Lesson 1 of 7  - free your true Self to guide you

Options for Gaining
Self Confidence

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/confidence.htm

Updated  02-03-2015

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      This brief YouTube video provides perspective on what you'll read here:

      This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 - identify and reduce psychological wounds. It defines "self confidence," outlines things that prevent it, and offers practical suggestions for improving  it.

              This article assumes you're familiar with...

      Before continuing, reflect: why are you reading this - what do you need?


      How would you describe "confidence" to a pre-teen? If s/he asked you "Where does confidence come from?", what would you say? See how you feel about these opinions:

      Confidence is a mental attitude about your ability to accomplish something in an acceptable way. "Accomplish something" implies that you need to be able to clearly define specific, achievable goals. For instance, learning to square dance, is achievable, unless you're disabled. Inventing anti-gravity is probably not achievable. "I want to feel better about myself" is vague and hard to achieve. "I want to be able to (a) define my primary needs and (b) fill them effectively in all situations" is much more specific and achievable.

      Setting clear, achievable goals in the face of doubt, uncertainty, and others' skepticism requires intentionally and patiently developing the abilities to...

  • think clearly (vs. "fuzzily") and creatively

  • stay focused, despite distractions

  • maintain a glass-half-full ("positive") attitude, despite setbacks

  • be aware of yourself and your social interactions

  • calmly accept things you cannot change

  • accumulate life experience, and learn to understand how people and the environment "work"

  • admit and learn from your mistakes without guilt or shame, and...

  • be willing to ask for and accept help.

Do you feel confident you could learn each of these requisites over time? If not - why?

      "Accomplish my goals in an acceptable way" means that you reach your objective in a way that earns your and other people's respect and approval. Getting a perfect test score through studying hard is respectable. Getting it by copying someone else's answers is not a respectable way to succeed, unless you lack a conscience.

      Confidence can be global ("I can achieve anything I want to") or limited - like "I can drive a car in downtown traffic without an accident." Implication - it's normal to have a whole range of confidences about various things - e.g. "I'm confident I can raise healthy poodles, do most home repairs, and choose clothes that don't clash - but I'm not confident I could drive a submarine, be a brain surgeon, or tame a mountain lion."

      So achieving "self confidence" also depends on your personal identity and key roles, like:

  • an adult person

  • a female or male

  • a parent, grandparent, teen, sibling, relative, friend, and/or neighbor

  • a seeker, learner, and/or wound-recoverer

  • a child of God / Christian / Muslim / Buddhist / Jew / Baptist / Baha'i / Sufi, etc.

  • an employee or boss

  • a pet owner, gardener, chef, inventor, mechanic, musician, artist, vehicle operator, citizen...

and so on.

This array of options suggests a general question - "Am I confident I can choose what I want to be confident about or at?" If you can't answer "Yes" yet...

  What Gets in the Way?

       After decades of researching this question, I propose a group of interactive reasons for lack of self confidence - in general, or in some role/s. Option: use this as a self-improvement checklist:

__  Dominance of a false self  - specifically, being guided by a Shamed Child ("I'm no good"), an Inner Critic ("You never follow through"), a Pessimist ("You'll never succeed") a Perfectionist ("That's not good enough!"), and a Scared Child ("If I try and fail, I'll get hurt!!).

__  Unawareness - not knowing you're ruled by a false self, or what to do about that.

__  Your false self...

  • focusing on your limitations and failures, not your strengths and successes

  • choosing vague and/or unattainable goals

  • expecting too much of yourself too fast

  • fearing or discounting success ("I don't deserve it!")

  • giving up too easily / fearing to risk changes

  • believing someone's opinion that ''pride is a sin!"

  • believing you must always put other's needs ahead of yours, and that you're responsible for other's feelings

  • comparing your achievements to others, rather than to your personal best

  • assuming other people's disapproval before or after the fact

  • discouraging yourself, rather than encouraging

  • accepting others' negative opinions about you as "the truth"

  • defining "success" or "failure" as the only options (vs. "progress")

__  Choosing to be in a low-nurturance (dysfunctional) family, workplace, church, and/or social circle - and not knowing that or what to do about it

__  Lack of life experience (specially teens)

__  Lack of hero/ines and/or wise, caring mentors

__  Not knowing or living from a Bill of Personal Rights

__  Not knowing how to think, communicate, and problem-solve effectively

__  Not knowing when or how to accept merited praise


      Once you're aware of the factors that lower your self confidence (above), you have many choices. The single most powerful choice is to study Lesson 1 here and learn how to free your wise true Self to lead your other subselves.  S/He will show you haw to become more confident!

      Define "confidence" for yourself: "I feel confident when _______________."

      Then define how confidence occurs. It usually grows over time with a string of achievements. If your social environment doesn't affirm and praise your talents and achievements, seek people who appreciate you and what you do.

      Define your target. What - specifically - are you trying 1o become more confident about? What yardstick are you using; other people's achievements or your own personal best?

      Meditate on where you got your definitions of "success" and "failure." If you're using someone else's definition (like a parent, coach, spouse, or hero/ine), give yourself permission to make and live by your own definitions.

      Patiently learn how to identify and assert your needs, and how to problem-solve, over time - i.e. learn and practice the skills in Lesson 2 here.

      More confidence-building options...

      Consider these options for increasing self-respect and loving yourself

      Adopt the philosophy Progress, not Perfection!, and see mistakes and failures as chances to learn (improve).

      Read and apply the wisdom in "The Inner Game of Tennis," by Timothy Gallway..

      Coach your personality subselves to (a) not dwell endlessly on past "failures," and to (b) replace "I can't ________" with "I'm learning how to _____________."

      If you're a teen: work to patiently develop confidence at:

  • your ability to develop confidence

  • learning how to learn and problem-solve,

  • learning what your strengths and limitations are,

  • learning how to handle frustrations and mistakes,

  • learning to avoid comparing yourself to other people

  • learning to see what you can and cannot control, and...

  • preparing for adult independence a day at a time.

      Read and apply Embracing Your Inner Critic, by Hal and Sidra Stone; and Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw.

      Meditate on this wise view of Risking

      Experience this thought-provoking video called "The Dash"

      Recall why you began reading this article. Then note how you feel and what you're (subselves are) thinking now. Did you realize how many effective options you have?


      This Lesson-1 article defines and explores self-confidence, proposes a number of reasons people aren't confident - in general, or in a specific role; and it offers suggestion for improving your self confidence. The most powerful options for doing this are studying and applying Lessons 1 and 2 here. 

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else'?

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