I recently read an interesting excerpt from the book NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The book focuses on teaching and parenting styles, but I think it also provides an interesting glance into the power of self-empowerment over self-esteem. Let me try to explain how I see the difference between self-esteem and self-empowerment.
Self-esteem comes from the praise of others, therefore it is outside ourselves and something we can not control. Self-esteem is based on the belief in unchanging facts, like “you are smart.” Self-esteem is a noun. It is a descriptor.
On the other hand, self-empowerment comes from a drive to do better. Self-empowerment is based on continual growth in ability, knowledge, and skill. Self-empowerment is an active verb. It is a state of being.
When we wear a label of self-esteem and then the label is jeopardized, we lose belief in ourselves, we feel judged, and we feel like giving up. For instance, if I said I was good at chess and then played against the current world chess champion, I would feel like a failure. More importantly, this would not only affect how I felt about my chess ability but it would also affect how I see my self-worth. If I no longer believed I was good at chess, it would also affect my drive, e.g., thoughts like “I’m no good, why should I even try.”
When we view life as an experience, as a constant quest for improvement, we activate self-empowerment. We accept that sometimes we lose, fail, or are not as good as the guy next to us. But the focus is not on the outcome. The focus is on how we are playing the game and how we are learning from the game. In the chess example above, someone working from self-empowerment would see the experience as an opportunity to learn from a master and therefore improve their game. The loss would not affect their self-worth. Plus an added bonus is that your brain grows as you tackle new challenges. The more we try, even if we fail, we are improving our mental capacity.
Where are you acting from self-esteem? Where do you wear the label given to you by someone else or by yourself?
Where do you operate from a state of self-empowerment? Where do you release the role or title and simply learn and grow in the experience?
How do you experience these two differently?