Article by: Christina Vaizidou
Translation: Evi Diamantopoulou
Article revision: Harriet Spala
“All the time a mirror is in front of me, preventing me to see anything behind me. I’ve never met such a liar, and worst of all, he resembles me…’’ (F. Delivorias)
In a hidden part of our subconscious lives a young, irritable accountant, who constantly calculates the value of his business, of us (Heiko Ernst, 2013). Almost all the entire aspects of our lives are related directly to the reflection we have for our self and the relative notions of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Self-confidence is an ‘’attitude’’ that allows an individual to have a positive and realistic perception for himself/herself and his/her abilities. It reflects the individual’s trust in his/her abilities and the feeling that he/she is the master of his/her life. Self confidence has to do with self acceptance and faith in one’s self. It is derived from the comparison that anyone does, regarding their own abilities and the expectations and demands which he/she faces. When questioning ourselves, whether we believe we have specific skills, if we are worthy, if we feel proud, if we are satisfied, we can grade our self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965).
The feeling of self esteem arises and stabilizes through experiences of recognition, reassurance, love or admiration. An individual internalizes these experiences and creates a personal object, like a collection of experiences which may activate having faith in our abilities (Heinz Kohut, 1971). Having or not having self-confidence may affect anyone’s mood as well as any individual’s behavior (Zimbardo, 1955).
Self confidence is expressed with healthy emotions such as responsibility, dare, by taking initiatives, dignity, self control and internal balance, being able to accept criticism, other’s respect, pursuit of our goals, being able to problem solve, being able to refuse, and mainly to love and to take care of one’s self.
On the contrary, people with low self-esteem are usually characterized by feelings of inferiority and insecurity, reduced social skills, high sensitivity and low tolerance in relationships, low resistance, stress, distrusting their own opinions, being constantly preoccupied by what others may think of them and continuously search for self worth. Individuals with low self-confidence are often quite sensitive, shy, face difficulty in taking decisions, have the tendency to turn in upon themselves, or cover their insecurity through excessive self assertion.
More than often lack of self-confidence is the effect of extreme focus regarding unrealistic expectations. This causes dysfunctional beliefs making a person vulnerable, leading to an erroneous way of thinking that reduces trust in his/her abilities. Individuals that tend to focus negatively on situations but also their own reflection, have extremely high expectations, cannot accept their skill’s limits and finally fall in the trap of comparison and the vicious cycle of reaffirming their ‘’incapability’’.
What causes low self-esteem?
Many people were forced for example when they were children, to learn to hide their needs, in order to satisfy their parents’ expectations to achieve their ‘’love’’. They may seek success as adults but have an underlying feeling at the same time, that they aren’t worth anything. As they were not permitted to express their real feelings and having lost contact with their own self, they dramatize their oppressed feelings with depression incidents or coercive behavior, or on the contrary with ideas of grandeur (Miller Alice, 1979).
Self-confidence is a cloak we wear when we look in the mirror; it’s the power that derives from the way we perceive our-self. This reflection however gradually changes from various reasons during the evolution of anyone’s personality.
- Many times, childhood or puberty experiences, such as school bullying or complicated family relationships possibly have affected or even distorted our the reflection.
- A longtime feeling of ‘’unrelated’’, as if someone is ‘’weird’’. Discrimination and stigmatisation can affect intensively the way we see ourselves.
- Any kind of abuse (emotional, verbal and psychological) often negatively impacts an individual’s self-esteem, who often adopts the idea that he “deserves” this abuse.
- Harsh criticism to a child, mainly from parents, doesn’t leave the child with any alternatives to believe in his/her own abilities especially if personal development is limited. In general, stress and extreme tension can be negative to the self-esteem of an individual even in his/her adult life.
- Just as a catalytic effect can be our own demand or our parent’s demand to be ‘’perfect’’.
- Lack of any praise or reward regarding our success can also hurt us deeply.
- Harsh experiences as adults, such as the breakup of a relationship, a chronic disease or unemployment, can also reduce self-esteem.
Which psychological problems are often connected to lack of self-esteem?
- Loneliness/ absence of partners/ choosing ‘’bad’’ partners/ remaining on failed relationships.
- Problems at work or career.
- Tendency of personal underestimation with depression signs.
- Eating disorders, mostly bulimic
- Drug or other addiction problems (alcohol, smoking, etc).
What can we do in order to improve our self-confidence?
- To celebrate our success
- To speak for ourselves positively, and be able to accept it when others do it.
- To forgive our mistakes.
- To reconcile with our inner judge.
- To take care emotionally and physically ourselves by recognizing our needs and wishes.
Self-confidence is cultivated mainly by a realistic self evaluation and re-appreciation not only by encouraging comments from others. The feeling of self esteem must not be based solely on achievements and recognition as this case does not refer to any internal value and this fundament isn’t solid (Merkle Rolf, 2015).
The way the individual thinks is very important as it is vital in order to help the individual “conquer” his virtues and abilities. The way of thinking is exactly how an expert can effectively help the person to accept his self and be able to create healthy relations.
Heiko E., Das gefuhlte Wert. , Psycologie Heute, Septembre 2013
Heinz, K., The Analysis of the Self: A Systematic Approach to the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorders, International University Press, Inc. New York 1971.
McMillen A. & McMillen, K., When I loved myself enough, St. Martin’s Press, 2001, ISBN 0312271247.
Merkle R., So gewinnen Sie mehr Selbstvertrauen, PAL Verlag, 2015, ISBN 3923614349.
Miller A., The prisons of our childhood or a drama of a gifted child, Roes Publishing, 2010, ISBN 13978960283137.