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One of my favorite movies is the Sound of Music. Watching Maria swing her guitar around proclaiming that she has confidence to nanny 7 children as she marches through Austria has always been inspiring to me. However, saying that you have confidence, and growing in self-confidence or self-assurance are two different things. Continuing with my conversation on self-esteem and self-confidence from my blog post, “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” I’d like to reflect on what impacts your sense of confidence and how you can tell that you’ve reached it.

Defining Self Confidence

When I think about people who appear to be confident there are a few traits that come to mind.

  • They’re not afraid to express their needs.
  • They don’t apologize for saying “no,’ and don’t feel that they need to follow up a “no” with an explanation.
  • They are appropriately positive about themselves.
  • When they make a mistake, they take responsibility by apologizing, try to do better next time, and do not dwell upon it.
  • They combat their feelings of guilt and shame when they notice their imperfections by recognizing that they are only human and that all humans have weaknesses.
  • They are able to offer self-compassion during moments of vulnerability.
  • They know their talents.
  • They are not threatened by others’ strengths and talents.
  • They say “yes” to a challenge trusting that even if they aren’t 100% capable of the pursuit, they know that they have enough competency to achieve the goal
  • They recognize that they are doing the best they can, and that even when it’s not the best, it’s still “good enough.”
  • They freely offer praise and gratitude to others.

What Impacts Your Sense of Confidence

Mood 

Your mood can impact the perspective that you have of yourself. It can also impact your capacity to face challenges. Picture yourself looking at Lake Michigan. When we are feeling joyful, rested, and at peace, our breath is taken away by the beauty of Lake Michigan. When we are feeling rushed, threatened or down this thing of beauty becomes a thief of joy because it’s why we have “lake effect” snow. When you are feeling down, tired, or sad, negative thoughts become more pervasive. If you are struggling with depression, having negative thoughts about yourself is actually a symptom of depression. The same can be true if you have inflated thoughts about yourself. If you are experiencing mania, you may struggle with grandiose thoughts and believe that you are invincible. If you struggle with anxious thoughts and feelings, it can cause you to re-examine your choices and increase a sense of doubt in yourself. Bottom line, our mood impacts our sense of confidence.

Thoughts

Your thoughts may also impact your sense of confidence. Let me introduce you to your inner critic. For those who struggle with perfectionistic tendencies, you are likely acquainted with the thoughts of your inner critic, though I believe everyone hears it at different volumes. The ever present challenger to perform better, be better, and to work harder. The inner critic often pushes you to be your best self. However, it’s the negativity of the inner critic that I’d like to focus on. It’s your inner critic that expresses to you, that you are unworthy of being loved, that what you are experiencing is as good as it’s going to get, and that when you say “no” you are letting someone down. These all lead to feelings of guilt, shame and embarrassment.

Appearance

Last section here, and I hesitated to put it in. After connecting with a few clients about this and reflecting upon my own transformation to feeling more confident, I have to agree with Rachel Hollis that appearance does matter. So not to shame anyone, I will talk about myself. Picture a young black female in her 20’s, interested in dating and wondering why no one was paying attention to her when I wore sweats and pj pants most days. Man, I miss those days. It was probably my favorite part of college. It wasn’t until a mentor took me shopping for my first pair of skinny jeans and hoop earrings (I had just had the big chop for my natural journey) that I began to accept that how I dressed up my body and how I treated it (enter massages and more “regular” exercise) that my self-confidence began to shift. I was a long way from where I am now, but my sense of my inner and outer beauty began to take shape.

Changing your appearance is just one step towards living a more confident life. The thoughts and moods that affect so many can be examined and challenged through counseling. There is no greater joy for me than seeing clients grow in their confidence. Join me (and Maria from SOM) today! 🙂

Written by therapist Pamela Larkin

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