The way we feel about ourselves is often shaped by our upbringing. Early developmental history has a major effect on how confidence is developed along with your natural disposition and resilience. Self-confidence is about learning to trust your own judgement and feeling comfortable with your abilities and powers. Self-confident people have a general sense of control in their lives and are realistic when some of their expectations are not met. They have an attitude which allows them to risk the disapproval of others because they generally trust their own abilities. Self-confidence allows them to feel secure in the world and allows others to feel safe that they know what to expect of you.
Self-confidence is not necessarily a general characteristic which pervades all aspects of a person’s life. Some people are self-confident academically or in their work-life but not in their social life or their personal appearance etc. Low self-confidence is often a hidden problem, compensating for appearing confident while inside the person is really struggling to feel ok in their own skin.
Often other people are like mirrors to us; they reflect back to us who we are. As children we absorb this mirroring without being able to question whether it is actually true. Children do not often see that their parents have their own insecurities that lead them to be critical of children and they end up believing there is something wrong with them. Growing up they depend excessively on the approval of others in order to feel good about themselves and they tend to avoid taking risks because they fear failure. They generally do not expect to be successful and often put themselves down and discount or ignore compliments paid to them.
Surprisingly, lack of self-confidence is not necessarily related to lack of ability. Instead it is often the result of focusing too much on the unrealistic expectations or standards of others, especially parents and society. Understanding set-backs and problems and finding other ways to manage as an adult can be the first steps to overcoming low self-confidence. So although the past may seem to have determined your current confidence level it remains a very flexible trait. For many people a crisis, divorce, illness or bereavement can be the surprising springboard to find an alternative route to build confidence. It is always possible to improve your skills in this area at any time you choose.