Self-confidence is one of the most read topics. A lot is written about it and a lot is read by people. Understanding and heving confidence is in high demand during this period and it makes sense to be so. It is healthy for us to want to believe in ourselves and to not feel good when we do not. What does it really mean to feel confident? It means knowing that you can rely on your physical or mental abilities to do what you want and, if we look better, to survive and generally do well in life. Beyond that, we talk about success, about achieving goals, about adventure and about risk. But until we reach those, we need to understand what the basis of self-confidence is, how it is formed and how it can be blocked from development.
Self-confidence is formed during childhood and is directly dependent on relationship and autonomy needs. When a child feels that he is important to his parents, when he feels that what he does is important, appreciated, whether big or small, he feels a sense of personal value. This personal value has a lot to do with self-confidence. Further, when a child wants to explore and do things by himself, he needs to be let to do so and encouraged. Thist is how he will build his confidence on his own strengths. Young children want to eat alone, choose their clothes, explore objects and places, and they must be let to discover and use their skills. Practically this is how these skills develop, and stopping the child from these activities will result in a weak development of the feeling of self-efficacy. We, humans, need to develop this sense of self-efficacy to allow us to start doing things, to take on responsibilities and to face the hardships and obstacles of life. So, the more a child is encouraged to do the things he or she prefers to do alone, the more appreciated, validated and valued for those little or big things he or she does alone, the more he or she will develop a sense of self-efficacy and a healthy sense of self-worth, and that will equate with self-confidence.
A lack of self-confidence implies an anticipation of failure, a lack of confidence in personal abilities, a lack of appreciation of personal results. Often, people who feel they don’t trust themselves have the feeling that what they do is not a great thing, that others do it much better, they compare themselves to others around them and see themselves as forever losers, they are not daring to take on too many responsibilities, they do not have the courage to dream or to set certain goals or they dream but easily give up, they feel hopeless and do things with fear and shame. It is an unpleasant and destabilizing experience that can get you in a deadlock where you feel like you cannot escape.
The way people deal with this lack of self-confidence differs from one to another. Jeffrey Young, the one who created the emotional cognitive schemes, showed us that each of us have dysfunctional patterns that we acquired in childhood that started from the poor satisfaction of some emotional needs, which forced us to adapt to some things that are not necessarily healthy for us. For example, for people who lack the confidence in their own forces to do well and succeed in life, he called the Vulnerability Schema and found that people can manage these feelings in three different ways: 1. Capitulating themselves to degrading feelings and ideas about their capacities 2. Avoid at all costs the situations in which they have to manifest their abilities and capacities and 3. Overcompensate, this means that they act in a form opposite to the capitulation and seek at any price to prove their abilities and capabilities and they cannot set healthy boundaries, even endangering themselves to prove that they are capable. These three variants are not healthy, but they are forms of adapting to the feelings of lack of confidence.
I mentioned above the risk, the power and the vulnerability. The vulnerability has a healthy side and an unhealthy one. When we talk about a lack of confidence and overwhelming feelings which make us feel powerless we talk about a vulnerability that predisposes us to being more easily injured, predisposes us to trauma and it is a factor of risk. On the other hand, there is also a healthy vulnerability, which derives from the power, from the ability to regulate ourselves emotionally. It is that vulnerability that allows us to expose to our painful feelings without running away, the vulnerability that comes with the power which generates our energy and motivation to meet with stoicism and gentleness our inner demons. Anyone becomes vulnerable when they come into contact with wounds or with pain-causing factors, but this is as natural as possible and is only possible in the presence of health. The vulnerability of the victim, the unhealthy version, has its origins in helplessness and in the absence of hope. Perhaps it is not the most correct to call it a vulnerability but a learned helplessness, as the american psychologist and author, Martin Seligman, has defined this kind of vulnerability.
The most curious thing is that the people who are overcompensating the feeling of powerlessness are the ones who can deceive us and claim themselves the strongest, the most capable of taking risks. This form of lack of self-confidence bears the appearance of power and resistance, often misleading and snatching praise and recognition, from those who are around, that only nourish the illusion and dependence of the overcompensating one. Although it can be confused with power, in fact we are talking about the fragility of the idea of power and capacity that is defended with rigidity in the face of any contrary evidence.
In conclusion, the authentic power can be recognized in the man who remains open in the face of negative feelings and who allows himself to feel discomfort and pain, which often becomes a luxury in the wounded man’s psyche. It is interesting and at the same time liberating to discover that power does not mean a high tolerance of frustration, nor how much we can resist with a smile on our lips during unpleasant situations. Power means having the ability to hurt, to cry, to tremble with fear, to accept the nature of us, as emotional beings, who need to consume their pain in order to heal. However, human vulnerability and fragility remain fascinating, deeply appealing traits and worthy of admiration and respect. It is normal for us to be vulnerable. We are strong when we are vulnerable.