Developing Self-Confidence

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Strategies & Resources for Developing Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is “the belief that you can do things well and that other people respect you.” Someone who is self-confident feels worthwhile and is optimistic about their abilities.

Early Experiences Influence Self-Confidence

How do we develop self-confidence? Early childhood experiences with parents (or caretakers) shape how we view ourselves and our capabilities. A child whose parents are supportive and encouraging develops a sense of self-efficacy; they feel nurtured and secure. In contrast, children who are neglected or abused may be fearful or uncertain.

Peer relationships also impact the development of confidence; positive social interactions foster self-assurance and high self-esteem. Conversely, a child who is rejected or teased may experience a sense of unworthiness or feel unsure about their abilities.

Once a child develops low self-worth, it can be difficult to bounce back. Children who are ostracized or bullied by their playmates become hesitant to initiate or engage in play. The absence of peer socialization leads to further isolation. As a result, critical social skills are not learned, making the child an even less desirable playfellow, which only reinforces the belief that they’re undeserving.

Lack of Self-Confidence

The patterns formed in early childhood tend to repeat themselves. A child who never develops a sense of competence will not grow up to be a confident, self-reliant adult.

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”

John Connolly

Traits of low self-confidence include discounting yourself and doubting your capacity for effectiveness. A person who lacks self-assurance may believe they’re inferior to others. They may experience anxiety or depression and struggle with learned helplessness (the belief that one has no control over what happens to them in life).

A lack of confidence can also lead to fear of rejection or criticism. Constructive feedback can feel like a personal attack. This person may have trouble accepting compliments or expressing their opinion.

When someone is highly insecure, they avoid social events. They’re more likely to be bullied at work or involved with an abusive partner. As a result, their relationships and overall quality of life suffer.

Self-Confident Traits

In contrast, someone who is self-confident views themselves as competent; they feel good about themselves. They have a positive outlook on life and are generally optimistic. A self-confident person is often resilient and able to quickly recover after experiencing setbacks.

“The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.”

Blake Lively

10 Traits of Self-Confident People

1. Genuine

2. Optimistic and positive

3. Ask questions and are eager to learn

4. Open to feedback and constructive criticism

5. Take healthy risks

6. Able to laugh at self

7. Don’t internalize failure

8. Take ownership (of both successes and mistakes)

9. Take pride in accomplishments

10. Able to make decisions without too much difficulty


Strategies for Developing Self-Confidence

Correct cognitive distortions

A cognitive distortion is an error in thinking or a self-defeating belief that is not an accurate reflection of reality. Cognitive distortions impact how we view ourselves and our abilities. For example, black-and-white (or all-or-nothing) thinking is a distortion of “absolutes” (i.e. “If I fail at something, I’ll fail at everything”).

By replacing irrational views with ones that are reality-based, you’ll feel more confident. (See 50 Common Cognitive Distortions for a list of thinking errors from Psychology Today.)

Adjust your attitude

Your overall perspective greatly impacts confidence. If you’re generally negative and believe that failure is inevitable, it will become your reality. Instead, practice optimism and gratitude. A positive attitude enhances self-confidence.

Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.

Albert Bandura

Track your achievements

Is optimism challenging due to circumstances, barriers, or obstacles? Try creating a list of all the things you’re proud of – your biggest accomplishments in life. Did you graduate college? Quit smoking? Pay off a loan? Raise a child? Earn an award? To enhance self-confidence, take pride in your successes. Review the list often and update it with successive achievements.

Identify talents, skills, and knowledge

In addition to acknowledging accomplishments, recognize your unique talents, skills, and knowledge. What are you good at? What are your areas of expertise? Instead of lamenting a lack of athleticism, relish in your ability to make others laugh or your mastery of the Dothraki language.

mistakes happen

You’re only human after all, and as a human, you are going to make mistakes. You will never achieve perfection, so let go of unrealistic standards or expectations you have for yourself. Also, don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes; be kind to yourself… and be wise. When you mess up, own it, and then learn from the error. Every mistake is a growth opportunity; you only fail when you give up.

Don’t compare out

(Or if you do, compare yourself to others who lack what you have!) There will always be people who are better off and there will always be people who have it worse than you. To build confidence, use yourself as the measure for success, not someone else.

Fake it till you make it (“act as if”)

To feel confident, act confident! Be intentional in your speech, actions, and how you carry yourself. Act like you know what you’re doing, and people will believe it, which in turn will influence how you feel about yourself. Just like thoughts have the power to alter behaviors, behaviors can impact thoughts and beliefs.

“I taught myself confidence. When I’d walk into a room and feel scared to death, I’d tell myself, ‘I’m not afraid of anybody.’ And people believed me. You’ve got to teach yourself to take over the world.”

Priyanka Chopra

Seek support

Ask for help when you need it. Rely on trusted family and friends for support and encouragement. (It should also be noted that if you have a mental illness, you may require professional help. Feelings of worthlessness, panic, and extreme self-consciousness are examples of symptoms that interfere with someone’s ability to feel confident; they can be treated with psychotherapy and/or medication.)

Lastly, practice regular self-care

When you’re tired or rundown, it’s difficult to feel good about yourself. It’s also true that you won’t function as well when your basic needs aren’t met. If a vehicle is not well-maintained, its performance suffers; the same is true for people. Eat healthy foods, get adequate rest, drink plenty of water, exercise daily, and seek treatment when ill.

Resources for Self-Confidence

Articles & Links

Free Kindle eBooks

Free PDF Workbooks

Conclusion

Everyone is good at something. Recognize your unique abilities, and take pride in them. Allow yourself to feel confident; life is too short for inaction related to self-doubt.

At the same time, assess and remain aware of areas for growth. Strive for self-improvement; be assured that you can learn new skills and make positive changes in your life.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


References

Diabetes Took a Toll on My Mental Health

Diabetes can take a toll on anyone. Michele Renee was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 22. In this post, she describes her experience with the disease, including how it affected her mental health. She also shares the key to finding peace with her illness.

Diabetes can take a toll on anyone, if not taken care of properly. When it comes to mental health though, diabetes is known to affect certain aspects of day to day life.

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Guest Post: The Toll Diabetes Takes on My Mental Health

I first found out I had diabetes type 2 when I was 22 years old. I was overly stressed and eating my feelings way more than I should have. The stress and unhealthy lifestyle were what triggered my diabetes symptoms.

I have always dealt with depression and low self-esteem, but once my symptoms were triggered, I started to deal with memory loss, and a foggy brain. The best way to describe that experience is like you learn something that doesn’t quite make sense, but you could see where the concept is headed but you still can’t figure it out.

Then five minutes later you completely forget the meaning of the concept and where it was headed. I dealt with this constantly. I was in college during this time, and I ended up failing quite a bit of classes because I just couldn’t understand what I was learning. Also, on a test day, I would forget almost everything that I had studied.

HOW I MANAGE DIABETES DAY TO DAY

I started having to keep an ongoing list of “To Do’s” and would have to revisit the list four or five times before I remembered to finish the “To Do” item.

This crossed over into my conversations with my friends and loved ones as well. Some days I wouldn’t remember what I said in a conversation from the day before. The short-term memory loss was horrible!

But once I started eating according to a diabetes diet, the fogginess and memory loss started to go away.

I also dealt with insomnia and poor sleep, and in a lot of ways that was a result of the foods I was eating. Once I changed my diet, and started exercising more, I slept a lot better.

Diabetes & Other Mental Health Issues

On top of diabetes, I also have a few other mental illnesses. One of them being bipolar disorder, rapid cycling. My highs would go for a week, then I would feel normal, then I would be low for another week, in terms of mood.

During my highs, I would often forget to eat, and that would leave me feeling shaky (a result of low blood sugar) and anxious. Some days, I would forget to eat for hours because I wanted to finish whatever inspiring project I was working on at the minute.

On my low mood swings, I would feel so depressed and sad, and sometimes even numb that I would binge eat. The binge eating would either be fast food or sugary foods (both of which I HAVE to avoid). This would cause me to feel nauseous and I would often get horrible migraines (a result of high blood sugar).

Insecurities From Diabetes

Dealing with both diabetes and my other mental health issues caused me to gain a ton of weight in the last fours years. I have gone through times where I lost the weight, then gained it back six months later.

It left me feeling very insecure, and like I had a bigger body than I actually do. I stopped taking photos of myself, and was mortified everytime I took a group photo with my friends. I found myself disgusted by my looks.

This led me to judge myself harshly when I deviated from my diet, and honestly probably pushed me to deviate more and more. The bad food was my comfort from my harsh criticism. It became a vicious cycle.

Healthy Living

Now, I try not to judge myself as harshly anymore. After beating myself up for so many years, I came to realize that I can find peace in this illness. I have managed it with diet alone and that is honestly a huge feat.

Most people who are diagnosed have to take either insulin shots or an insulin pill. I have pushed myself to find a healthy lifestyle that works for me. Once I did that, I started practicing accepting my flaws.

That is the hardest part of learning to love yourself, in my opinion. I also gathered a really strong support system that I go to almost every day when I am feeling super low or when I am feeling extremely insecure.

I also remind myself that no one is perfect, and we are all a work in progress. I have started putting little affirmations anywhere I can; I even made wallpaper affirmations for my phone!

Mental health is hard to handle when you are diabetic, but if you learn to love yourself, the process of managing it gets easier.


By Guest Blogger, Michele Renee

Read more of Michele’s inspiring posts at Life With Michele Renee, a lifestyle and wellness blog!

The Psychology of Motivation

What is the psychology behind motivation? This post examines the research on motivation and reviews the implications. The conclusion reached is contrary to what you may believe.

What is motivation? According to Merriam-Webster, to motivate is “to provide with a motive.” A motive is defined as “something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”

Motivation is highly sought after in today’s society; it’s the golden ticket to success. You would think achievement (as an end result) is motive enough, but this proves to be false. We desire success, but are often unable to maintain our drive. It fades away before goals are reached. For example, a dieter is initially motivated by weight loss, improved sleep, and increased energy; these are all powerful motivators. But it’s not enough. Why?

This article is about what it is that motivates us (and why that driving force is often short-lived). (Hint: There are no secrets, tricks, or hacks.)



1. Motivation can be intrinsic (arise from within) or extrinsic (influenced by outside forces)

Intrinsic motivation is rewarded internally. An example of an intrinsic drive is pursuing the study of archeology because it holds a strong appeal or attraction. The behavior of engaging is the reward. Research establishes a strong link between interest and intrinsic motivation. Alternatively, extrinsic motivation refers to externally rewarded motives, such as writing a paper for a grade or performing well at work for a raise.

Practical application: If you’re looking to achieve a goal, but lack the drive, create an incentive. Be creative. Choose rewards that are meaningful.

2. The Role of Dopamine

Studies have found that dopamine, a neurotransmitter, plays a considerable role in drive. More recently, researchers have speculated there are specific areas in the brain responsible for motivation.

To consider: A lack of inspiration or drive could indicate chemical imbalance, especially if paired with feelings of sadness or hopelessness, fatigue, or thoughts of suicide. If debilitating, you may be depressed. Seek professional help.

3. Self-efficacy and perceived competencE

Research indicates that if you believe you can accomplish something, you’re more likely to achieve it than if you doubt yourself. This is a reoccurring theme in motivation literature. Self-efficacy is key.

Practical application: Evaluate your confidence. Do you view yourself as capable? On a scale from 1-10, how confidant are you that you can achieve [insert your goal here]? You won’t maintain the motivation to lose weight if you believe you’ll always be heavy. Self-doubt is a trap. To cultivate self-efficacy, focus on your past accomplishments and successes. Reframe negative thoughts. (Instead of This is impossible, try This is difficult, but manageable.) Increase your self-efficacy by setting – and achieving – one or two easy goals.

4. Having a sense of control leads to greater motivation

If you believe that life “happens” to you or that you are powerless to circumstances, you have an external locus of control. (This is sometimes known as learned helplessness.) It’s difficult to sustain motivation with this view. We can’t control all the variables in life, but we can control our choices and reactions. We control who and what we allow to negatively impact us. This knowledge is empowering. It allows for motivation and can foster an increased sense of efficacy.

Practical application: List or think about some undesirable aspects of your life (rent, a car accident, a difficult colleague, etc.) Select one item from your list and then write ways you can exercise control. (For example, you can’t control a difficult co-worker, but you control what you say to them, how you respond to them, and so on.) Recognize that your decisions directly impact the quality of your life.

5. Outcome value is related to motivation 

The greater the perceived value of an outcome, the stronger the motivation. If you value living in a tidy home, you will be motivated to clean. For someone who doesn’t mind a mess, a clean house holds little value.

Practical application: You want to save money, but struggle to see the immediate benefits. Create a list of all the ways saving can improve your life, both now and in the future. Consider what’s currently important to you. If it’s spending time with family, link that to saving money. (Extra savings mean you can afford to dine out or take vacations with your family.) By increasing outcome value, you may increase your level of motivation. Apply this principle to all aspects of your life.

6. Goals and deadlines are motivating

Define your outcome with a measurable goal and place a time limit on it. By defining exactly what you want (I want to lose 10 lbs.) and then giving yourself a deadline (in 3 months), you’re creating a blueprint. Having a goal map makes it easier to stay motivated by providing direction.

Practical application: When you need motivation, first consider the steps required to accomplish your goal. Be as specific as possible. And then create a deadline. (Note: Deadlines can be flexible. If you don’t meet your deadline, it’s easy to give up, leaving you the opposite of confident and effective. Instead, if a deadline isn’t met, push it back a week. Be reasonable. Revise your goal if needed. Remember to be solution-focused.)

7. Money is a motivator

Researchers discovered that cash is a driving force. Money is a classic example of an extrinsic motivator – and it’s effective. So how can you use this information?

Practical application: There are apps and programs that pay you to stay on track. An example is the Achievement app; you earn points for exercising, drinking water, sleeping, and doing other health-related activities. Once you earn 10,000, you receive $10. Additionally, the weight loss program HealthyWage pays you to lose weight. (Be careful – there’s also a chance you’ll lose money!) If you dread going to work, think about your paycheck. Lastly, to motivate employees, offer small bonuses or other cash incentives linked to performance.

8. Working together on a task enhances motivation

Working toward a common goal with a partner or a group seems to enhance motivation.

Practical application: This practice can be applied in the workplace or at school. Don’t work on projects alone; find someone who shares your enthusiasm. If you want to start an exercise routine, ask a friend (who also wants to get in shape) to hit the gym with you. It seems we’re able to inspire and motivate each other; when one person’s motivation wanes, the other’s kicks in.

9. The source of motivation changes as we pursue our goals

There’s something called “promotion” motivation. We’re good at setting goals and feeling motivated. Initially. Then, somewhere along the way, our motivation switches. It becomes “prevention” motivation. For example, the promotion motivation for losing weight may be fitting into a certain pair of jeans. When the jeans fit, the motivation becomes prevention motivation. Prevention motivation is harder to sustain.

To consider: Have a variety of motivational strategies. Recognize that motivation will change as you pursue your goals.

10. Once something becomes a habit, it persists long after motivation is gone

This may be the most valuable finding of all. With motivation, there are variables: Self-efficacy, deadlines, money, etc. A habit supersedes the variables. There will be times we lack motivation, no matter how effective we feel or how much we value the outcome. If we act out of habit, we don’t have to rely on motivation. Of course, the tricky part is creating a new habit. Habits, which are formed by repetition, reorganize information in your brain so that an action becomes automatic and is no longer tied to a motivational cue.

To consider: Researchers assert it can take anywhere from 15 to 254 days to form a habit. In addition to repetition, you must remove cues that trigger habits you’re trying to quit while adding cues that trigger desired behaviors.

In conclusion, there are many factors related to motivation including self-efficacy, outcome value, and financial incentive. Our motivation changes as we pursue goals, indicating the need for a variety of motivational strategies. We know that dopamine plays an important role and that there are structural regions in the brain responsible for motivation.


A friend of mine recently asked how I motivate myself to go to the gym when I get off work. “It has nothing to do with motivation,” I responded. “I just do it; it’s not an option not to.”

I’m fully aware I lack motivation. However, I recognize that motivation, while advantageous, is not a prerequisite for success. It’s too fickle; it lacks the staying power of habit and the might of determination.


Don’t rely on motivation to achieve your goals. Instead, invest in the determination it takes to form a habit.


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC


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