Audit Advantage: Self Esteem



Self confidence, self belief, self regard, self assurance, self worth and self efficacy. We’ve discussed all of these previously on these pages. But how are they different from self esteem and why does self esteem merit its own article? Let’s find out…

The Dictionary Definitions, self esteem:

‘Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self respect’.

Belief and confidence in your own ability and value; respect for yourself’.

‘How you feel about yourself; if you have low self-esteem, you do not like yourself, you do not think that you are a valuable person, and therefore you do not behave confidently’.

‘A feeling of satisfaction that someone has in himself or herself and his or her own abilities’.

The dictionaries provide a decent starting point, explaining that while self-esteem is highly correlated with self confidence, it is not the only component. Back in the Resilient Auditor series, I described self efficacy and self esteem as the twin pillars of self confidence.  Self efficacy being about self belief - a measure of your own ability to do something, while self esteem is more about a personal sense of worthiness. 

So the key words in the definitions above, the ones that really get to the heart of understanding self esteem are the ones around ‘value’, ‘worth’ and ‘self respect’.  In fact the nearest synonyms for self esteem are self regard, self respect and self worth.  Self esteem encompasses beliefs (for example, 'I am smart', 'I have good communication skills') along with feelings or emotions such as pride, dignity and guilt.

In psychology, Smith and Mackie (2007) go even deeper and introduce yet another ‘self’ related expression:  "the self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem is the positive or negative evaluations of the self, as in how we feel about it."

Get the picture? Make no mistake; nurturing and sustaining a healthy self esteem really matters right across the board, professionally as well as personally. 

‘High self esteem comes from feeling like you have control over events not that events have control over you’, Tony Robbins.

And that dear readers, in a nutshell, is why your self esteem matters.  Low self esteem holds you back.  It zaps your confidence, damages your self image, taints your thinking, prevents you trying new things and taking risks. As we saw in Confidence for the Resilient Auditor, it supports our mechanisms for personal and professional growth and resilience, as well as our ability to cope with stress:

“Having feelings of competence, effectiveness in coping with stressful situations and strong self-esteem are inherent to being resilient” (Ivan Robertson and Cary Cooper). Low self esteem quite simply restricts your potential, regardless of your ability: “Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” (Iyanla Vanzant).

How would I know?

You probably do have an inkling of your degree of self esteem but it’s also useful to use an objective measure. There are a number of self-report inventory checklists around. One of the most widely used is the Rosenberg self esteem scale which you can try out for free here. Often known as RSES, it offers ten questions for you to evaluate in terms of your level of agreement/disagreement. 

And the good news…

If you feel your self esteem needs a boost, there is much you can do to develop and sustain it.  The UK charity, Mind suggests eight areas to tackle and offers detailed practical advice via their website:  

  • Think about what is affecting your self-esteem
  • Avoid negative self-talk
  • Connect with people who love you
  • Learn to be assertive
  • Set yourself a challenge
  • Focus on your positives
  • Take care of yourself
  • Get support if things get too much

Here at we have also designed, over the years, a plethora of tips and techniques on self esteem, specially tailored to the audit profession. Be sure to check out our articles on building a Growth Mindset, nurturing your Self Confidence and simply aspiring to be A Happy Auditor!

And finally the last word goes to Denis Waitley (‘The Psychology of Winning’) who echoes another sentiment that we are passionate about on these pages: “To establish true self-esteem, we must concentrate on our successes and forget about the failures and the negatives in our lives.” Is it time that you revitalised your career strategy and really looked to leverage your own unique personal strengths and leave behind your so-called weaknesses?

Which topic would you like to read about next month? Look over the list of topics in the original Audit Advantage article here and let us know your choice for the next topic we should cover.

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