While conducting one of my Building Better Relationships workshops, an attendee asked me, “How can I give my girlfriend the self-confidence she needs?” Depression or mental illness was not a factor—just low self-confidence, which had supposedly manifested in her not expressing what she wanted, arguments, silent treatment when she didn’t get her way, a general feeling of discontent, and lack of action toward going for what she wanted in life. My reply was, “You can’t give your girlfriend self-confidence. She has to earn it for herself.” *
What is Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence is the realistic, positive belief that you can influence your world—that you have the abilities, personal power, and judgment to overcome obstacles and get what you want in life. You trust yourself and what you can do!
Self-confidence can only be developed from within a person. No amount of participation trophies, positive words, or kind gestures can build self-confidence, because these are only externally applied props. Although these supports are enjoyable rewards, they are only cheer-leading tools, and for some, these tools are meaningless and have no value.
You can’t ask, beg, or pay any one any amount of money to do the hard work that it takes to build your self-confidence. What spouses, partners, friends, and family can do is be supportive by providing encouragement, brainstorming, and feedback which is akin to helping a person help himself. You have likely heard the expression—do with and not for.
When does Self-Confidence Start?
Building self-confidence starts in infancy when parents decide to what degree they will respond to their crying baby. Crying is an infant’s only tool to influence his world and get what he wants. Assuming his physical needs are met, how much should parents coddle their infant and when should they allow him to self-sooth.
Self-confidence continues to grow when a toddler ventures out to explore the world away from the view of his parents. Although children need to know they can run back to their parents as a place of security, they also need their parents to challenge them and let them make and learn from their mistakes. Children who believe they have some mastery of their world tend to have the highest self-confidence. Some kids break the mold and seem to have a genetic contributor that gives them resiliency. Even adults who didn’t have an idyllic childhood can grow their self-confidence.
How to Grow Self-Confidence
The only times I’ve seen self-confidence grow in adults is when they attacked adversity head-on, worked hard, worked smart, and never gave up on improving themselves and their situations. When they hit a wall, instead of turning around and giving up, they instead figured out a plan of approach to get to the other side. They found a way of either digging under it, blasting through it, crawling over it, or stepping around it.
When you get to the other side of the wall, look over your shoulder, and can honestly say to yourself, “I did that,” that is the point when your self-confidence climbs another rung on the ladder. Self-confidence increases when you believe if you put your heart, mind, and soul towards something you can accomplish it, and you proved it to yourself when you got to the other side of the wall.
Role of Family and Friends in Building Self-Confidence
When spouses, parents, and friends do for you what you should be doing for yourself, they are robbing you of the opportunity to grow your self-confidence. When they rescue you from the consequences of your decisions or actions, they are again robbing you of a teaching opportunity that can grow you. They may not be stealing a piece of you, but they are starving you of what it means to be a fully functioning, resilient, and ultimately happy individual.
The next time someone wants to bail you out or do something you know you should be doing, I would suggest you say, “No thanks. I can do it, but I sure wish you’d keep checking in on me. I may need your support, and this is what support looks like…”
*Note: Men suffer as well as women from poor self-confidence.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.