Building Your Confidence and Self-Esteem
  • July 15, 2022
  • By Content Writer at The Center for Developmental Psychiatry

Building Your Confidence and Self-Esteem

It’s no secret that healthy self-esteem and self-confidence can help you or your child enjoy a more fulfilling life. While the two are often conflated because they overlap, they are different. Confidence is a measure of faith in your own abilities while esteem is about your sense of self, the thoughts and emotions that influence how you perceive others and interact with the world around you.

Self-esteem is about how you appreciate and value yourself. Your self-esteem develops and changes based on your life experiences and interactions with other people. Confidence is about your belief in yourself and your abilities, which can change depending on the situation. For example, it’s normal to feel more confident in some areas and less confident in others.

When you have a healthy amount of self-esteem, you can also have the self-confidence to meet life’s challenges and participate in activities you find enjoyable and rewarding. In this article, we’ll explore the concepts of confidence and self-esteem, the ways you or your child can be affected by low self-esteem and lack of confidence, and how you can build both for a better life.

What’s the difference between confidence and self-esteem?

The word “confidence” comes from the Latin fidere, “to trust.” To be confident is to trust in yourself and your ability to engage successfully with the world. A self-confident person takes on new challenges, seizes opportunities, deals with difficult situations, and takes responsibility when things go wrong.

Confidence leads to successful experience. Successful experience leads to confidence. Although any successful experience will contribute to your overall confidence, it is also possible to be confident in one area, such as cooking, but insecure in another area, such as public speaking.

Confidence and self-esteem do not always go together. It is possible to be supremely self-confident and yet have profoundly low self-esteem. This is often the case for performers and celebrities, who can perform before an audience of thousands but then damage themselves with drugs or alcohol.

“Esteem” comes from the Latin aestimare, meaning “to appraise, value, rate, weigh, estimate.” Self-esteem is your cognitive and emotional appraisal of your own worth. It is the matrix through which you think, feel, and act. It reflects and determines your relation to yourself, to others, and to the world at large.

People with healthy self-esteem do not need to prop themselves up with their income, status, or fame. They do not lean on crutches such as alcohol, drugs, or sex. They treat themselves with respect and care for their health, community, and environment. They invest themselves in projects and people because they do not fear failure or rejection. They may suffer hurt and disappointment, but their setbacks don’t damage nor diminish them. Their resilience opens them to growth and meaningful relationships. They tolerate risk, are quick to joy and delight, and forgiving of themselves and others.

How does low self-esteem or confidence affect adults and children?

Many people experience low self-esteem or low self-confidence. For some it can be restricting or debilitating. If you have low self-esteem or low self-confidence, you may find that negative or disappointing experiences affect how you feel about yourself. This can create a cycle of negative thinking and negative expectations for the future and discourage you from even trying, which can lead you to even more disappointing outcomes.

For example, if your child lacks self-confidence and receives a bad grade for a school assignment, he or she may think, “I’m just not smart enough. This proves it, and I might as well quit.” A child with healthy self-esteem who receives a low mark may think, “I’ll find out where I went wrong so I can do better next time.” The child may feel disappointed by the bad grade, but they don’t feel diminished as a person. Low self-confidence can cause:

  • shyness
  • social anxiety
  • communication difficulties
  • lack of assertiveness

People with low self-esteem can develop a strong ‘inner critic,’ a critical internal voice that expresses itself loudly when you’re feeling distressed, overwhelmed, or judged by others. This inner critic can cause significant distress by contributing to your feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger. When you believe your inner critic, it can cause you to:

  • expect the worst
  • think negative things about yourself
  • believe your negative thoughts are always true
  • ignore your strengths and abilities
  • focus on your mistakes while ignoring the positives
  • avoid challenges or situations where you might be judged by others
  • believe you don’t deserve to have pleasure or fun in your life
  • have trouble communicating in personal relationships

How do you improve your confidence and self-esteem?

Here are some things you can do to build your self-esteem and confidence:

Practice self-acceptance

Learning to accept yourself helps you feel good about yourself and other people, regardless of the situation. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. By practicing self-acceptance, you can acknowledge that mistakes are part of learning, identify ways to solve problems differently or change to get a better outcome. It’s okay to be critical of your behavior without being critical of yourself.

Get to know yourself

Pay attention to the experiences or thoughts that increase or decrease your confidence or self-esteem. Identify and focus on your strengths, abilities, and achievements. Include everything you’re proud of, no matter how small. Think about what you’d like to change or improve about yourself, and the steps you need to take to make that happen. Building self-esteem requires getting to know oneself and accepting one’s strengths and weaknesses.

Reprogram your thinking

Pay attention to the language you use when you talk to yourself or describe yourself to others.
Recognize and challenge your inner critic. Focus on those messages that make you value yourself and shut down messages that make you think negatively about yourself. The best way to reprogram your thinking is with positive self-talk.

Be more assertive

It’s okay to be more assertive about your own needs. Stop feeling guilty about asking others for the things you want or saying no to the things you don’t want.

Make changes in your life

You may find it necessary to make changes in your life to improve your self-esteem and confidence. Consider the things you can change that will improve how you feel about yourself. You may want to make changes in your job or relationships or develop new skills.

Surround yourself with positive influences

Spend more time with people who like you for who you are. Spend more time with positive, upbeat people and avoid those people who are always negative or critical. Don’t withdraw from real social contact.

Reward yourself

Celebrate your achievements, however big or small. Make time to reward yourself with experiences and activities that you truly value.

Share with others

If possible, share what you’re doing with a good friend who is a positive influence. Their encouragement and positive feedback on the changes you’re making could provide you with valuable support.

When adults or children have healthy self-esteem, they tend to be more confident. Children who are self-confident may be more willing to take on challenges and responsibility for their actions. You or your child may be confident in certain areas of life and still have low self-esteem. A good example of this is a student-athlete who trusts himself on the playing field but lacks confidence in the classroom and may secretly believe he lacks intelligence.

Create opportunities for success

One great way to ensure success is by breaking complex tasks into smaller and more manageable steps that you or your child can handle one at a time and repeat if necessary. Creating opportunities for success is helpful in teaching a child to have faith in his or her own abilities. When students are in control of their own learning and have a better understanding of what they can and cannot do, it sets them up for greater confidence, self-esteem, and success.

If you have questions regarding the ways that you can help yourself or a loved one build their confidence and self-esteem, please contact the Center for Developmental Psychiatry in Teaneck, NJ. Call 201-304-7552 for more information.

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