People don’t always see themselves the same way others see them. I’ve found out that people who I thought were self-confident are actually insecure. Sometimes a person who I think is very skilled doesn’t consider themselves to be. It can work in the reverse too, someone can believe they are more talented than other people think they are (just watch the American Idol tryouts for proof of that :) The way I see someone can also vary greatly from another person’s assessment of them.
How other people perceive you, good or bad, really should have no bearing on how you view yourself. When people compliment or degrade you, it’s saying more about them than it is about you. No one can possibly know you the way you know yourself. If you go around believing everyone who tells you that you aren’t good enough, then you will always feel inadequate, and if you believe everyone who tells you that you are awesome, then you will feel like you have no need to improve.
I think what often ends up happening is that people’s self-perception gets stuck in the past, and it doesn’t grow with them as they do. This can even go back to when they were children. If a person is labeled when they’re a child, it can stick with them for the rest of their life. If they are told they are bad, or stupid, they may always believe themselves to be, even if that assessment was wrong. If they’ve made mistakes in their past, they might still hold it against themselves, instead of taking credit for how far they’ve come since then. On the other end of the scale, if lavish undeserved praise is heaped on someone, they may have a hard time understanding why everyone else doesn’t realize how great they are (“Don’t listen to the judges, Jr, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Mommy knows you are the best singer ever!”)
When it comes to martial arts, I sometimes see people whose confidence has not risen with their abilities. On a technical side they are performing well, but they are unable to see their improvement. They are stuck in the past, still feeling like the white belt they were when they started, and they don’t realize the depth of knowledge that they have acquired. Perhaps they focus so much on their weaknesses that it prevents them from seeing their strengths.
You are the only one who can really judge yourself and your progress honestly. You should only compare yourself to the way you were before, and not to others. You should gauge your success by how much you have learned, not by how good other people tell you that you are, or are not. It’s not wise to go to either extreme of ego, but if I had to choose one I would say it’s better to be too hard on yourself than too easy. That way you are always striving for improvement. As long as you realize that perfection is unattainable and you don’t set impossible goals. You shouldn’t reward yourself too much for your successes, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much for your failures. What anyone else thinks about you is irrelevant, having others believe in you is not nearly as important as believing in yourself.
I’m sure my dad didn’t make this up, but he always told it to me, so I’m going to credit it to him anyway…
“There is no such thing as perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be, but if you try for perfect you can get pretty good. If you only try for pretty good, all you’ll ever get is okay.”- James L. Crapson