The princess is standing in front of an old, ornate mirror. She sees a grey, sad, tired Cinderella. The young men desire the princess, who walks past them feeling sad and miserable. The princess is puzzled by their attention. Then she sees her reflection in a different mirror and sees a very different image. Now full of joy and satisfaction, she bumps into the prince, and they fall in love.

''Once upon a time, there was a woman who found her prince when she finally understood that she was in fact a princess.''

The notion of self-esteem

Our self-esteem is our emotional foundation. And no building is stronger than its foundation.

The difference between self-esteem and confidence is that confidence is based on ­actions or experiences in relation to other people, while self-esteem reflects your true view of yourself, regardless how others see you. Thus, you can feel a high degree of confidence as a reflection of your professional competence, praise, ­experience and success, yet still be dissatisfied with yourself or your life. The ­feeling that this gives rise to – or the thought of ‘When are they going to discover that I’m really ­incompetent?’ – calls for a development effort focused on self-love, needs ­satisfaction and mirroring.

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Appreciating yourself as you are, not just for what you do, and fulfilling your needs as they emerge – that is how you build self-esteem. Self-esteem is generated through love, and in adulthood it is generated by the love you give yourself: self-love.

That is not an easy mindset to embrace for someone who was raised within a ­paradigm that is now obsolete. That calls for a new paradigm, one that offers new learning and personal support for the development of self-esteem to improve your ability to deal with life in general and future challenges in particular. In other words, you need an insightful person to help you realize your full potential. We do not acquire human insight and awareness by leaning on others. We have to complete the journey ourselves.

It can be helpful, however, to engage on the journey to greater self-esteem together with a competent companion, a loyal friend, a leader or a mentor who can teach us the right methods for developing self-love. That helps us clearly see who we are, identify our needs and unleash the untapped resources we all possess.

Perspective 

Like the princess, most of us have been loved for what we do, rather than for who we are. Our ability to set aside our own needs and focus on fulfilling others’ is widely rewarded in professional contexts, while our ability to sense ourselves, tap into our emotions and stand up for ourselves is best stimulated by insightful others. From an early age, most of us have learned what pleases and displeases our parents. We quickly learn to adapt our behaviour accordingly and thus to push aside those aspects of ourselves that are unwelcome, lest we lose mum’s or dad’s affection. That behaviour does not promote self-esteem, which comes from fulfilling our own needs and achieving satisfaction for ourselves. Instead, it erodes our self-esteem. It is not enough to be admired by the people around us or in the world at large – that may boost our confidence but does nothing for our self-esteem. Good self-esteem is a condition for making assertive choices. It is also a condition for being able to deal with criticism, remain agile, show good personal leadership and set a course that is significant to ourselves and to others.

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