In this blog post, I would like to talk about a two important topics: self-confidence and self-esteem. First of all, it is important to define these two topics, because people tend to confuse them. I took their definition from the online Oxford dictionary:
“Self-confidence: A feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement.”
“Self-esteem: Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.”
Basically, self-confidence is how you feel about your own abilities, and self-esteem is how much you think you are worth. I hope you can see the different between the two terms, despite their similarity.
Now, here come the two big questions: do you have self-confidence? (Do you trust your abilities?); do you have a high or low self-esteem? (Do you think you are worth a lot or nothing?). When comes to me, I have a high self-esteem, because I like how I look and I like who I am. But I don’t have a lot of self-confidence: I don’t trust my abilities for things such as socializing, having initiative or being a leader within a group.
I think that having self-confidence and having a high self-esteem is important in order to develop an identity during your teen and young adult years. Your success and life quality during your adulthood will most likely depend on the development of your identity. Developing an identity is establishing which are your strengths and weaknesses, accepting who you are, being yourself, having life goals/aims, and being able to make rational decisions. If you have not achieved at least some of these points by the time you enter your adulthood, you will have difficulties to live in society, and you will be very likely to make life choices you will regret. You will experience the so called “role confusion”. Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence are phases everyone goes through at some point in their lives, but there are people who stay stuck forever in these phases.
In most cases, a person isn’t born with a low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. In my opinion, there is a genetic factor that sets you to have a determined personality, but the environment in which you are raised influences the development of your personality from the moment you are born to the moment you die. Being neglected or maltreated during your childhood can have a very negative effect on your self-esteem and self-confidence, thus it will have a very bad impact on the development of your identity. Same with bullying, abuse and other traumatic experiences. Sometimes, people are able to accept and live with their traumatic experiences, but other people just repress those memories somewhere inside their brains, without realizing that they still affect them indirectly, till one day those memories explode and the disaster occurs.
Said all this, I’m going to talk about self-esteem and self-confidence individually.
Firstly, to have a high self-esteem, you have to accept who you are. The reason I kinda have a good self-esteem is because I always think that I have no one to impress in life but myself. If l like to wear a certain piece of clothing, I will wear it. If like a certain hairstyle, I will get it. My opinion in this case is more important than the opinion of others, because it is my body and my life.
The main causes of low self-esteem in people are negative non-constructive criticism and hurtful judgments. “You are ugly!”. “Your outfit is horrible, you have a horrible fashion taste!”. “You are stupid, you can’t even pass the test!”. “You just brought problems to my life I wish you never were in it!”. “You are so thin, anorexic idiot!”. “You are so tall, looking like an ugly troll!”. “You are so fat, whale!”. These short of comments can basically destroy a person’s emotions and mental stability. It is not about being weak or being strong; a constant verbal abuse affects everyone. Some people show the effect (complaining, insulting back, fighting, and defending themselves), others suffer on silent (depression, anxiety, self-harming, drug abuse, eating disorders). There are also people who do both things. This is why I never ever insult or criticise someone unless they have done the same with me, which is still bad, but I’m human after all: I’m not an angel.
Acceptance is the first step to increasing your self-esteem. Accepting who you are in the society in which we live nowadays is difficult. Very difficult. You can get judged for anything: damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That’s why you may as well just do what you want. Sometimes we live to please others, even if that means losing ourselves in the process. And that is not right. Yes, we need to care about other’s feelings. But putting others constantly in front of your own needs is not as good as it sounds. The truth is, being 100% selfish isn’t good, but nor is being 100% generous. Sometimes, you must please yourself before pleasing others. As harsh as it sounds, it is true. To make decisions, listen to your heart and to your mind, before listening to others’ hearts and minds. Sometimes people want to be helpful when giving you their opinion, but don’t allow anyone to influence you in such a way that you lose who you really are.
I’m going to give three golden advice comments to anyone who struggles to accept who they are:
1) You aren’t perfect, and your imperfections are what make you an actual human, because humans we are imperfect. So stop trying to be perfect, because it will never happen. You are fine as you are. Stay original, not a copy.
2) Think more about yourself, and less about others. Live to impress yourself, not to impress others. It’s YOUR life. Live it in your own way. Everybody makes mistakes, but without mistakes, you can’t learn.
3) Society is a b****, and trying to fit in inside something so superficial isn’t healthy nor good. Don’t adapt to society; make society adapt to who you are. As long as you don’t hurt anyone, and you don’t hurt yourself, you are free. A homogeneous society would be awfully boring; a heterogeneous society promises endless diversion. Be different and stand out.
Here ends my talk about self-esteem.
Secondly, to have self-confidence, you need to believe in yourself. I don’t think that you are able to have self-confidence till you have a high self-esteem. If you don’t accept who you are, it is not possible believing in who you are. When I say believing in who you are, I mean trusting your abilities and actions. I personally find easy accepting who I am, but I don’t really believe in certain parts of me.
For example, I struggle to socialise because when I’m talking to people, I feel like if I were boring them, so I tend to shut up abruptly or I simply never try to talk. That happens because I generally believe that I am a boring person, when I actually can be funny and entertaining if I want. But in some way, my mind blocks automatically those skills most of the times.
Another example is how I try not to talk during group interactions. I have speech impairment issues since I was little, and thanks to pedagogy, my speech has improved but I still can’t pronounce certain letters and words properly. Due to this, sometimes I’m speaking and I realise I can’t find a good word to explain what I’m saying, so I stutter. Stuttering makes me feel ashamed, and I always stutter and struggle to talk in front of or surrounded by a lot of people. So I just try not to participate in group interactions. However, not talking isn’t the solution.
As I said previously, my genetics almost certainly set me to be introvert, but I don’t believe I was born with a lack of self-confidence. During my childhood, I probably didn’t develop self-confidence when comes to communication because I was told to shut up, I was mocked at, and/or I was made feel bad when I said something wrong. I don’t have self-confidence neither to be a leader nor to have initiative, due to a fear of being unsuccessful, committing mistakes and not pleasing others. This is because during my childhood, I was severely shouted at (between others) if I tried to do things in my own way, and I did them wrong, thus I now believe that it is better not to try doing new things. By the way, by sharing my self-confidence story with all of you, I want to make you see why you may have a lack of self-confidence and also, I want to make you know that you are not alone.
Nevertheless, I have grown up, I’m going to be an adult in a matter of years; I need to gain self-confidence. At least I understand why I have a lack of self-confidence; it’s an inner mind conflict, and it is difficult to solve it. However, I don’t give up. Right now, I’m trying out different methods to improve my communication skills, my main weakness: I try to start conversations more often, I plan in advance what I’m going to say, if I stutter I breathe out and start what I was saying all over again, and I try to use body language and appropriate voice tones to show enthusiasm and interest during a conversation. I think that if I improve my communication skills, I will make successful interactions, what will increase my likelihood of making friends, and if I make friends, that will be a positive outcome, which will encourage me to keep up with good skills and make more successful interactions, to a point in which I will no longer be scared of being misunderstood or of being found boring, so I will have gained some confidence on my communication skills.
I don’t know if you can see the point in my method, but basically: to gain confidence in a certain skill, you must make an effort to improve that skill and you must push yourself to practice that skill pretty often, and of course you will gradually have positive outcomes from that skill, and those positive outcomes will motivate you to keep using that skill, till you no longer have to push yourself to carry out that skill; you will carry it out naturally. This method is a cascade reaction: you just need to start it.
Here ends my talk about self-confidence.
On conclusion: if you want to make it far in life, you need self-confidence and a high self-esteem. Never confuse having self-confidence with being awfully vain, nor confuse having a high self-esteem with having a big ego. Don’t brag about your virtues; just use them whenever you need to use them. So yes guys: accept who you are and trust who you are. Don’t allow the past to hunt, don’t allow your present to be horrible due to the past, and don’t allow your future to be awful due to your present. You are not alone; we are all in the same boat. Thus we should keep rowing so we don’t sink.
Hugs and love,
Emily H. Featherington 🙂 xxx