How to Have Self-Confidence When You Don’t Feel Like It

How to Have Self-Confidence When You Don’t Feel Like It

By: Dr. Rick Petronella

Self-confidence essentially means to trust and have faith in oneself. It is our certainty as to our judgement, and our ability. A self-confident person is able to act on opportunities, rise to new challenges, take control of difficult situations, and accept responsibility and criticism if things go wrong. The word “confidence” is derived from the Latin fidere, “to trust”. How much do we really trust ourselves- or anyone else for that matter? The world around us can be challenging and at times causing us to question if we are capable of surviving all that is happening around us.

While self-confidence and self-esteem often go hand in hand, it is possible to have high self-confidence and yet low self-esteem. Esteem derives from the Latin aestimare, “to appraise, value, rate, weigh, estimate”, and self-esteem is the emotional appraisal of our own worth. Our self-esteem is the matrix through which we think, feel, and act. Especially when things in our life are so uncertain. This will test our very core to the point that one has go within themselves and access an inner  strength as a skill that we often would never access otherwise.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow included it as a deficiency need in his hierarchy of needs, and argued that a person could not meet his growth needs unless he had already met his deficiency needs. To me, it seems that we are each born with a healthy self-esteem (and underdeveloped self-confidence), which is then either sustained or undermined by our life experiences.

Low self-esteem can lead you to feel worthless, unlovable, and at times unwanted.

Feelings of low self-esteem have been directly linked to aggression, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, drug & alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and a general lower quality of life.

People who struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are also susceptible to developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Low self-esteem (and a lack of confidence in ourselves) often leads to feeling bad about ourselves and the lives we live. People who struggle with feelings of worthlessness hold themselves in lower regard; often feel unlovable, unwanted, and incompetent.

Why do we question our confidence?

Confidence is an elusive goal for many people. And that’s because we fundamentally misunderstand how it works. But the truth is that confidence isn’t an innate trait; it’s a quality gained through experience. We should take risks in order to build our confidence.

Many cultures view extroversion, charisma, and social skills as highly desirable qualities. If we’re going to pursue life and happiness, we’ve got to believe in ourselves. Research also shows we’re more attracted to people who are outgoing. We automatically equate outward displays of confidence with competence.

According to research done by Morris Rosenberg and Timothy J. Owens, people who struggle with low self-esteem also tend to be hypersensitive to the world around them. It’s very common in this situation to have a fragile sense of self that is often driven by feelings of worthlessness and an unmanageable lack of confidence.

Common symptoms of low self-esteem can include:

  • Being unable to trust your own point of view, always thinking someone else’s opinions are better.
  • Not voicing your opinion or feeling confident enough in your ideas to share them.
  • Being afraid to take on challenges with the fear that you will not be able to overcome them.
  • Thinking you will “fail” or “be a failure” if you don’t accomplish something (even if it’s unrealistic).

We tend to be hard on ourselves but lenient with others, even in situations very similar to our own. According to a 2005 study published in the SAGE Journals, people who struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are also susceptible to developing mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Addictions, as well as eating disorders, are also common in individuals with low self-esteem issues, particularly emotional binge-eating.

What matters most is how we expect other people to view us, not how they actually view us.

Confidence can come from being honest with yourself, but that is much harder to accomplish when your feelings of worthlessness are telling you there are no redeeming qualities about yourself.

Whenever we live up to our dreams and promises, we can feel ourselves growing. Whenever we fail but know that we have given our best, we can feel ourselves growing. Whenever we stand up for our values and face the consequences, we can feel ourselves growing. Whenever we come to terms with a difficult truth, we can feel ourselves growing. Whenever we bravely live up to our ideals, we can feel ourselves growing. That is what growth depends on.

We would all do better if we understood, as shared by Mindy Kaling, that confidence isn’t something that ought to come to us naturally. Rather, confidence is like respect; it’s something we have to earn.  So if we don’t feel confident in our life, don’t treat it as a personal flaw.   Let’s learn to view confidence as an acquired skill — one that’s available to all of us, if we’re willing to put in the work and experience the fruits that will follow.

 Start with Recognizing Your Value

The starting point is to recognize and honor your self-worth as an important person. Value yourself first. If you are waiting for others to value you first, you’ll wait a long time. Remember, the world around us will not wait for us to get it. We have to go for it and trust we can in fact do it no matter how tough things look around us. Years ago Dr Robert Schuller wrote a book called “Tough Times don’t last, tough people do”. I think this title says it best.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is not a gift given to us by those outside of us or something that can be taken from us by others. It’s a heart issue. Rather than wait passively for good self-esteem to happen, we need to take action steps to re-claim what we know we are good at doing…  Daily or weekly is best. 

1. Make a list. What’s good about you? What’s wonderful? Hang your list near your bed so that you see it when you awaken and when you go to sleep.
2. Forgive yourself. Acknowledge a mistake, but let go of self-recrimination. Recognize that you, too, are human and “allowed” to fail.
3. Do one thing you’ve been putting off. It’s amazing how clearing clutter (literal or figurative) can clear a space for better self-esteem.
4. Relax!  Exercise, take a walk. When you’re relaxed, negative things don’t seem so big, and it’s easier to remember the good things about you.
5. Do something you’re good at. The competence and accomplishment you feel when doing that activity are great antidotes to low self-esteem.
6. Learn something new. When we commit to learning, we commit to growth as a way of life. Acknowledge that you are moving forward.
7. Get absorbed in a project or other activity. Taking the focus off yourself can help when you feel low, anxious or lacking in confidence.
8. Assert yourself. Learning this skill goes a long way to improving your self-image.    
9. Remember what you’ve achieved. Take a step back and look at the whole of your life.
10. Do a self-esteem “workout.” In a private place and with complete abandon, remind yourself of all the things you’re good at, why you matter.

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