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The library of essays of Proakatemia


Kirjoittanut: Jemina Laitinen - tiimistä FLIP Solutions.

Esseen tyyppi: Akateeminen essee / 3 esseepistettä.

The six pillars of self-esteem
Positiivinen psykologia
Branden, N.
Neff, K.
Ojanen, M.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

Self-confidence and self-efficacy beliefs have been stated to be key elements for success and achievement in every field of life. Many times, can be heard that failure has been caused by a lack of self-confidence. (Ojanen 2008.) Psychologists and motivation researchers have tried to identify the source of self-confidence and self-efficacy to define how human beings could be more confident about themselves and therefore achieve their goals and live happier lives. However, targeting to build strong self-confidence and self-efficacy can cause problematic side effects (Neff 2011). Instead of focusing on the development of self-confidence focus should be on self-compassion. 

This essay discusses the concept of self-compassion and its importance regarding Kristin Neff (2011). Because this essay uses different terminology of self-concept, it is reasonable to start this essay by covering useful terms. The following chapters discover terms of self-confidence, self-efficacy and self-assertiveness, that lead towards the self-compassion chapter. 

Self-confidence and self-efficacy

Self-confidence can be seen as human beings’ belief in their capabilities and skills to achieve their goals. Self-confidence has been defined as a general level of confidence without targeting any specific task or field of life, and therefore it can be defined to be a person’s confidence in overall level. When talking about specific or task-oriented confidence, the term self-efficacy comes up. Self-efficacy is defined as be person’s belief about own capabilities and skills in certain tasks, and therefore it can be seen as a different attribution from self-confidence. (Ojanen 2007, Bandura 1997 and Branden 1994.) However, these concepts are mixed in many resources and they have been used as one concept as well. Could be stated that self-confidence is a general level of confidence and belief of own capabilities while self-efficacy refers to a specific confidence level. 


Some resources are talking about self-assertiveness, which can be seen as a part of self-confidence or self-efficacy. Self-assertiveness is the willingness to stand up for oneself, being an openly authentic self and treating oneself with respect yet, without a need for pushing over other people. Self-assertive people honour their wants, needs and values and they want and do find ways to fulfil those needs and wants. (Branden 1994.) Living through own values and expressing own needs are the core points to living authentically and truly as oneself, but it might not be easy. One part of being assertive is to understand that the development of ownself is not easy, but there is still courage to do it (Branden 1994). 

Sometimes can be seen a thought that being assertive is the same thing as being rude or disrespectful. That is not being assertive. According to Branden (1994), self-assertiveness is to be respectful to oneself, but to other people as well. It is paying attention to context and situation (Branden 1994.) For example, saying own thoughts openly as they are is showing ownself or respecting own thoughts, however, paying attention to the context means that there should be an ability to read the situation with a concideration if own thoughts bring value in the situation or to other people. Especially, can own words be hurtful to other people but not bring value to them. It is being conscious about own actions and thoughts (Branden 1994). 

In that sense, being assertive can be seen as a tricky task. Branden (1994) highlights that being self-assertive is living for oneself and not living through other people’s expectations (Branden 1994). How to define truly, our wants and needs, even our values, when we are affected by our environment, culture, parents, life partners and friends? That is something that everyone should, at some point, think, question and even doubt. It is not an easy, and not nice task to think deeply, about how we might live life through someone’s else dreams, values or expectations. Something that Branden (1994) defines about being assertive is to question and challenge authority, with respect of course. 

Being authentic self

Who you would be if you had your job, education, status, hobby or even name? Who is then left? This is an interesting question since we are used to telling other people what we do, not necessarily who we are. Of course, telling the core of yourself to everyone would not be the case and could cause too much information to other people but you might get the point. It is easy to define ourselves as a status and things we do, but what if something would happen and those all (or mainly) would be gone? Who you are then? Because we are used to defining ourselves by our activities, it can cause us to lose the core and the authentical self. That is why it is recommended to play with an idea to bring up the soul of yourself. Who you are?

Authentic self in business

During the last couple of years, I have been talking about showing my persona in business character or workplace. For example, how to dress up in business meetings when a suit, blouse or formal outfit is a feeling of belonging to oneself? This is an interesting topic to talk about with other people and there are different approaches to this topic. Firstly, someone just does not care and shows up as they are. This can be seen as courage, it can be positively boundary-breaking as long as it stays respectful as discussed earlier. The second approach is to accept own place and act according to references. The third way is to take some moments to define own core and personality and think, about how would bring these to appearance while respecting the context. This can be, for example, regarding presenting, performing or how to dress up. Whatever it would be, if you would like you can be authentic yourself in work without the need to divide your persona into “work me” and “free me”, or whatever those characteristics would be for you.


This might sound to be an unrelated topic from written above, but compassion towards own self is tightly compounded with authentic self. Self-compassion can be seen as an acceptance towards ourselves, and it is something we do rather than experience. (Branden 1994 and Neff 2011). According to Branden (1994), self-acceptance is self-value and the choice of valuing ownself with respect with willing to experience ownself with all thoughts and feelings, even negative ones (Branden 1994). 

Self-compassion is composed of the same attributions as compassion towards other people. Firstly, it requires one to stop and pay attention to misery. (Neff 2011.) This requires consciousness about thoughts and feelings, which is highlighted as one key element of self-acceptance as Branden (1994) suggested. Neff suggests that self-compassion is tenderness towards own challenges, mistakes and failures, but highlights that compassion towards own self does not apply the thought that own problems are more important than other’s but that own challenges are as important and valuable as others. This is important to understand since self-compassion can be seen as self-pity or self-righteousness, which is not the core of self-compassion. (Neff 2011.)

Neff (2012) suggests that self-compassion is an effective way to develop a healthy emotional life as well as live a happier and satisfied life. Additionally, self-compassion supports a positive mood and state of mind which is one key for optimism and happiness. One crucial point suggested by Neff is, that self-compassion is a more stable and permanent attribution than self-esteem, which makes it an even more important attribution of self-concept than for example self-confidence or self-efficacy. The reason is that self-esteem is built on a definition of oneself and thoughts about own worth. It also takes into consideration other people’s validation as well as achievements in life. The power of self-compassion comes from tenderness because it is an attitude towards own self, not from judgment. Compassion comes from the heart not from the mind. Thoughts and feelings change all the time but the tenderness from the heart stays. (Neff 2011.)


Neff (2011) emphasizes that core of the self-compassion is a gentle concern for ownself as a mystery, understanding own weaknesses and strengths as well as thoughts, feelings and mistakes. (Neff 2012). The definition applies very much to self-esteem definition, for example, regarding Branden (1994), however, self-compassion is highlighted to be an attitude rather than experience. Additionally, self-compassion is highlighted to be a permanent attribution that does not require other people’s opinions of valuation which makes self-compassion a more powerful qualification for a happy and satisfying life. 


Branden, N. 1994. The six pillars of self-esteem. New York: Bantam Book.

Neff, K. 2011. Itsemyötätunto. Helsinki: Viisas Elämä Oy.

Ojanen, M. 2007. Positiivinen psykologia. Helsinki: Edita.


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