So, where does self-confidence come from?
Over the years, I have noticed several things about confidence, in myself and also in my clients. Perhaps the most significant is the extent to which so many people seek affirmation externally, from others, and the impact that this has on them.
I have learnt that two things seem to happen when we seek affirmation from others. The first is that, the more we look for others to affirm us, the less accepting or believing we are of that affirmation and, consequently, the more we seek external affirmation. And so this reinforcing circuitous behaviour continues. The second thing is that the more we seek external affirmation the less confident we become in our own ability.
I am no psychologist, as you know, but the reason seems to be self-evident: self-confidence, by definition (I guess), needs to come from self. To look to get it from others seems to me to be a contradiction in terms.
A second consequence is, I believe, equally true: from a neuroplasticity perspective (see my earlier memos), each time I seek external affirmation the more I am exercising that “muscle” in my brain and the stronger my “lack of self-confidence muscle” therefore actually becomes. I say “actually” because that’s what neuroplasticity means, at least in lay terms: the thoughts we have, what we pay attention to, actually physically changes a part of our brain and, so, in that sense we are building that muscle. So, each time we seek external affirmation, we strengthen the lack of confidence muscle, if you like, and (it’s a double whammy!) weaken our confidence muscle!
But it’s not all bad news, because the converse is equally true. Each time we seek affirmation from ourselves, the stronger that “muscle” becomes and the weaker our “lack of self-confidence muscle” becomes!
So, this week, stop trying to get your confidence from others. Look inside yourself. Start with small things if you need to – things you KNOW you can do, and tell yourself so. Focus on what you can do, not on what you think you can’t.
Monday Morning Perspective: “Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”
“If you think you can do something or think you can’t, you’re right.”