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Research

Optimal Self-Esteem (OSE)

I’ve spent many years studying the psychological construct of Optimal Self-Esteem and have developed a framework that builds its specific components. I have tested this framework in randomized controlled trials (RCT) on hundreds of women from various professions and cultures and of different ages and stages in their career.

OSE (or what I call Authentic Confidence) speaks to a woman’s aspirations at the mid to later stages in her life and career, and builds the inner core that allows her to face the “double burden” of motherhood and management in life, and the “double bind” of competence and like-ability at work. It’s not the “bad-ass” confidence of patriarchy, but one of grace, presence and authenticity that allows her to live life on her own terms.

Here are a few of the big ideas that capture the research:

01: High Self-Esteem is often fragile

Unlike what I’d assumed, people who look quite confident on the outside are often highly vigilant to signs of criticism or failure (and may even find it where it doesn’t exist). They react in extreme ways – blame and judgment or self-doubt and self-criticism, depending on their earlier experiences and current circumstances.

02: Fragile Self-Esteem can stay unaddressed

Their confidence stays intact as long as they succeed or receive praise and approval. They may even go to extreme lengths to get it, limiting their growth and never knowing what truly holds the back. No wonder Fragile Self-Esteem has been called a “cradle to grave” construct by researchers.

03: Authentic Confidence is buildable – and lasting

If you take nothing away – remember this: You build authentic confidence by building self-worth. Self-worth is the unshakable core of wisdom, courage and joy. It’s the willingness to speak up or step out because you’re driven by purpose. It’s the ability to learn from failure or criticism because you’re drawn by the desire for growth. It’s the life that lives within you.

As I look back on this journey, I’m grateful for having emerged sane from what’s been called “the conundrum of self-esteem”. What helped me stay focused was the search for a psychological construct of confidence that can help us rise to the needs of our struggling world.

Optimal Self-esteem is not an effortless journey, nor an externally determined construct. It doesn’t come from blowing yourself kisses or pursuing perfection. Nor does it come from achievements, accolades or approval. It comes from the constant – and ultimately liberating journey of valuing yourself, respecting your emotional, physical and social well-being, and recognizing your responsibility to give your gifts back to the world.

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You can read the rationale for the research here

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