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Episode 181: The Foundations Of Confidence

Confidence can be a tricky subject to talk about because its so big and ambiguous. What is confidence to one person is arrogance to someone else. Also, someone can be confident but still be anxious in certain situations, so it's even hard to define it really.
That's why we pick it apart in therapy and work out what it is that people really need. Many definitions of confidence exist in various different dictionaries. But they all have a similar theme saying something along the lines of

"Confidence is a feeling of self assurance that comes from an appreciation of one's abilities or qualities."

I like that, it seems to make sense. Although aiming for that isn't really the goal in therapy because you can be confident and NOT appreciate your abilities and qualities. In fact I'd say that a very confident person can completely accept their LACK of any abilities or accept any negative qualities.
You can be confident and still see room for improvement in your personality though. If anything, it takes great confidence to look at your weaknesses with enough understanding to accept them and learn how to work with them and still like who you are.
I believe that that's where we need to do the work when it comes to confidence. We need to accept, understand and like ourself. To me these aren't just the foundations to confidence, they're probably the foundations to anything to do with personal development.

Those 3 things form the pillars of everything from psychotherapy to improving your game of golf. With everything in between. Even Slimming World would say that. Often, when someone comes to me wanting to lose weight, we start with an acceptance of where they are right now, an understanding of what caused it and the self esteem to like themselves enough to think that they deserve to be healthier. Otherwise the steps required to make the changes don't happen.

It's often the same when we get business owners, CEO’s that come into therapy for anger management or with addiction issues.
Other people see them as confident, determined and outspoken. They don’t care what their employees think of them, so they can be quite tough on them and not fear criticism. People in that sort of position come for therapy usually because they’re almost always in a bad mood. It doesn’t matter how hard they work, how much money they earn or how big their TV is. They’re still not happy.
That’s so often because they don’t understand themselves, they’ve never stopped and thought “What actually makes me happy?” They don’t accept themselves as they are. Underneath the confidence they don’t actually like themselves. They think of themselves as bad people. Bad spouses, bad parents.
The thing is, if that’s your foundation, then you will create defence mechanisms that hide it not just from other people but even from yourself too.
You’ll keep yourself busy and angry and stressed rather than face the big secret that you’ve been hiding from yourself and the world. That you don’t think that you’re a nice person.
Until people have no choice but to go to therapy because of some incident maybe, they never get to understand themselves. They don’t get to realise that this self hatred is hiding under the surface. Because when it is and they finally realise it, that's when they start to see a new perspective. Because those that think of themselves as bad people are usually good people that have simply acted badly.
They might have done some bad things but they’re still good people. Genuinely bad people won’t care if they’ve done hurtful things.

People often tell me that they don't like themselves very much but when pressed to figure out why, they cant find a reason! They scrabble around trying to remember times that they didn't return someones phone call or were to anxious to meet up with a group of friends and were a no show on a night out.
The issue gets compounded due to what's called projection. In psychology projection is the transferring of emotions from yourself onto others. If you like someone, then you can get a feeling that they like you. But if you hate you, then you get a feeling that so does everyone else.

I sometimes feel a little self conscious because I'm not very tall. When I was in my teens and 20's I felt a bit paranoid about it, because "I" was thinking about how short I was, when actually turns out I'm only about 2 inches shorter than average. But because "I" was thinking about how short I was it created a feeling that "everyone" is thinking the same thing.
Which probably goes back to being nicknamed Titch when I was at school. And until I was 14 or 15 I was probably one of the shortest in my school year and having that feeling about myself for 10 years maybe, and at a significant time of life too, it created an identity.
Years later the reality has changed but my identity didn't. I still FELT as if I was being judged in some way, even though no-one called me Titch anymore.
Bizarrely, my nickname in my early twenties was Doctor Dickie. But being called that didn't make me feel like a Doctor, it didn't give me any extra self esteem to no longer be called Titch all the time, because my foundations were still called Titch and so a part of me continued to project out this feeling that actually belonged to a 10 year old. A feeling as if everyone is thinking "He's insignificant." Which is why I ended up becoming a people pleaser.
I found it hard to say "No" to anyone who needed help and got my significance or sense of self self worth externally, rather than internally.
It was other peoples opinions of me that counted rather than my own opinion of myself.
Over time, projection had caused me to lower my self esteem. I was putting my thoughts into other peoples heads without realising it, and so it didn't matter what I did, how nice I was, how hard I worked I still carried around this feeling of judgement, because of my own judgement towards myself.
Often when this happens people create an alternative version of themselves for the world to see. An "inauthentic self", as we refer to it in psychology.
In my case it was a jokey, silly, almost clown like character. I wasn't happy being myself so I had to pretend to be someone I wasn't. And that didn't work out well, it wasn't until starting personal therapy, as part of my therapist training that I was able to be honest with myself and look at all this. It was then that I was able to "understand" myself, and then begin to "accept" myself, warts and all, good and bad, all 5 foot 6 and a half of me.

Once you get to that point it becomes easier to actually like yourself. Not in a narcissistic way, but you're able to filter through your behaviour, habits and things that make up your personality and see the good rather than the bad. To not be hard on yourself if you're snappy and be comfortable with acknowledging any so called "bad" sides to you rather than hiding them.
If you can acknowledge that you've behaved inappropriately, snappy, rude or just went too far in an argument then you can accept it and apologise if you have to. Rather than being defensive and make things worse.
I think those 3 processes of understanding yourself, accepting yourself and liking yourself are equally as important as each other. But I do think it starts with understanding. Maybe that's why your reading this today. If so, thank you and well done.