One of the most important opinions you have is the one about yourself. So how much can we nurture this opinion, and how much is a product of our environment and life experiences?
Read on below for an excerpt from our Frame Discussion where Therapist Maya Nehru answers these questions and more for improving your self-esteem and how you can build up your self-confidence.
Q: Are self-esteem and self-confidence the same thing?
Zeahlot: Great question! No, they are not the same. Self-Esteem is basically the idea of how we value ourselves, how we see our self-worth. This can be influenced by a variety of things including your genetics, your personality, the environment you grew up in, and your lifetime experiences. Confidence is a very domain specific concept. It's all about mastery of a specific field, and the more you feel like you've mastered something, the more your confidence builds.
Q: At what age do we start to develop our beliefs about ourselves and our self-worth?
Zeahlot: It's hard to pinpoint a specific age, but I would say it starts to happen from the moment we're born. A lot of our self-esteem and our self-worth comes from interactions with caregivers and people in our close social circle. It starts from the second we're born and the way we attach to our parents, to our siblings, to those close caregivers, and it develops and is impacted as we go on.
Q: What kinds of things or experiences influence our self-worth and our beliefs about ourselves?
Zeahlot: So, like I mentioned, it starts with interactions with our caregivers. For example, if as an infant or a child you are neglected by your primary caregivers, you may internalize that and have a low self-esteem. Some people who’ve experienced this feel like they’re not worth anything. Or even that they’re actually worth being ignored and neglected.
If you are abused at some point in your life, whether in childhood, or even as an adult, that can also play a big role on how you feel about yourself and see your self-worth. Some people then internalize that there's something wrong with them, that maybe they deserved that pain and hurt.
Then there's things like our age, and any physical illness that we might encounter that can really impact our self-esteem as well as just social interactions with people, whether it's being bullied at school or our performance at a job that really hinders the way we see ourselves and even our confidence in our abilities. All of these experiences can impact our self-esteem.
Q: People always say “fake it till you make it”. Can you really fake self-confidence?
Zeahlot: I believe it’s not about faking it, it's more about acting as if you are confident. Practice really trying to understand what it would feel like to be a confident person as yourself, and grasp onto those traits and try to act in that way. Acting in this way can really shine as confidence, even if you don't have it. A lot of times if we're acting a certain way, if we're acting like we feel more confident, we'll actually start to believe it in ourselves. With that frame of mind, I believe that's why people say fake it till you make it.
Q: Are there ways to develop self-confidence?
Zeahlot: Absolutely. I think one of the best ways is by surrounding yourself with people that really believe in you, and people you feel good around because that makes you feel good about yourself.
Another thing would be picking something that you're good at, or you feel like you're sort of good at, and really mastering that skill because the more you work at it, the better you'll get and the more confident you'll be in performing that one act.
Another thing to develop self-confidence is to really hone in on what you see as confidence, how you would feel as a confident person. And again, try to act as if you're that person, harnessing all of the things that are inside of you. The more you try to enact them in your daily life, the more you'll start to feel that way, and the more your confidence will build.
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