interestingly, OBSE was a stronger predictor of these work-related criteria than general self- esteem.

 There are three main determinants that affect an employee’s OBSE:

 1) Managerial Respect: This entails the way employees are treated by their supervisors. Employees that are treated with respect and empathy show a greater level of OBSE than the ones who aren’t.

2) Organizational Structure: An organization with a vertical bureaucratic structure tends to lead to lower OBSE amongst its employees when compared to ones with a more flexible structure.

 3) Job Complexity: A monotonous job which does not make the employee feel like he is of importance can lead to a lowered OBSE.

Employees with a high level of OBSE have shown to bring in more productivity at their jobs, exhibited citizenship behavior and shown more organizational commitment.Furthermore, their general satisfaction at work, global self esteem and even physical and mental health has shown improvement.



This classification proposed by Martin Ross distinguishes three states of self- esteem compared to the “feats” (triumphs, honors, virtues) and the “anti-feats” (defeats, embarrassment, shame, etc.) of the individuals.

Employees with a high level of OBSE have shown to bring in more productivity at their jobs, exhibited citizenship behavior and shown more organizational commitment.


The individual does not regard themselves as valuable or lovable. They may be overwhelmed by defeat, or shame, or situation they as such, and they name their “anti-feat”. For example, if they consider that being over a certain age is an anti-feat, they define themselves with the name of their anti-feat, and say, “I am old”. They pity themselves. They insult themselves. They feel sorry. They may become paralyzed by their sadness.


The individual has a positive self-image. However, their self-esteem is also vulnerable to the perceived risk of an imminent anti-feat (such as defeat, embarrassment, shame, discredit), consequently they are often nervous and regularly use defense mechanisms. A typical protection mechanism of those with
a Vulnerable Self-Esteem may consist in avoiding decision-making. Although such individuals may outwardly exhibit great self- confidence, the underlying reality may be just the opposite: the apparent self-confidence is indicative of their heightened fear of anti-feats and the fragility of their self-esteem. They may also try to blame others to protect their self- image from situations which would threaten it. They may employ defense mechanisms, including attempting to lose at games and other competitions in order to protect their self-image by publicly dissociating themselves from a ‘need to win’, and asserting an independence from social acceptance which they may deeply desire.


They have a positive self-image and enough strength so that anti-feats will not subdue their self-esteem. These individuals look humble, cheerful, and this shows certain strength not to boast about feats and not to be so afraid of anti-feats. They are capable of fighting with all their might to achieve their goals because, if things go wrong, their Self-Esteem will not be affected. They can acknowledge their own mistakes precisely because their self-image is strong, and this acknowledgment will not impair or affect their self-image. They live with less fear of losing social prestige, and with more happiness and general well-
being. However, no type of self-esteem is indestructible, and due to certain situations or circumstances in life, one can fall from here into any other state of self-esteem.



People with a healthy level of self-esteem

  • firmly believe in certain values and principles, and are ready to defend them even when finding opposition, feeling secure enough to modify them in light of experience
  • are able to act according to what they think to be the best choice, trusting their own judgment, and not feeling guilty when others don’t like their choice
  • do not lose time worrying excessively about what happened in the past, nor about what could happen in the future. They learn from the past and plan for the future, but live in the present intensely.
  • fully trust in their capacity to solve problems, not hesitating after failures and difficulties. They ask others for help when they need it.
  • consider themselves equal in dignity to others, rather than inferior or superior,
while accepting differences in certain talents, personal prestige or financial standing.
  • take for granted that they are an interesting and valuable person for others, at least for those with whom they have a friendship resist manipulation, collaborate with others only if it seems appropriate and convenient.
  • admit and accept different internal feelings and drives, either positive or negative, revealing those drives to others only when they choose.
  • are able to enjoy a great variety of activities.
  • are sensitive to feelings and needs of others; respect generally accepted social rules, and claim no right or desire to prosper at others’ expense.



A person with low self-esteem may show some of the following characteristics:

  • Heavy self-criticism and dissatisfaction
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism with resentment against critics and feelings of being attacked
  • Chronic indecision and an exaggerated fear of mistakes.
  • Excessive will to please and unwillingness to displease any petitioner
  • Perfectionism, which can lead to frustration when perfection is not achieved.
  • Neurotic guilt, dwelling on and exaggerating the magnitude of past mistakes.
  • Floating hostility and general defensiveness and irritability without any proximate cause.
  • Pessimism and a general negative outlook.
  • Envy, invidiousness, or general resentment.


The individual has a positive self-image. However, their self-esteem is also vulnerable to the perceived risk of an imminent anti-feat (such as defeat, embarrassment, shame, discredit), consequently they are often nervous and regularly use defense mechanisms.



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