Self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy are concepts with much currency today in view of the national epidemic of suicide and depression. They are sometimes used interchangeably although they each have their own specific meaning. Self-esteem refers to our feelings of self-worth, of whether we matter. We often think of self-esteem in the context of young children and teenagers, but in doing research for this blog, I have been struck by how much it is an issue for adults. The police chief whose story was featured in my last blog took his life because he had reached the mandatory retirement age and he was about to lose a job of which his self-esteem was an integral part. For most of us, our work, either inside or outside the home, is necessary not just to put food on the table, but to our sense that we matter in this world. But I found it a little disturbing that a recent opinion piece in the New York Times argued for rest and relaxation as part of work. “Fallow time is part of the work cycle, not outside of it. In periodic intervals around the completion of a project, I have lately given myself permission to watch “Deadwood: The Movie,” to nap over the newspaper, to take a walk and restore the white space for complex thinking and writing. It can feel indulgent. It can feel … lazy. But the difference between lazing around and laissez-faire is that I’m actually going about the business of my business.” Work should not so invade who we are that we have to justify watching a movie as actually working and being productive!
The drive for productivity in work can, however, spiral out of our control. I once visited a large U.S. Postal Service facility where mail was sorted. I was appalled when I was shown the room where the individuals who were reading the mail as it sped by them and entering the zip code so that it went down the appropriate chute. I was told that the individual key strokes were monitored. In addition, up above there was a catwalk and several doors with one-way mirrors so the employees could be watched. I can hardly believe this did much for their self-esteem. Now comes an article describing how A.I. is monitoring not just efficiency but how humans are responding and evaluating employee performance with the possible consequence of being fired. So I thought it was worthwhile to share an article about the relationships among self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy and offering some very innovative ideas for increasing self-confidence that have nothing necessarily to do with work. We all probably can benefit.