Hello fellow Steemians!
I am writing today to discuss a topic of some importance. Self-Confidence.
In my opinion, self confidence is not the same thing as self-esteem. Self-esteem is about how others view you and whether or not you are okay with their judgement. Self confidence is about how you view yourself and whether or not you accept who you are today.
Our post-modern lifestyles are filled with outside inputs and judgements on virtually every topic. Marketers and advertisers prey upon our societal insecurities to make massive amounts of money selling products or services that provide temporary relief for our insecurities, yet provide little to no actual help addressing the underlying issue.
Most are even afraid to begin the process of building real self-confidence because of the pain and judgements they are already receiving are too much to handle as is, and adding additional strain of uncomfortable introspection is simply not in the cards.
My psychiatrist friend, in a moment of candor, revealed that he suspects that 75%-80% of the populace is operating at a dysfunctional level on a psychological and emotional level. Most families are dysfunctional, which is where the majority of dysfunctional people are forged.
This means that most people are raised in dysfunctional families, by dysfunctional people, and the cumulative result is that what the majority of people consider to be “normal” is in fact, not healthy. The baseline average is skewed by the sheer amount of dysfunction that exists in modern day society. Sure everyone is capable of moments of lucidity, but having a moment of clarity embedded in decades of dysfunction is nothing to brag about.
If you don’t believe me, look at the popularity of antidepressant drugs, Zoloft, Xanax, Prozac, et. al. Look at the obsession over social media communications, many people spend their day preoccupied with their cell phones to even bother to be present.
You may be wondering how this all relates to self confidence, and I’m getting there by way of the scenic route. The root of real self confidence appears to be based in overcoming these learned dysfunctions, this accumulated baggage to learn to engage life on life’s terms.
Self confidence is about accepting yourself, as a sometimes beautiful, sometimes flawed creature. One must learn to practice radical self acceptance. This means to accept yourself and love yourself despite your self-perceived flaws and shortcomings. Radical self acceptance is easy to talk about but difficult to practice because I believe the majority of the people in the world today have deeply buried feelings of self hatred and self loathing. They may eat excessively to avoid these painful feelings, they may drink excessively to escape the guilt and shame they have internalized, they may distract themselves with many different techniques, activities or substances, but none of these pathways offer a way out from the core feeling of self-hatred.
Before you get the idea that I consider myself somehow superior to dysfunctional people, I will tell you that I have struggled with self-hatred for years that has most often manifested itself in a persistent nicotine addiction and sporadic suicidal depression. So I am speaking from experience, I don’t have all the answers, I just hope that by sharing these thoughts that I can help someone else who is enduring the same angst and apathy that I have.
The problem with self-hatred is that it is a cumulative learned trait that often starts out when we are children. As children we have limited ability to leave negative situations, to effect change on our environment, or to get our needs met if we had the misfortune to be born or surrounded by people who are struggling with their own dysfunctions. Often this idea of self-hatred embeds itself in our childs consciousness before we have the mental facilities to interdict incoming stimulus and perceive that we are not actually the cause or reason for much of the craziness that we experience growing up in difficult environments.
The problem with false ideas that embed themselves into our psyche in vulnerable childhood moments is that they are incredibly difficult to address with words or with thoughts, . Therapy, drugs, and internet platitudes rarely do the trick, if they really worked, we’d have loads of success stories floating around. Don’t get me wrong, therapy isn’t bad, I just think there are more effective ways to excavate the muck in your psyche so that you can dig down to emotional bedrock with less difficulty. Ask any therapist, a good portion of their current patients are “resistant to therapy”, meaning that they are either unwilling or unable to do the work of self-change and are merely going through the motions of therapy sessions, therapy becomes their “fix” and gives them an illusion of doing something to minimize their suffering.
Currently there is a running narrative that hatred is evil in our postmodern lives. I disagree. Sorry, not sorry. Bring on the flame-war. Hatred is a natural human trait. It is totally natural for you to hate restriction, obstacles, and other roadblocks and impediments that block your will from being expressed. Why do we build vehicles to fly off planet, or develop medicine or surgeries to treat formerly fatal illnesses? Because we HATE restrictions. This natural hatred has been warped, twisted and weaponized against us. This natural hatred of obstacles and restrictions becomes corrupted and either becomes self-hatred, or a focus hatred of some external group which you can dump all your negativity, blame, failures and insecurities on.
Most of the marketing you are exposed to is actually subtly designed to get you to feel insecure about yourself, your body, your image, your job, your spouse, your car, your life, your bank account, etc. Entire industries are bound to the reality of self hatred: cosmetic surgery, diet pills, makeup, sports cars, etc.; the list goes on. My point with all of this is that the predominant subliminal message we are bombarded with is: you are not okay as you are, you are ugly, you are unlovable, you are a loser, you are fat, you are unattractive, etc. So, if one wants to really move past their self-hatred into real confidence, one must stop listening to these messages. But these messages are cleverly designed to hook into our deepest, darkest, most sensitive insecurities.
Positive thinking, platitudes and the like are not potent enough to undo the damaging aspects of the past. In fact, nothing is potent enough to undo the past. That is the inherent lie: that doing something today will change the past. There is no changing the past, and the discomfort you experience from past events will persist to your dying days. This is part of radical self acceptance: giving up all hope for a better past so that you can be at peace with your present. Being at peace doesn’t mean accepting bad situations in your current life, it means to stop beating yourself up, judging yourself, hating yourself for those bad situations, and to take action by using acceptance to regain your personal power and your freedom to act.
Now for the good news: you can quit your victimhood and take bold action to become your very own brain-change artist. You don’t need prescription pills, a gym membership, a therapist, or support groups to do this. You are enough, you already have what you need to get started, all you need is You.
The first step is to accept yourself as you are right now, flaws and all. Most will find this step very difficult, because we truly hate pieces of ourselves with crazy intensity. Self-hatred is mostly irrational, which is to say that it is not logical, it doesn’t make sense and is often born from false conclusions.
An example: Daddy drinks a lot, and gets angry and sometimes yells at me or hits me, therefore I am a piece of shit who is not worthy of love and respect.
Another: Mommy says she loves me, but criticizes everything I do until I am a nervous wreck, if only I could be perfect, then mommy would love me unconditionally, but she doesn’t accept who I am right now, therefore I must be inherently flawed, useless.
In both of these examples the developing person assumes the treatment they are receiving is based upon something they did. But it is possible that Daddy drinks too much because he hates himself for not being strong enough to pursue his dreams, and his drinking is his flawed attempt to escape the pain of failure. And perhaps Mommy was so critical of us as children because she desperately is seeking the approval from others that she never got as a child herself.
The person who is afflicted with self-hatred often has perceived traits or “flaws” that they mistakenly believe they shouldn’t have, and as a result either internalize or externalize this guilt and shame. These negative feelings are an irrational jumping to conclusions and the source of a lot of pain and dysfunction in the world. By learning to practice radical self acceptance, even when you think you are weak, ugly, unlovable, stupid, or whatever, you begin the process of short-circuiting a lot of deeply embedded destructive thoughts and emotions.
The second step in the journey is to interrupt these old habitual negative thoughts and self-destructive behaviors in real time by learning to engage them as they are unfurling by recognizing what is happening and taking an alternate route. This means to become aware of habitual negative thoughts and behaviors, and then to begin to coach yourself out of those habits and replace them with constructive/productive ones. We build habitual negative behaviors and thoughts over a lifetime of repetition, and some work is required to flush them out of your system: this means consciously overriding old habitual patterns with better patterns that have been constructed in the clear light of reason. Adding to our troubles is the fact that many negative behavior and thought patterns are anchored in survival coping mechanisms which were learned to make it through childhood. These patterns are deeply ingrained, based on false assumptions or irrational thinking, and are usually tied to deeply painful or very intense emotions. Be patient, gentle, and kind with yourself during this process.
The third step to developing self confidence is emerge and reintegrate. This means to bring the new you, the real you, out into the world, and to know that even if others don’t accept this new you, it doesn’t matter, because you accept the new you. I’ve heard it expressed that confidence is knowing that you will be okay regardless if people accept and like you. Finding the courage to be authentic is not easy, it involves a lot of difficult and sometimes painful work on the self. But the reward is that you get to drop self-defeating and self-sabotaging behaviors that would otherwise control your life and strangle your joy.
When just starting out, don’t aim for high, lofty or ambitious goals, because if you fail to meet them (which you will, because you are human, and your mind is capable of imagining more than it can actually achieve), the failure will only add to your internalized guilt and shame. This process is slow, time-consuming, and difficult, but completely worthwhile.