Bullet proof self-esteem

Is there a part of you that wants to be liked as a leader? Is there also another part of you that knows logically not everyone will like you, and that when someone gives you feedback it is usually not you they are reacting to but something about what you do as a leader. When you’re reading the responses from people who’ve rated your performance in your latest 360 degree feedback report, which part of you wins out?

Not being liked is something most leaders face at some point in their leading experience, be it in the business world of leading or as a parent leading your children or as a partner who is leading your intimate relationships. I’d like to share something that has facilitated clients strengthening their resilience so that they stay present and grounded even in the face of someone’s disapproval: opposition and criticism.

As a leader, having robust distinctions between self-esteem and self-confidence and not blurring the two is a key resource tool that allows us to choose how to respond to other’s opinions of us.


Firstly, conduct an audit on your self-esteem. Notice if and when your self-esteem (self-worth or self-regard ) flexes depending on how you or others evaluate your leadership abilities. People I coach often say their self-esteem moves between high and low depending on the situation and/or who is critiquing them. So basically they experience self-esteem as being conditional.

Yet, what if self-esteem was unconditional and beyond being ratable as high or low, healthy or unhealthy, and it was simply a given?

Self–esteem is something you give to yourself, and when you declare it to be unconditional, stable and secure, regardless of what someone else says or feels about you, it opens up more resourceful ways for you to respond to feedback.


Secondly, think of self-confidence as being distinct and independent from self-esteem. Link self-confidence to how you utilise your strengths, skills and talents. Followed by your evaluation of how well you utilised those things, for example were you skilled, inept, talented, still needing your training-wheels on, or completely masterful?

Self-confidence is context specific, self-esteem is not.

You can experience varying levels of self-confidence, depending on your abilities and expertise, however, because self-esteem has nothing to do with how good you are at “doing” things, self esteem is not a variable condition.

I invite you to try this on now by thinking about a situation where you usually get tempted to tell yourself that someone’s criticism or feedback to you is related to them not liking you. With that situation in mind, check your self-esteem. Now, declare strongly that nothing can touch it, feeling it as a strong, vast and immovable force within you.

Quarantine the criticism or feedback – contain it to meaning that someone perhaps doesn’t like how you “do” leadership, or more likely they just think you can do something better. Notice how this is different to someone not liking you. Feel the sensation of relief and freedom as your ego gets out of the way because now it no longer has to defend a position.

Try re-framing the language of feedback or criticism to “information”. What is the information telling you about how you “do” leadership and is it something that you want or need to become more confident at? Knowing that your self-esteem is secure and untouched, you create more freedom to explore without judgment or blame or defensiveness, what the information means for you.

In what other contexts could you apply the practice of separating self-confidence from self-esteem so that you experiences similar resourcefulness?


Equilibrio’s executive services are engaged and retained by senior leaders and executives in Australian organisations, multi-nationals, government, and not-for-profit organisations.