Self confidence is the priceless ingredient that makes for a happy and successful life. It begins to develop at birth and escalates or diminishes, depending on the way we are raised, the different types of experiences we encounter, and the way others regard us. Self confidence determines our personality.
The resources we need to build up self confidence are in our minds, and therefore always accessible to us if we look within ourselves. William James the American thinker believed that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind.
Divya a young girl of fifteen, lives in a remote village in India. She is the daughter of a toddy tapper who died prematurely, leaving behind a family of five with no means of sustenance. Divya decided to take up her father’s profession although she had never climbed a tree before, and nobody had ever heard of a female toddy tapper. It was exclusively a man’s job, and in her traditional society, she met with stiff opposition from the men, and ridicule from the women. Her family was worried about the risks to life. But Divya with just a week of practice and with a great deal of confidence, carries on with her father’s job. Her work begins at dawn and is strenuous. But it lasts for only a few hours each morning. She earns enough to support her family and to continue with her studies. As Norman Vincent Peale often said, “You can if you think you can.”
Barriers to Self confidence.
o Inferiority Complex: It is the lack of a sense of worth that emotionally cripples people. It can begin in childhood even in the home environment due to parental criticism or rude sibling comments.
Children in school may be critical of one’s physical appearance or intelligence.
Neighbors can be thoughtless in the way they relate to children. A rude and condescending attitude to a child can make him feel worthless.
With the rise of Feminism, the status of motherhood has been viewed as a form of servitude. The stay-at-home mother feels inferior to her economically independent counterparts. Print and audiovisual media glorify images of smart superwomen in the corporate world, or sexy models and film stars who are the cynosure of all eyes. Physical attractiveness is at a high premium. Advertisements flaunting beauty creams, hair dyes, anti-aging salves, perfumes, designer wear, give those who cannot afford such luxuries an inferiority complex and a poor self image.
o Feelings of Inadequacy: Many people who have retired from their jobs and active lifestyles feel worthless with nothing to do. Self pity sets in and confidence plunges.
o Sexual Inadequacy: Fear of being physically and sexually inadequate, fear of being unattractive or even fear of pregnancies, can sap one’s self confidence.
o Environment: When one is not treated with respect and dignity at home or in the work place, a person can slip into self pity and feel that he is of no consequence to the world. Caste, colour, money, power are prejudices that can undermine the self confidence of victims.
o Fear: Autocratic parents, violent spouses, inconsiderate colleagues, nagging wives, disrespectful children – these are some of the situations that make people afraid or insecure. They develop a poor distorted self image, which robs them of self confidence.
o Worry: “The mind that is anxious about the future is miserable,” says Seneca. It affects one’s mental ability to think clearly or solve simple problems. Worry is a mouse that chews up self confidence.
Ways to build up self confidence.
1. Introspection: Are you living up to your full potential? If not, what are the road blocks you encounter? Road blocks are challenges. They are not insurmountable. It is wise to make a list and tackle them one by one. The more you are able to handle each one of them the more confident you get. Therefore, refuse to quit.
William Wilberforce was dogged by illness for most of his life. He was an opium addict for 20 years. But he never lacked self confidence. He was an able Parliamentarian and worked towards abolition of slavery in Britain. His imposing memorial in the Westminster Abbey describes him as the “Attorney General of unprotected families and the friendless.”
2. Love yourself in a healthy way. Be happy with who you are. Recognize the power and potential that God has given you, and build on it.
o Know yourself. What are your strong points and what are your limitations? Work on the latter.
o Believe in yourself. “Self trust is the first secret of success,” says Ralph Waldo Emerson. Strive to change what you don’t like in yourself.
o Set high standards to achieve, based on honesty and integrity. Don’t waste time trying to live up to standards others have set for you. Be careful not to fall in line with the values of a commercialized, eroticized, immoral society. Don’t be like the 300 giant whales that chose to follow a school of sardines and got trapped inside a bay. Chart your own course, visualize victory and live for a purpose.
3. Have a positive mindset. Plan your moves according to what you wish to be. Stay motivated towards that goal.
According to Jean Sharbuno, “Positive Expectancy is a mindset- an eager anticipation of success, and doing whatever that takes to make it happen.” One is reminded of John Keats the sickly young English poet who in spite of declining health was confident enough to say, “I think I shall be England’s greatest poet after my death.”
4. Self Discipline: “The first and best victory is to conquer one’s self,” says Plato.
Keep ugly thoughts out of your mind. Set high standards for yourself and focus on achieving them. Settle for lasting values and maintain integrity in whatever you do. Positive autosuggestion will boost confidence. The mantra of “I am a confident person. I believe in myself” should be repeated several times a day, until you are convinced that you are a confident person.
The humble spider has much to teach us about self confidence. It has an inbuilt mechanism for survival. If it is wounded, it releases a protein filled silk thread on which it slides down and builds another web in a new place. When it is time to lay eggs it produces a protective silk sac to hold the eggs. An enemy who comes too close gets stuck to the sticky exterior of the sac. Then the spider weaves more threads around the enemy and eats it up.
A self confident person will live life to his highest potential. He will strengthen his weak points and profit from his strong points. “Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result but the cause of fear,” says Norman Vincent Peale. We need to remember that we are precious in God’s sight, and He has imbued us with power and potential to live confidently.