I am soft, polite and not so fashionable. What should I do to boost my confidence?
About the Questioner
Hopes and aspirations: I want to be a successful officer who is admired by everyone. I want to make a home of my own and make my life secure and loved by my husband.
This is not strange because as children we learned to be quiet, sit still and not to interrupt adults. Adults taught us to "be seen and not heard" and "Parents know best." Therefore, we were conditioned to be polite and nice to adults even when they were being rude, insensitive and obnoxious to us.
Therefore, you learned to judge yourself as less valuable than others as a child and as a result you now have low self-esteem. Since you are "different, don't speak English well and don't dress like everyone else" you feel insecure. In general, the more different you are from the norm, the more likely you are to suffer from low self esteem. This means the more sensitive, creative, intuitive and emotional you are, the more likely you are to have low self-esteem.
I grew up in North Carolina, USA on a tobacco farm. I was so shy I could not greet my fellow classmates in the small town where my school was located. To avoid my classmates, I crossed the street and walked quickly to the pick up truck where my mother was waiting for me. I was never abused, however I was trained to be quiet, good and polite. Therefore, I suffered from low self-esteem.
Consequently, I have spent the last 34 years of my life, as a licensed psychologist, unlearning many of the unhealthy conditioned responses that I was taught as a child. I am happy to report that I have also been successful in teaching many of my clients how to unlearn their low self-esteem.
First, let me define what self-confidence looks like in terms of energy, behaviors and feelings. As a holistic psychologist I think it is extremely important to use energy as the basis of any psychological definition. This is because psychological researchers often use inaccurate conditioned responses as their definition of authentic feelings and behaviors.
For example, I read an article in the New York Times a few years ago along the headlines of "Too Much Self Esteem is Bad For Children." When I looked at the study and saw how the Harvard researchers defined self-esteem, I was aghast. They were using what I call the ego, which is composed of learned responses, as their definition of self-esteem.
So in their study, a child who exhibited aggressive behavior had too much self-esteem. Thus, they concluded that too much self-esteem was bad for all children. Let me reassure you that any child with healthy self-esteem does not exhibit aggressive behavior. There is no such condition as too much self-esteem.
A child or adult with healthy self-esteem:
Behaves assertively, not passively or aggressively.
Does not judge self or others.
Says no to things they do not want to do.
Says yes to things they do want to do.
Gets what they want in life in direct, honest ways.
Relaxes their body when alone and with others.
Behaves spontaneously, living in the moment.
Expresses their emotions in healthy ways.
Listens to their own heart for guidance.
Pays attention to their own needs and desires.
Does not seek approval from others.
Has a compassionate heart toward self and others.
Let me make it clear that no matter how much you have worked on your self-esteem, there will be times when you feel insecure. As a matter of fact, the more secure you are, the more you can acknowledge your insecurities with confidence!
This means you have taken the first step toward becoming more secure by admitting you have low self-esteem. The more often you admit how you really feel, the more you will be able to transform your low self esteem into more and more solid self confidence.
If you want to be effective you need to become brave and feel brave so people respect you and know they cannot ignore you. When you feel insecure this means that you are anxious and scared. The anxiety and fear is what makes you feel insecure in the first place. So your anxiety is what you need to acknowledge and reduce.
You could stand up straight and act brave but this will rarely fool people. People react to a person with anxious energy differently that they do to a person who is relaxed and solid.
Learn from nature. In the forest, a mother bear knows if you are scared of her or not. You cannot fool her. Humans are just like bears, they know if you are anxious and scared. You cannot fool them. People may not be able to put the "energy" they are sensing into words and yet they know they can push you around! Even when you try to act like you are not scared, people feel your anxious, passive energy.
One of my early clients was unable to disagree with his wife. He let her make every decision because she had a "fit" if he did not go along with her desires. He felt just like you, a "door mat," like no one valued him or cared about him. His wife could feel his passivity and took advantage of him.
Therefore, I taught him to reduce his anxiety, relax his body and be assertive. As he improved his assertiveness and relaxation skills his wife could feel the change in him. His energy became stronger, more solid and flexible. His body relaxed and he became emotionally secure. Soon, she was no longer able to manipulate him with her "fits." Their relationship improved because she began to relate to him as an equal.
Apply this information to your work situation. You need to learn to reduce your anxiety, relax and be assertive. Then people at work will feel your energy shift from anxiety to relaxation. As you work on yourself, you will change from passive to assertive. When you become assertive, people will respond to you differently. They will relate to you as an equal because you are relating to them as an equal.
Being assertive is a skill that most people need to learn due to early childhood conditioning. I was trained to teach Assertiveness Training classes during my post doctorate training at Temple Medical School in 1975 when Assertiveness Training was poplar. I taught courses at many of the major universities in the area such as Swarthmore College and Jefferson Medical School.
Today it is hard to find Assertiveness Training courses. Everyone still needs AT but it is no longer popular. It is as if psychology has gone backwards instead of forward. This is one of the reasons I started the Center for the New Psychology. ( Visit here to learn the difference between the New Psychology and the Old Psychology.)
In addition to relaxation and assertiveness training, you need to unlearn the false beliefs that you learned as a child. As long as false beliefs are in place you will not be successful in your attempts to relax and become assertive
For example, if you were taught that little girls as not as good as little boys, this false belief needs to be unlearned. If you were taught that you deserved to be hit because you did not do what you were told to you, this needs to be unlearned. You need to become conscious and aware of the false beliefs that are impeding your personal growth.
One of the obvious false beliefs that you are holding on to is," You believe life is a battle and that is what it will be until you unlearn this false belief. Some say that belief determines 80% of your results. Others, 100%! I could write a whole book on this psychological phenomenon. We know for a fact that the placebo effect occurs in scientific studies with 35-60% of the subjects. This means that if a person thinks he received a surgery or medicine he will get better even if he did not receive the surgery or medicine. So, never underestimate the power of your beliefs. Your beliefs create your subjective reality.
What this means for you is that your life will be a battle until you prove to yourself that this does not have to be true for you. You need to bury this false belief in order to improve your life.
Replace your false beliefs with reality: Your life does not have to be a battle and you are as valuable as anyone else
Action Steps to Move Forward
- Make a list of all the natural talents you were born with and begin to believe in them. Notice what part of you is stopping you from using your innate abilities to your advantage.
- Discover what your false beliefs are by paying attention to your thoughts, words and behaviors. I strongly suggest getting a teacher, coach or holistic psychologist to guide you and coach you to success. Just like in sports, it is a lot easier to do your best if you have a good coach by your side.
- Learn how to reduce your anxiety and relax your body. Visit the free library at drjeanette.com for more anxiety information.
- Take Assertiveness Training courses and classes. Send me information about good ones and I will share with others. For great coaching, check out the telecourse, " Assertiveness Training for Increased Self Confidence" offered by the Center for New Psychology, beginning January 11, 2011.
Coaching copyright © 2010 Dr. Doris Jeanette
Doris Jeanette, Psy. D. loves to teach people how to overcome anxiety, low self-esteem and passivity. She knows from personal experience how to "Get real. Get ready. Roar!" Join her in the natural playground of the global world by taking the Assertiveness Training Telecourse For more holistic psychology inspiration sign up for her free newsletter, "The Vibrant Moment."