Self-Confidence: Fuel for Action, Success and Well-Being
Updated: Mar 19
“Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and
stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh
Before the month of love slips through our fingers yet again, let's turn our attention from the many efforts to find (or keep) that special someone, to the person most fundamental for a happy life and relationship: you.
We’ve probably all heard the sayings about no one else being able to complete you and that healthy relationships come as a result of two whole, independently fulfilled people finding each other…blah, blah, blah. Well, there’s truth there.
“Far too many people are looking for the right person,
instead of trying to be the right person.”
– Gloria Steinem
As usual, Gloria is right.
If you do not start from a place of loving and appreciating yourself first, how will you ever convince someone else to do the same? You have to start from a place of being enough already. The person you are looking for is probably not out searching for someone who doesn’t really like themselves very much.
In fact, the opposite is true. Self-confidence and self-esteem are powerful aphrodisiacs. Being desperate or needy isn’t a good look.
Plus, like blood in the water, it attracts sharks.
Benefits of self-confidence:
Aside from, or maybe because of its appeal, study after study link confidence to personal achievement and professional success as well as higher levels of happiness.
Higher levels of self-esteem are correlated with healthier social lives and better mental and physical health. People who are confident are better at coping with what life hands them and confidence has even been shown to even increase rates of survival after surgery.
Believing yourself to be capable and worthy leads to the energy, motivation and the most importantly, the action necessary to accomplish your goals. People with high self-esteem are able to take the action required to step through doubt and anxiety and fear. They are not dependent on being validated by others.
The research confirms that feeling good about yourself is the key to a lot of good things. Essentially, self-confidence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And so too does low self-esteem.
Narcissism is not self-confidence:
It helps to understand there is a marked difference between true self-esteem and the self-obsession, self-promotion and narcissism that masquerades as confidence. Truly confident people don’t have a need to be better than someone else. They accept who they are regardless of what others think.
In contrast, the narcissist needs to feel superior to others and their feelings about themselves are almost entirely based on the what others think of them. Narcissists have extreme selfishness, an inflated view of their abilities and a nonstop need for attention and recognition.
While the admiration is what they crave, interestingly, research has shown that narcissistic people actually have less need than others for close, loving relationships. This could be why social media with the broadcasting of selfies and constant self-promotion is so fulfilling. All that is needed is a click, a like, a new follower. See mom: no actual human beings necessary.
Today, mental health experts link “selfie addiction” to feelings of deep inferiority and often, past bullying.
“Self-respect stops you from being at the mercy of other people
to validate you, to make you feel good about who you are.”
– T.D. Jakes
Shackled by the opinions of others:
Insecure people are overly concerned with the opinions of others. Those without a strong sense of themselves tend to be dependent on others for validation. A healthy dose of true self-confidence frees you from the fickle shackles of what anyone else thinks.
But why do some people have it and others not at all?
Where does it come from? Like with so many things, our childhoods can provide clues. Kids who are self-confident have been shown to do better in school and also turn out to be more satisfied with their careers in later life.
However, it may be that confidence and what leads to confidence: the ability to be self-determining, learning responsibility by being given responsibility and being held accountable for our choices; somewhere got dumbed-down, confused with the need to feel good about ourselves at any cost.
Participation medals gone off the rails:
For a generation or more now, parents, teachers and coaches have moved towards a model of emphasizing self-esteem in children over actual effort or performance. At all costs, let’s make sure they feel good and never bad about themselves. Well it turns out that the “you’re so special” experiment may have backfired.
Research shows that the overpraising did not in fact protect a generation from depression or create self-esteem. It may have instead decreased motivation and goal-oriented behaviors. All the coddling didn’t boost self-confidence, it boosted narcissism. We told kids they were competent when they weren’t necessarily which created unrealistic expectations about how life actually works.
Life doesn’t generally hand out medals for getting up for work, making the kids lunches or paying the mortgage on time. There is a ton of effort that we must learn to expend as adults, day in and day out, without no medals, no rewards and with rarely a thanks. Real life definitely doesn’t reward 29th place.
We bubble-wrapped children as not to have them feel any of the pain or disappointment that is inevitable in life. We protected them from their own ability to grow, to build necessary skills of resilience and to be able to get back up under their own weight.
They went to college and into the workforce lacking training in perseverance, walking through fear, learning how to retool when something didn’t work or how to rebound from disappointment. I don’t know about you but those failures and falls have led to my most valuable life learning. Not coding.
My job as a parent is not to protect my kid from real life or the many a-holes in it. My job is to help her ignore and maneuver around said a-holes. The more she can learn to be unaffected and keep on moving despite the bumps, despite the stops and starts, the more actual confidence she will have in her own abilities.
“People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking
they can do things. When they believe in themselves,
they have the first secret of success.”
– Norman Vincent Peale
Confidence and courage as important as competence:
While people with high self-esteem are affected less by the opinions of others, even the most confident people still feel fear and self-doubt. The difference is an inner strength that helps move the person who believes in themselves to take action despite fear.
Self-esteem and confidence affect whether someone even tries. You cannot possibly win if you cannot step into the arena. Accomplishment comes from action. And it is accomplishment and courage that begets future confidence. You’ve shown yourself that you are capable of moving in the direction of your goals.
But beyond helping us take action, believing in our ability to accomplish something has an effect on actual performance. Whether we think we can, has an effect on whether or not we can. Our experiences make us strong and resilient – especially the difficult and scary ones.
Grow your confidence:
It may be obvious that confidence is a great asset. The good news is that self-confidence and believing in yourself can be developed. There are proven strategies to help instill self-esteem.
Ultimately, it comes down to your own self-talk. Instead of the negative tape that you choose to replay over and over, only you can replace it with something that helps you instead. Focus on your attributes instead of what you do less well. If you must compare yourself to others, consider how fortunate you truly are and what problems you do not have. You are the only person who can take responsibility for whether you allow your own mind to be an asset and helpful or your greatest enemy.
Act as if… behavior is powerful. If you do not feel it yet, act like you do. Think about how you would dress, communicate, stand or behave if you were confident. Act like that person. The more confident you act, the more confident you will become. Decide that you will take that risk, regardless of how uncomfortable it feels. Don’t wait to feel like it. Act first and the mindset will follow. Practice, rehearse, learn. Stay focused on your goals.
That annoying confidence gap:
The greater the self-confidence, the better both men and women perform.
Where the difference between gender does come into play, and strongly, according to a Cornell University study (2003), is that men tend to overestimate both their abilities and effectiveness where women underestimated themselves in both. The fact was that the performance of both men and women [in accuracy and in quantity] did not actually differ at all.
What seemed to hold the women back was their own over-concern about the opinions of others: wanting to be liked, needing to appear attractive or for fear of outshining others or getting too much attention.
And while both sexes can lack a belief in themselves, a Hewlett Packard report indicated that men were willing to take action and apply, regardless of meeting all the qualifications for a new job or promotion, while women only applied when they met all of the qualifications. OK, so maybe we’re better at both asking for and following directions but men took action when women did not.
C’mon ladies! You are capable. Own it, dammit. Then go do something about it.
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