Do you find yourself dismissing opportunities because you don’t think you’re good enough?
Or feel that you must work very hard to get people’s approval?
Do you shrink back from saying what you think or speaking in front of others?
It may feel like there’s a little devil on your shoulder that always points out your faults and weaknesses, and as a result you talk yourself out of things that in a different world you’d love to do or say.
If this rings a bell then you may have spent time wondering how other people have the confidence to try new things, take on challenges, talk to new people, ask for what they want etc? You’d love to be like them, yet your confidence levels hold you back. You may even beat yourself up about lacking confidence and think that this is another thing to add to your list of bad qualities. Yet the truth is that there may be a number of reasons why you struggle to feel confident and there’s a good chance that these aren’t your fault.
Self-confidence is something that can either be built up or broken down and a lot depends on your history; the experiences that have shaped your trust and faith in who you are and the strengths and abilities you have. As you go through life you pick up messages about who you are, how you fit into the world, your ability to lead a good life and achieve your hopes and dreams.
Self-confidence can be affected in several ways:
Family – how a person is parented can have a huge impact on a person’s confidence. If your parents were too critical, putting you down or suggesting you wouldn’t achieve much, or maybe they didn’t acknowledge your successes or praise and encourage your efforts, or compared you unfavourably with a sibling. These messages can leave you with the belief that you can’t please others, that you’re somehow lacking and don’t meet expectations.
School – how did you get on at school? Experiences of bullying, struggles with academic work or sport can cause a child to think they aren’t likeable, don’t match up to others, that somehow they’re not as good and can’t achieve what others can, and these beliefs can follow them into adult life.
Relationships – how have other people treated you? Relationships where you’ve had experiences of being belittled, criticised, or even abuse or domestic violence can leave you feeling less than others. Those hurtful words can do far more damage that you might think, eating away at your self-belief.
Work – how are you getting on in your place of work? Are your efforts recognised and rewarded? How do your colleagues treat you? Have you felt out of your depth? Or been sacked/made redundant? Your faith in your abilities can easily be reduced by your experience in the place where your performance is particularly important.
The world around us – how do we see yourself in the world? We can often be bombarded by media that tells us how we should look, what we should be like, how much money we should earn, what holidays we should be taking and how many friends we should have. The carefully selected moments that people choose to share about their lives on Facebook and Twitter can make us feel like our lives aren’t as successful, fun or exciting as theirs. Companies marketing their products can also chip away at our self-confidence because in order to sell us something, they need to convince us that we need it. If they can make us feel bad about our bodies, home, car etc., then they can more easily sell us a product that promises to change us for the better.
As you can see from the above, a lot of self-confidence is influenced by the treatment you’ve received at the hands of others: family, friends, school-friends, work-colleagues, spouses/partners, marketing professionals, and how their opinions of you shape your self-belief, and therefore your confidence in yourself.
However, whilst you can’t change your past, you can change your self-perspective, and this is where speaking to a counsellor can really make a difference. Counselling can help bring greater self-understanding of how life experiences have affected your view of yourself. It can be helpful to talk things through to gain a better picture of what’s influenced your confidence and held you back. From there you can learn to change how you see yourself, to learn how to challenge the negative and destructive thinking and quieten the bully inside (or the ‘little devil on the shoulder’). This will include becoming more self-compassionate by speaking kindly and encouragingly to yourself, and recognising your strengths and abilities, and valuing your personal qualities.
Counselling can also help you build the assertiveness and confidence you need to move forward and make changes that will enhance your life. Knowing that you have just the same rights as everyone else to have your thoughts and opinions heard and respected, to make new friends, try new hobbies, apply for a new job or take that new opportunity.
So, if your self-confidence is holding you back from living the life you want and would like to take that next step to re-building it, then please get in touch – it would be a privilege to help you move towards a more confident you.