Lack of Self-Confidence and the Desire for a Quick Fix
I have written about subjects related to confidence many times on this blog. It is a topic that I often struggle with because there are so many areas in which I feel like I am not good enough. And confidence, or self-esteem, affects everything in one’s life: from self-image, to human connections, work or even hope for a better future. But confidence is very often not a reflection of reality. You can pretend to be confident, or you can even be overly confident without ever realizing that you have no idea what you are doing. Many people believe in healthy confidence levels which leave room to progress but also to grow and learn. Only, I think those sort of levels are more of an elusive concept than something that is a realistic goal for anyone.
Lack of Self-Confidence and Invalidation in the Past
When I worked in mental health, I used to lead group discussions and one of those group support topics was confidence and anxiety. Something that became clear to me quite quickly is that confidence is something that needs to be cultivated during childhood. If your parents, your teachers and your peers tell you that you are not good enough, constantly compare you to others and don’t celebrate your accomplishments with you, you will end up with low confidence levels later in life. It makes logical sense. It is during our childhood our personalities get shaped. We learn how to approach the world and others, and where to place ourselves in comparison to others. But if one thing goes wrong during your childhood, it can poison every part of your being. And to heal from that sort of damage can be extremely difficult.
So let’s assume that most people have a lack of self-confidence because of what others have said to them, or how they have been treated in the past. And instead of processing that sort of trauma, people focus on self-improvement and trying to be perfect. It is all about learning new skills, being better, faster, skinnier, healthier. Climb the ladder, buy the house, get married, be successful. But those things won’t necessarily change how you feel. Why? Because most people confuse a feeling with a fact. That sort of emotional thinking is very common. We feel something and we take it for a fact. And when we do that, we end up approaching a problem from an unhelpful angle.
When it comes to confidence, the emotional thinking is stuck in: I am not good enough versus I feel like I am not good enough. And it runs through all areas: I am not pretty enough, I am not smart enough, I am not talented enough, I am not strong enough, I am not skilled enough. And when you believe in something as a fact, it is really hard to change that fact. You don’t even question where it comes from. Because it is a fact, right? Confidence is so very much linked to how we see ourselves in relation to others. So it is easy to find evidence for the truth value of our fact. Because there is always someone prettier, smarter, richer and more successful.
I think the one and only way to truly improve the way you see yourself, is to address the thought of “I am not good enough” as the feeling “I feel like I am not good enough.” Because that gives you more room for exploration. What makes you feel that way? Where does your need for comparing yourself to others come from? How important are other people’s views and validations really in how well you feel like you live your life?
Quick Fixes and Self-Exploration
We live in a time where everything needs to be fixed, and as quickly as possible. Depression? Here, take those meds and 12 weeks of CBT. Next! No husband? Here, get the plastic surgery! Next! Better career? Here, get a life coach and work on your SMART goals. Next!
We are all so focused on fixing our issues with help from rational tools, that we forget that the real work needs to be done by us. We are chasing the feeling of feeling good about ourselves and feeling like we are good enough, without ever stopping and asking ourselves why we don’t feel good enough. I have no solution for this, by the way. Because I think that the goal of healthy confidence levels that lead to success in all areas of life is an illusion.
My suggestion would be to explore where those negative feelings come from, work on avoiding to compare oneself to others, while focusing on doing the things that you love. Confidence comes from passion and the freedom from caring much about what other people think. And there is always the risk of becoming overly confident and obnoxious (also a result of wrong parenting, by the way) instead of reaching a level that is supposed to be that one happy spot.
My Own Cognitive Dissonance
As with so many things, I have a huge cognitive dissonance here. I don’t feel good enough in almost all areas of my life, and I am unable to question that emotional thought. I am very self-aware about where that thought comes from. But I have been told that I am not good enough for almost all of my life. So I started to believe that that was a fact. And now I am stuck with low confidence and I feel unable to do much about it.
It expresses itself in so many ways for me. I think I am a fraud and I really can’t write and I don’t know what the heck I am talking about most of the time. I am a terrible artist, I am not pretty or interesting enough to be a successful sexworker, I am definitely a bad submissive to my Master. But I am masking all that. It is interesting, really. I have no self-confidence, but I can pretend that I do.
Pretend to be Confident
Why would I do that? Well, it is simple. I am good at hiding my vulnerabilities as a way to protect myself. I pretend so no one finds out and can turn that knowledge against me. Because I can be easily broken by just a few words. Not that I would show that. Nah. I would be able to hold my ground and not allow the person the satisfaction of seeing how they have hurt me. But in my own privacy, when no one is watching, I allow the hurt to take over. I pretend so I am not an easy target.
I don’t know if that is healthy or not. It makes it possible for me to survive, but it also makes it impossible for me to work on questioning the negative thoughts and feelings. I can get almost obsessive when it comes to comparing myself to others. I want to give up every day when it comes to my writing, to my submission, to my art. But I don’t show it. No one can see the struggle behind putting something out there that oozes confidence, knowledge and skill. I compare, I look at numbers, I find the smallest mistakes. And I try to be perfect while knowing only too well that I will never seem perfect to myself.
Encouragement and Validation
I don’t want my confidence to be reliant on other people’s validation, or on comparing myself to others. But it does, and I am not avoiding that truth. I must say that the validation from my Master feels really good, and that is the one sort of feedback I take as genuine. I don’t believe he lies. But when it comes to others, I often wonder what their agenda is instead of taking compliments at face value. I am still stuck in a negative self-image and I often wonder why people don’t see the bad things about myself that I am seeing.
The thing is: I don’t need words of encouragement. And no success in the world is going to change my confidence levels, that are fluctuating anyway. I have days where I just do what I love doing without thinking about if I am good enough. And other days, I can’t even start anything because I don’t believe that whatever I do is ever going to be good enough because I suck. So I need to address that I don’t have to compare myself to others and that the things that people told me when I was younger, were not necessarily the truth.
I know …
I know what to do. And I am self-aware. But I can’t change a thing, nor do I have the energy to put the effort into it. So I think for now I can just continue to work on acceptance, if not self-love and the resulting self-confidence. And being happy that I have defense mechanisms that make me seem more confident than I actually am.
What I think about confidence doesn’t need to apply to everybody, of course. For some people, just working towards goals and getting encouragement might make a huge a difference. And yet others need a reality check and need to learn about becoming aware of their weaknesses and strengths, instead of being overly confident and failing at everything. There are a few things that apply to everyone though: feelings are not fact, the only person you need to be good enough for is yourself, and figuring out why your confidence levels are where they are might be a healthier approach than quick but short-term fixes.