Self-confidence and self-esteem are extremely important but acquiring both can be challenging for some of us. There may be periods or people in our lives that have caused us to doubt our abilities, question our strengths, and lose confidence in ourselves. Building our confidence in ourselves and our self-esteem allows us to pursue more opportunities, advocate for ourselves in challenging situations, and gives us the strength to recover from hardships more easily. Today, we look at how we can build our self-esteem and confidence so that we can thrive in any environment and improve our perception of ourselves.

A mistake many of us make when it comes to self-esteem is believing that because it was an external factor that caused us to doubt ourselves, then we need to find validation from an external factor to ‘prove them wrong’ or balance out the negative feedback we received or experience we had. Gaining confidence from feedback from others is of course valid, to a certain extent, but it’s not advisable to base your self-worth on how you are perceived or recognised by others. Additionally, we might be waiting indefinitely for the other person to apologise and to take back the hurtful words they said. The key to self-confidence is, rather than waiting for somebody else to praise us or recognise our achievements, to build up trust in ourselves from within, so that the confidence is unshakable even in difficult periods or circumstances in our lives.

So, what is self-confidence? What is self-esteem? Is there a difference between the two?

Self-confidence is defined as ‘a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement’, whereas self-esteem is described as ‘how we value and perceive ourselves’. While these definitions are similar, there is a difference in the nuance of these terms. Confidence is described as a ‘feeling’, which, just like other feelings, can come and go based on varying factors. Confidence is something we may feel in some moments, and not in others. In contrast to this, self-esteem is more constant. Holding yourself in high regard and respecting yourself is about building a solid image of yourself in your mind and being able to advocate for that self, which will underpin those moments of confidence, and help you experience those moments more frequently. Thus, building up our self-esteem will help us maintain a constant level of stability and self-worth that will allow us to become more self-confident. So how can we rebuild our self-esteem after it has been broken down?

Often our self-esteem breaks down when we focus on the areas where we may struggle or not succeed, which can, for many people, lead us to believe that we have no strengths or successes, because we can only see that which we are focussing on. Firstly, to build our self-esteem back up, we have to shift our focus from our failures to our successes, and from our weaknesses to our strengths. Make some time to find five or ten areas or situations in your life where you demonstrated a strength or succeeded. These don’t need to be external successes such as awards or degrees; a success can be acquiring a skill, developing an interest, navigating a difficulty etc. Learning to recognise your successes that aren’t acknowledged or rewarded by others is a great step to acquiring a solid self-esteem, as you won’t be reliant on external validation but by your own appreciation of your efforts.

Secondly, changing your perception of your weaknesses can really improve your overall image of yourself. When you look at a weakness as an area for improvement, it can change your perception to a more productive one; if time-management is a weakness of yours, viewing it as something you are able to work on and improve upon can be far more helpful that considering yourself simply bad at it, or believing you can never be good at it.

However, it is also important to acknowledge your limitations without letting them become areas that destroy your confidence. If you aren’t a particularly gifted artist, for example, and you have no intention of becoming an artist, then allowing yourself to simply be a mediocre artist is also extremely valid and can also increase your enjoyment of the activity itself as you are no longer pressuring yourself to become good at something. There will always be areas that we are less gifted in, and that others may have a particular strength in, and it’s just as useful for our confidence to recognise this and allow others to shine in that field in our stead.

Building on our self-esteem helps us in many areas of our lives, from our relationships to our career paths, and it is also a vital step in being more self-confident. Once we have learned to respect and appreciate ourselves, we are able to step into more challenging situations knowing that we have a chance of success, but also knowing that if we fail, it won’t destroy our confidence, because there are so many other areas in which we have succeeded.

Article by Abigail Whitney of Likambi Global Publishing

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