Life isn’t static, and neither is confidence. We all have inevitable ups and downs in relationships and careers that leave a mark on our self-image. The good news is, healthy self-esteem and confidence can be mastered just like any other skill, no matter where you are in life. They can be, and they should be, experts insist.
What is Self-Confidence
Oftentimes when referring to self-confidence, what we actually have in mind is self-esteem. The two concepts are closely related but not the same, and it’s important to distinguish them. So what does self-confidence really mean?
As Dr. Neel Burton suggests, the direct definition of self-confidence would be “trust in oneself” based on past experiences. Remember that “I know I can” feeling when you tackle a new challenge? That’s your overall confidence nurtured through everything you’ve achieved or mastered in life. Basically, every successful experience makes you more self-confident, which, in reverse, contributes to your future accomplishments.
What is Self-Esteem
Self-esteem, on the other hand, is how we see and treat ourselves regardless of the externals like proficiency, accomplishments, social position, possessions, etc. Healthy, positive self-esteem is a sense of being worthy and valuable that doesn’t diminish in the face of temporary failures but rather makes you resilient to them. It follows that high self-confidence doesn’t necessarily mean high self-esteem.
Self-esteem issues often stem from early childhood experiences. Researchers suppose that a lack of unconditional love and acceptance as a child is one of the main causes of low self-esteem and low self-acceptance later on in life.
Why Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem are So Important
Although the signs of low self-esteem may not be very evident, it dramatically affects one’s day-to-day life, especially relationships with others, putting one at a bigger risk of ending up in an unhealthy, addictive, codependent, or abusive relationship.
Natalie Incledon, a Clinical Psychologist, points out five common patterns of negative self-esteem in a relationship:
- You don’t speak up for your needs and ultimately settle for less
- You take things personally and overreact
- You suffer from insecurities and jealousy
- You try to be what you’re not to please others
- You stay in bad relationships and put up with unacceptable behaviors
Raising self-esteem helps break these negative patterns and lays the groundwork for a satisfying, mature relationship filled with love, respect, and passion. As you can see, the importance of high self-worth cannot be overestimated – it affects your relationship choices, which determines as much as your overall happiness and quality of life.
Naturally, no one is immune to periods of self-doubt. However, it sometimes takes just one incident to shatter your self-confidence completely. Going through a breakup, job loss, postnatal depression, infidelity, physical changes, or disease are some of the most vulnerable times in any person’s life. These are the times when we are most likely to lose faith in ourselves and need to regain our confidence more than ever before. Life happens, but as soon as you find yourself stuck in self-doubt, dwelling on your failures and shortcomings, it’s essential to take steps to recover your self-esteem asap.
So here are 5 practical steps to take on your way to becoming more self-confident starting now:
5 Ways to Boost Confidence and Self-Esteem
Get back in touch with your body
Body image and self-esteem go hand in hand. When you refuse to accept your body (or any part of it), it’s hard to value yourself as a whole. Similarly, low self-esteem is a sure-fire way to more self-criticism and body negativity. Negative body image is a complex experience that makes a person feel disconnected from their body both emotionally and physically. How to boost self-esteem and break out of this vicious circle? The answer is in practicing awareness within your body – instead of making yourself love your body for how it looks, learn to appreciate it for all the amazing things it does.
Start with regular mindful breathing – relax and feel the natural flow of breath in your body. Put your hands on your chest and listen to your heartbeat. Dance for yourself – become aware of every movement your body is capable of. Masturbate and remind your body it deserves to feel good. Massage your body with gratitude and tenderness – all of its lumps and bumps, especially those touch-deprived ones you feel bad about. Rub a gorgeously-scented lotion onto your skin, feel how your muscles relax, how your skin responds to the sensations, and how your dry, neglected areas become alive.
Regular gentle and kind self-touching is the utter sign of self-acceptance that communicates an important message to your body: “I feel you. I acknowledge you. I care about you. You and I are one”. As a bonus, coming to terms with your body will have a tremendous impact on sexuality and satisfaction with your sex life, whether solo or partnered.
Reclaim the right to pamper yourself
Unfortunately, it isn’t rare that women who are dissatisfied with their appearances or concerned about age-related body changes tend to feel less worthy of the simple pleasures like doing beauty treatments and shopping for new clothes now that – in their view – they no longer hold up to some subjective beauty standard.
However, personal care practices are not a privilege of someone possessing a particular quality; they are the rightful pleasures none of us has to justify. All you need is to take a different perspective – you don’t do yourself up to attract, compete, or get public validation. You do it because it makes you feel good, happy, excited, taken care of, attractive, desired, confident – you name it. Treating yourself to self-care that you know you deserve no matter what is essential to improving your self-esteem. Learn the art of pampering yourself and savor those short-term joys like new perfumes, hairdos, stylish dresses, facials, etc., with hedonistic relish. You don’t need to wait for that intangible, elusive feeling of “self-love” to come to start treating yourself with love in deed, not in word.
Create a positive environment to be in
Emotional abuse – be it from a romantic partner, a parent, or your close environment – is a silent and relentless confidence killer. Being in a toxic or abusive relationship is always poisoned with guilt, fear, and shame instilled by the abuser, which restrain the victims from speaking up for themselves. They grow to believe there must be something wrong with them.
The truth is, it happens to the best of us. All too often, strong, confident people can end up in the trap of a manipulator. No matter how hard you try to improve your self-esteem while still being in toxic relationships, the ball is never in your court because who can beat an abuser at their own game? After months and years of constant criticism, depreciating, and gaslighting, it’s hard to love your true self and trust your real feelings and desires without doubting them all the time.
That’s why, the moment you recognize any signs of emotional abuse in a relationship, it’s crucial to take a break from it asap and turn to your family, friends, or a therapist for support and a sober look at the problem. Distancing from the environment that is emotionally draining you and surrounding yourself with the people who truly believe in you is the first step to rebuilding your self-confidence. Once the fog of manipulation lifts, you’ll be able to cut off anyone making you question your self-worth and get back to your genuine self, knowing that you don’t deserve anything but the best.
Cut down on social media
It’s also important to mention social media and its impact on how we see ourselves. Social media has changed the way we present personal information and is definitely contributing to our psychological well being. Research shows that more frequent Instagram use is linked to increased levels of social comparison and social anxiety. What does it mean? While it’s obvious that social media exposes us to selectively positive and enhanced information, we still tend to compare these idealized images of others to our real lives and – predictably – get frustrated.
In practice, the vast majority of the “ordinary” moms, wives, and businesswomen we are looking up to are paid influencers building a business off their personal brand. Making an ideal image is their job, and you’d be surprised to know they aren’t doing it all by themselves – brand marketers, professional photographers, make-up artists, hairstylists, and a team of 24/7 helpers are what you don’t see when scrolling through just another perfect post. Social media is not all bad, but there’s no use going out of your way to having a lifestyle that only exists in that Instagram parallel reality.
Want to keep your self-esteem up? Unsubscribe from whatever makes you feel bad about yourself, or at least take everything you see online with a pinch of salt. Alternatively, join online female communities that provide a safe, non-judgemental space for women to ask questions, share experiences, and get support. Facing real, imperfect people – just like you – with all kinds of real-life stories instead of polished social profiles is a very empowering experience.
Watch your thoughts
This is one of those strategies for improving self-esteem that is easier said than done. Still, the truth remains – your thoughts determine your actions, and you need to learn how to make the most of this powerful, life-changing instrument at your disposal. Here are several doctor-recommended techniques to practice.
Eliminate negative self-talk by putting your inner critic in front of an imaginary friend. Would you say to someone else what you’re saying to yourself? Probably not. Then, at the very least, don’t treat yourself worse than you treat others.
We often take deeply-rooted negative thoughts for granted even though they may be inaccurate or irrational. To distinguish real facts from your subjective perceptions, it’s important to “step away” from your mental chatter and take an unbiased look at it. Techniques like putting the thoughts on paper with your offhand, making up a song about them, rhyming, labeling home objects with them, repeating them over and over can actually help you detach yourself from your habitual thinking patterns. Chances are, what you see from a different perspective will stop making sense because – in fact – it never did.
Replace destructive thinking patterns with constructive ones:
- Ditch black-and-white thinking by encouraging yourself with optimistic self-talk in any situation. It can’t be all bad. And if it is, it’s not forever.
- Don’t associate mistakes with your personality. Instead, practice self-compassion. Mistakes are part of the journey. Not a single person has ever avoided them.
- Learn to see the good in any situation and stop fixating on temporary setbacks. After all, you must have learned something from them too – give yourself credit for that!
Once you train yourself to spot negative self-beliefs that undermine your confidence, it’s easier to shift them.
Dealing with whatever comes your way in life is easier when you know your worth and don’t settle for less than you deserve. When it feels like the world takes the wind out of your sails, remember it’s in your power to restore your confidence to live a successful, happy, and fulfilling life – you can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!