By: Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W. | Posted August 7, 2022
"When my kids were teenagers, they went to an Outward Bound course. Though they each did different things—hiking vs. sailing vs. rock climbing—the core activities were the same: High ropes course, run a half marathon, live in the woods by yourself for three days, build a lean-to, practice how to deal with bears or falling overboard. When they came back, they were pumped: Bring it on! Eat my dust!
In other words, their self-confidence had ramped up by 1,000 points. Why? Because they had spent three weeks continually facing near-death experiences.
Self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image all fall in the same bundle—about feeling good about yourself, feeling more like a winner than a loser. What gets in the way? Generally, a cause and a result: The cause is that you learned to be too self-critical, likely by having critical and unsupportive people around you. You never give yourself a break; even the smallest mistake—the burned biscuits—is another demerit and sign of your incompetence. Your expectations are impossibly high, and everything—even the biscuits—is what you’re overall competence is measured by.
But the result of this ongoing criticism is that you learned to give up on yourself, setting your self-image in concrete. You no longer try anything new because you “know” it will not work out. You give up on your dreams because you “know” you can’t reach them. You’re one of the “losers”; your life becomes small, filled with resignation. You avoid those break-out experiences that can make all the difference.
Time to make that difference and change that story. Like that Outward Bound course, to change your self-image, and increase your self-confidence and self-esteem, you don’t need to start by changing your emotions or attitude but by changing what you do. Here are some tips:
1. Set a challenge.What is it that you most want to change about yourself? It might be something physical—exercising more, drinking less. Or relational—speaking up and telling others what bothers you rather than holding it in.
Pick one thing. The topic ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is picking something important enough to motivate you into action.
2. Map out baby steps.This is the key. You may be ready to break out, but the danger is that you try and do the make-over: Work out seven days a week, stop drinking altogether, confront your mother or boyfriend or boss. You’re doing all-or-nothing; you’ll burn out, get frustrated, or it will blow up, only adding more fuel to your story of incompetence. Slow and steady wins the race.
3. Focus on the effort, not the outcome.Sometimes your efforts won’t get you the results you want. You get the courage to speak up to your boss about your schedule, and she still doesn’t change it. You work out for two weeks, but nothing seems to have changed. That’s fine. Don’t measure success by what happens next, but by doing it at all.
Ultimately, the goal is not the outcome—whether you achieve what you’re striving for—but the process—taking the risk, stepping outside your comfort zone, doing rather than believing, or despite believing that you can’t. And sometimes, you will achieve what you want. As you accumulate these experiences and become more comfortable with risk-taking, you’ll change the story. You’re no longer the loser; you’re actually courageous, confident, and competent.
4. Stop that critical voice.But that critical voice will always be looking over your shoulder, ready to pounce and let you know that your success was dumb luck, that it wasn’t significant, that it’s only a matter of time before you fall back into your loser status. You can think of your critical voice as a bully constantly beating you up or as hypervigilant guard dogs trying to protect you. Pick one.
If it's a bully, time to push back. Start by paying attention to when that voice kicks up. Good. Now tell it to stop, practice ignoring it, not letting it distract you from moving forward, and better yet, pat yourself on the back for taking the risk and making an effort. And if you think in terms of the guard dogs, be the alpha, let them know that you’re OK, there’s nothing to worry about, that you got this. Realize that critical voice isn’t you."
By Guy Winch, Ted Talk
"We'll go to the doctor when we feel flu-ish or a nagging pain. So why don't we see a health professional when we feel emotional pain: guilt, loss, loneliness? Too many of us deal with common psychological-health issues on our own, says Guy Winch. But we don't have to. He makes a compelling case to practice emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies."
By: Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
“Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men-and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. Here’s why and what to do about it.”
Confidence in Women
Although women have worked hard and have made great strides including the following:
**Men still get promoted faster and paid more. Women still struggle to make it to top positions. The number of women in top positions is very small and barely increasing.
Women are lacking in confidence, including women who are highly successful in the professional world. There is a vast confidence gap that separates women and men. Compared with men:
*Women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions.
*Women predict they’ll do worse on tests.
*Women end up going into less competitive fields like human resources or marketing.
*Women generally underestimate their abilities.
*Women feel confident only when they are perfect…or practically perfect.
"The confidence gap is important because success correlates with confidence just as much as it correlates with competence. Having talent isn’t merely about being competent; confidence is a part of that talent, you have to have it to excel."
“Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action. It is the factor that turns thoughts into judgements about what we are capable of, and that then transforms those judgements into action.” –Richard Petty (Psychology professor at Ohio State University who has spent decades studying confidence.)
"Women also suffer from the perfectionism mentality. Women strive to be perfect in all that they do. Women have fixating thoughts on their performance at home, at school, at work, at the gym, and even on vacation. Women have obsessive thoughts about every role in their lives because we want to do them all perfectly, but perfectionism is another confidence killer. Striving to be perfect actually keeps women from getting too much of anything done.
Is this to say that men don’t suffer from thoughts of doubt?
No, men do suffer the occasional thought of doubt, but not with such exacting and repetitive zeal, and they don’t let their doubts stop them. Women often times let their doubt or lack of confidence get in the way of trying. Women can do just as well as men when taking tests or performing in top positions, but they choose not to try because they don’t feel confident in their ability to perform. This is what holds women back. Women avoid taking risks because they fear making mistakes and strive to be perfect. When we hesitate because we aren’t sure (low confidence), we hold ourselves back.
The good news is that we are capable of performing just as well as men do! The evidence is implicit, to become more confident, women need to stop over thinking and just act! The more that we do this, the more confidence we will build. By shifting our thought patterns and behavior, by keeping at it, channeling our talent for hard work, we can make our brains more confident prone."
“What neuroscientists call plasticity, we call hope.”