Self-Confidence: Fuel for Action, Success and Well-Being
Updated: Aug 4
“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.
“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? 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. Desperation or being needy is never a good look. Plus, like blood in the water, it attracts sharks.
Benefits of self-confidence:
Study after study links 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 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 the validation 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. 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 feel the 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. They tend towards 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's required is a click, a like, a new follower. No actual human beings necessary.
“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
But why are some people have self-confidence and others not at all?
Where does it stem from? Like with so many things, our childhoods can provide clues. Self-confident kids 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 the building blocks of confidence like the ability to be self-determining, learning responsibility by being given responsibility, and being held accountable for our choices - was at some point confused with the need to feel good about ourselves at any cost.
Participation medals gone off the rails:
Research shows that overpraising did not in fact protect a generation from depression or create self-esteem. It may have instead, decreased motivation and goal-oriented behaviors.
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 hand out medals for getting up for work, making 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 medals, rewards and with rarely a thanks. Real life definitely doesn’t reward 29th place.
When children miss out on experiencing the pain or disappointment that is inevitable in life, they also miss out on their own ability to grow, to build necessary skills of resilience and to be able to get back up under their own weight.
By the time young people enter college and into the workforce, training in perseverance, walking through fear, the ability to retool when something doesn’t work and having practice rebounding from disappointment will be critical skills to have. I don’t know about you but those failures and falls have led to my most valuable life learning.
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 true 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 are 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 confident person 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 prove to yourself that you are capable of moving in the direction of your goals.
Beyond helping us take action, believing in our ability to accomplish something has a real effect on actual performance. Whether we think we can, affects whether or not we can. Our experiences make us strong and resilient – especially the difficult and scary ones.
Developing more confidence
It's obvious that confidence is a great asset. The good news: self-confidence and believing in yourself can be developed. There are proven strategies to help instill self-esteem.
Ultimately, it comes down to our own self-talk. Instead of the negative tape that is replayed over and over, we can replace it with something that helps us instead.
We must take personal responsibility for whether we allow our own mind to be an asset and helpful or work to our detriment.
Act as if… behavior is powerful. The more confident we act, the more confident we become. Decide to take that risk, regardless of how uncomfortable it feels. Don’t wait to feel like it. Act first and the mindset will follow.
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 performance of men and women [in both 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 where men were willing to take action and apply for a new job or promotion, regardless of meeting all the qualifications, women tended to only apply when they met all of the qualifications.
Men took action when women did not.
C’mon ladies! We're capable, let's own it. Most importantly, go do something about it.
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