Written by therapist Bria McCalpin
Self-confidence and self-esteem may be two familiar terms to you. Often used interchangeably, these words can hold a lot of weight about how we view and present ourselves to the world. The difference between the two is that self-confidence is the belief or trust you have in yourself and your abilities, while self-esteem is your opinion about yourself, i.e., how you feel about yourself. You may have noticed there are times where you feel overall good about yourself (“I enjoy how I look today.”) or believe you do well in a specific space or activity (“I am great at cooking.”). However, there are times where we have a negative shift in our confidence or do not particularly like ourselves all that much. It is common for everyone to have doubts about themselves. Still, it can be a more significant issue when it becomes the norm to feel insecure or unenthusiastic about ourselves regularly.
If you notice you could be highly critical, bully or disregard yourself, you might want to remember you deserve to feel good about yourself! I This blog will overview how you can begin to enhance your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Be Aware of Your Thoughts
It is helpful to stop and pay attention to your initial thoughts or beliefs about situations as they apply to you. This is being conscious about your self-talk and your reactions, whether they be positive, negative, or neutral. If you are mindful of your thoughts and beliefs, you can pick up on patterns detrimental to your wellbeing. For example, say your friend has not texted you back for a whole day, if your mind goes straight to, “I must have done something to make them mad at me,” this is a damaging pattern of jumping to negative conclusions without evidence to support it. Another example could be refusing your positive experiences like, “They only said my hair looks good to be nice, they do not mean it.” This is converting your positives into negatives. In general, there are multiple forms of injuring our self-esteem and self-confidence, including all-or-nothing thinking, negative self-talk, and mental filtering. After some time, it can be challenging to separate what is accurate and what’s not if our way of thinking has been long-held, so it is beneficial to start here, then work on replacing these thoughts and beliefs with more encouraging and constructive ones.
Modifying Your Thoughts
When adjusting your thoughts from negative to positive, you will need to allow yourself patience and compassion. It is not a simple task to shift, no matter how much we can recognize the value of high self-esteem or self-confidence, but attempting strategies to combat negative thoughts is a jump in the right direction. One technique to begin modifying negative thoughts is limiting the use of ‘should,’ ‘must,’ ‘have to,’ and ‘gotta.’ The issue with these words is they are what we wish we could be, without the encouragement. Think about how we may say or hear statements like, “I should know how to do this” or, “I have to make this much money.” If we reflect for a moment, these comments do not typically motivate us to make significant changes. Remarks like this reinforce what we are not doing. They may not align with what we want and can be unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others.
A solution for eliminating these words would center on the benefits and values we already have. Question if your ‘shoulds’ promote your mood or support your beliefs. As a replacement for “I should work out more,” use, “It feels good when I work out,” or, “It is important for me to exercise, I want to do it more.” Notice how these substitutes concentrate on how one may feel without reflecting negatively back on a person. They even can be considered more hopeful and lead to more realistic expectations for themselves.
Focus on the Positives
Aiming for the positives is another way to build self-esteem and self-confidence because it will help you show kindness to yourself. When you think optimistically about yourself, it serves as a reminder of the unique, wonderful, and precious traits that make you you. For instance, reflect on the aspects of your life that are going well. What about those experiences work well, and can they be applied elsewhere? If you do not know already, you have skills that you used before, and if they benefited you in one place, they might do the same in another. You will be considering what you have learned in the past and utilizing it to aid you in the present or future. To add on, you may have a negative experience, but you can alter your reactions to build healthier patterns. Instead of shutting down when you are upset, you may want to ask yourself what you can do to make the situation less stressful. A constructive and positive option would be to talk to someone, write it down, or reflect on what you may want to do differently for a more encouraging outcome. Focusing on the positives can be inspiring and will help you make significant changes in your life to diminish what contributes to low self-esteem or confidence and aid in recognizing and accepting your value as a person.
Building self-esteem and self-confidence is not an easy task and will not solve itself through a quick read. It can take some time to develop the skills and techniques to maintain the habit of improving how we view ourselves. Overall, it is always great to invest in ourselves. If you’d like to work with a therapist on this topic, reach out to Optimum Joy and get matched with a professional who will support you and encourage you to be your best self.