Self-confidence is an attitude which
allows individuals to have positive yet realistic views of themselves and their
situations. Self-confident people trust their own abilities, have a general
sense of control in their lives, and believe that, within reason, they will be
able to do what they wish, plan, and expect. Having self-confidence does not
mean that individuals will be able to do everything. Self-confident people have
expectations that are realistic. Even when some of their expectations are not
met, they continue to be positive and to accept themselves.
People who are not self-confident depend
excessively on the approval of others in order to feel good about themselves.
They tend to avoid taking risks because they fear failure. They generally do
not expect to be successful. They often put themselves down and tend to
discount or ignore compliments paid to them. By contrast, self-confident people
are willing to risk the disapproval of others because they generally trust
their own abilities. They tend to accept themselves; they don’t feel they have
to conform in order to be accepted.
Self-confidence is not necessarily a
general characteristic which pervades all aspects of a person’s life. Typically, individuals will have some areas of their lives where they feel
quite confident, e.g., academics, athletics, while at the same time they do not
feel at all confident in other areas, e.g., personal appearance, social
Self-Confidence Initially Developed?
Many factors affect
the development of self-confidence. Parents’ attitudes are crucial to
children’s feelings about themselves, particularly in children’s early years.
When parents provide acceptance, children receive a solid foundation for good
feelings about themselves. If one or both parents are excessively critical or
demanding, or if they are overprotective and discourage moves toward
independence, children may come to believe they are incapable, inadequate, or
inferior. However, if parents encourage children’s moves toward self-reliance and
accept and love their children when they make mistakes, children will learn to
accept themselves and will be on their way to developing self-confidence.
of self-confidence is not necessarily related to lack of ability. Instead it is
often the result of focusing too much on the unrealistic expectations or
standards of others, especially parents and society. Friends’ influences can be
as powerful or more powerful than those of parents and society in shaping
feelings about one’s self. Students in their college years re-examine values
and develop their own identities and thus are particularly vulnerable to the
influence of friends.
Continue to Influence Self-Confidence
In response to
external influences, people develop assumptions; some of these are constructive
and some are harmful. Several assumptions that can interfere with
self-confidence and alternative ways of thinking are:
Assumption: “I must always have love or approval from every
significant person in my life.”
Alternative: This is a perfectionistic, unattainable goal. It is
more realistic and desirable to develop personal standards and values that are
not completely dependent on the approval of others.
Assumption: “I must be thoroughly competent,
adequate, and achieving in all important areas of my life.”
Alternative: This again is a perfectionistic, unattainable goal and
suggests that personal worth is determined by achievement. Achievement can be
satisfying but does not make you more worthy. Instead, worth is an inherent
quality and all people possess it.
Assumption: “My past remains all important and
control my feelings and behaviors in the present.”
Alternative: While it is true that your confidence was especially
vulnerable to external influences during your childhood, as you grow older you
can gain awareness and perspective on what those influences have been. In doing
so, you can choose which influences you will continue to allow to have an
effect on your life. You don’t have to be helpless in the face of past events.
these harmful assumptions leaves you vulnerable to the following self-defeating
· All Or Nothing Thinking. "I am a total failure when my performance
is not perfect.”
·Seeing Only Dark Clouds. Disaster lurks around every corner and comes to be
expected. For example, a single negative detail, piece of criticism, or passing
comment darkens all reality. "I got a C on one chem test, now I’ll
never get into medical school.”
·Magnification Of Negative/Minimization Of Positive. Good things don’t count nearly as
much as bad ones. "I know I won five chess games in a row, but losing
this one makes me feel terrible about myself.”
·Uncritical Acceptance Of Emotions As Truth. "I feel ugly so it must be
·Overemphasis On "Should” Statements. "Should” statements are
often perfectionistic and reflective of others’ expectations rather than
expressive of your own wants and desires. "Everyone should have a
career plan when they come to college. I don’t so there must be something wrong
·Labeling. Labeling is a simplistic process and often conveys a sense of blame.
"I am a loser and it’s my fault.”
·Difficulty Accepting Compliments. "You like this outfit? I
think it makes me look fat.”
strategies may help overcome such self-defeating thought patterns.
·Emphasize Strengths. Give yourself credit for everything you try. By
focusing on what you can do, you applaud yourself for efforts rather than
emphasizing end products. Starting from a base of what you should do helps you
live within the bounds of your inevitable limitations.
·Take Risks. Approach new experiences as opportunities to learn rather than
occasions to win or lose. Doing so opens you up to new possibilities and can
increase your sense of self-acceptance. Not doing so turns every possibility
into an opportunity for failure, and inhibits personal growth.
·Use Self-Talk. Use self-talk as an opportunity to counter harmful
assumptions. Then, tell yourself to "stop” and substitute more
reasonable assumptions. For example, when you catch yourself expecting
perfection, remind yourself that you can’t do everything perfectly, that it’s
only possible to try to do things and to try to do them well. This allows you
to accept yourself while still striving to improve.
·Self-Evaluate. Learn to evaluate yourself independently. Doing so
allows you to avoid the constant sense of turmoil that comes from relying
exclusively on the opinions of others. Focusing internally on how you feel
about your own behavior, work, etc. will give you a stronger sense of self and
will prevent you from giving your personal power away to others.