The Trainer's Dilemma

Confidence vs. Courage


Operates in the realm of the known. As a trainer, you want to be familiar with your content so you can deliver with confidence. Yet with so many variables surrounding the environment and audience, this is not always possible. Such ambiguities increase stress. To face uncertain situations, the trainer needs courage.


Operates in the realm of the unknown. Courage is what you needed when you took that first step into deep water to learn to swim. Courage requires more strength than confidence. Confidence depends on abilities whereas Courage focuses on possibilities. Ask yourself, would you prefer a confident partner in life or a courageous one?

While self-confidence ("I can") and self-esteem ("I am") often go hand in hand, it is possible to have high self-confidence and yet low self-esteem (as is the case with many celebrities). Why is this? How can this be?

Our self-esteem is the matrix through which we think, feel, and act.

It reflects, and also in large part determines, our relation to ourself, to others, and to the world. Psychologists consider it either a barometer of status or acceptance in the social group, or to lend us strength to act in the face of fear and anxiety.

Maslow included self-esteem as a deficiency need in his hierarchy of needs. A person cannot meet their growth needs unless they have met their deficiency needs. Our life experiences either sustain or undermine the self-esteem and self-confidence we are born with.

In the West, self-esteem is primarily based on achievement, whereas in the East it is primarily based on 'worthiness', that is, on being seen and accepted as a good member of the family, community, and other in-groups. And herein lays the problem...

Western Culture

Achievement-based self-esteem promotes fear of failure. And because achievement is not wholly within our control and its effects are transient, it is not a solid base for our self-esteem.

Eastern Culture

Worthiness-based self-esteem promotes fear of rejection. And because acceptance by others is contingent upon conformity with the group, it restricts our range of possiblities. 

What is a healthy self-esteem?

People with healthy self-esteem are able to take risks and to give their all to a project or ambition, because, although failure may hurt or upset them, it is not going to damage or diminish them. They do not rely on externals such as status or income, or on crutches such as alcohol, drugs, or sex. To the contrary, they treat themselves with respect and take good care of their health, development, and environment. They are open to growth experiences and meaningful relationships, tolerant of risk, quick to joy and delight, and accepting and forgiving of themselves and others. - Neel Burton

Does high self-esteem equate to arrogance?

The difference between pride and arrogance

If self-confidence is "I can" and self-esteem is "I am", then pride is "I did". To feel proud is to take pleasure from the goodness of our past actions and achievements.

People with health self-esteem are happy to simply revel in the miracle of existence, with cheerfulness, humility, and quiet action (Burton).


Pride stems from satisfaction but arrogance stems for hunger and emptiness. Pride has accomplished. Arrogance has assumed. Arrogant people depend on reassurance and pull themselves up by pushing others down.

People with low self-esteem see the world as hostile and themselves as its victim (Burton).


The Grand Delusion

People with poor self-esteem frantically pursue anything and everything except what is truly important to the growth of themselves and others. Such pursuits are vain since they cannot change the past or the future and leave the person to wallow in a miserable present.

People with a health self-esteem are neither lazy nor faint-hearted. More importantly, they don't waste time and energy on meaningless activities that accomplish nothing in the long run. They are diligent. 

How to increase your self-esteem

Many people take the shortcut of working on their self-confidence instead of their self-esteem by listing their abilities and accomplishments. They depend on this list for their self-esteem. Unfortunately, they can't see themselves as they truly are (imperfect humans) and are therefore unable to recognize and appreciate their real limitations.

Avoid this trap...

A long list of abilities and achievements is neither sufficient nor necessary for healthy self-esteem. Those caught in this trap try to fill the void with status, income, possessions, relationships, sex, and so on. If their status or possessions should be criticized, they will react as if it is an attack on their person.

Similary, don't try to pump up children with empty praise. They are not fooled and will be held back from the type of endeavors from which real self-esteem grows. 

What endeavors promote a healthy self-esteem?


whenever we live up to our dreams and promises
whenever we fail but know that we have given our best
whenever we stand up for our values and face the consequences
whenever we come to terms with a difficult truth
whenever we bravely live up to our ideals

Living up to anything else that is not truly our own is a betrayal of ourself

Now that you know the secret to self-esteem, bolster your confidence with preparation according to what you know and take courage when facing the unknown.

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