Which means seldom self-confident
Confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem: Many people would like a little more of that. Often someone who uses one of the three terms means one and the same thing. But in reality, each of them has a meaning of its own and is worth taking a closer look at. In this detailed article, you will learn how these characteristics arise, why they seem to be missing in some people - and what you can do in concrete terms to strengthen them in yourself - and, if you have children, how you can develop them healthy way supported.
Where do self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem come from?
The “Self”: This is where all three qualities begin. In order to develop it, a self, an I - one could also say an identification with oneself - is necessary. None of us were born with it. As a newborn we perceive our surroundings directly through our senses. Sometimes these senses first have to develop and sharpen. But we do not relate these perceptions to ourselves. That which is perceiving could rather be described as an impersonal awareness. It is only over the years that a self emerges that increasingly differentiates itself through adaptation, imitation, conditioning and habit.
So this self-referentiality is expressed first. Self-confidence, self-worth and self-confidence can develop on their basis. All three qualities are enormously important and life-determining properties of a person. Without them we cannot lead a self-determined and fulfilled life. We would be more of a plaything of chance and the environment, or we would be completely subject to our instincts and impulses. Others could do what they want with us. We would believe anything they say and would very easily fall victim to manipulation. We would not be independent and autonomous, we would not know what we want and would not have any orientation. Anyone can easily imagine the effects this would have on our place in society, our income, our viability and also the quality of life. A complex society like ours would be unthinkable without self-confidence, self-worth and self-confidence.
How does a healthy self arise?
A lot can go wrong with becoming self. What should parents or guardians do to ensure that healthy, independent and social people emerge? To get straight to the point: there is not much you have to do. Rather, the question is what they are Not should do, because far too much is often done. Sometimes this is done with the best of intentions, but it is not always for the child's best. Every child, like everyone of any age, has two basic needs: attachment and growth. They already experienced both in the womb, and they expect it to continue like this after the birth.
This means for adults: Children should be given the space to experience and try out themselves (growth). Adolescents are highly motivated to learn from within themselves. They touch everything, try everything, according to their age. You want to take part in experiences and try things. They're curious and interested, and don't need to be made to do so.
The interest and enthusiasm in exploring the world mean that the children keep what they have learned. If a new information or experience is associated with a positive feeling, it is stored in the brain in such a way that it remains permanently available. Resistance arises only when an adult thinks he knows what is good for the child and forces it on him against his own natural feelings. Who hasn't found out about this at school at the latest? But if what you have learned is associated with fear or pressure, it is stored in the area of the brain that is responsible for fear and negative feelings.
On the other hand, every child needs loving acceptance (attachment) in order to be able to develop. That is, children want to be loved for their own sake. And of course they need age-appropriate protection. Unfortunately, many children today have a fully organized leisure time. They should learn as much as possible as early as possible so that something will come of them later. This attitude assumes that something should be made of children. No, they are already something or someone, and all they need is support to develop themselves. It is important that they have plenty of time to themselves to socialize with friends or play outside. They can also get bored. Often only then do creative ideas develop. It is fatal when parents pretend too much for their children or take things out of their hands to show them what is important and how to do it right. Support your children, take an interest in them and answer their questions.
Conclusion: Children do not need to be made into something. You are already complete, social, willing to learn, empathic, and helpful. All children need is a loving and protective company and a space to try out themselves.
Self-confidence means fundamentally trusting yourself and your own abilities. This includes knowing that you will be able to cope with the challenges that life brings. This includes getting help when needed. People with self-confidence try new things, engage with other people and act confidently. They know what they want and they find a way to get it. They are open to suggestions and ideas from others. You critically examine what others say or do and are able to clearly delimit yourself. They have multiple interests and pursue them because they are enthusiastic.
When there is a lack of self-confidence
People with low self-confidence tend to be cautious and hold back. They are less open to new ideas and tend to lead a conservative life. They have a tendency towards idols who have realized what they want for themselves and orient themselves to them in their thoughts and actions. They prefer to follow other people who support them and with whom they feel safe. They look to others to see how they want to live and tend to follow conventions without checking them. You work better under supervision than independently. Approval and recognition give them strength and confirmation.
What happened when there was a lack of self-confidence?
A lack of self-confidence is not a personal fault, nor is it an irreversible defect. The fault lies more in the environment in which this person developed. He didn't have enough space to try himself out and learn based on experience. It is only personal experiences that build self-confidence. Anyone who has never dared to climb a high fence does not know how to do it and will certainly not try it later. When deciding not to do it, the parental words probably rang in the back of your mind: "Be careful," "don't hurt yourself," "you're always so clumsy," or "don't do any nonsense!"
The mother may have already warned the young child beforehand not to climb all the way to the top of the climbing frame because she is fearful herself: it could fall down and injure itself. She has transferred her own limitations to the child and sown doubts in him that would not have arisen in him by itself. Children usually know very well what they can do themselves. Also, if the father tends to take something out of the child's hand to show how to do it right, it undermines self-confidence. It doesn't get the chance to try it out for itself. Getting something wrong several times is more instructive than just being shown one solution.
Parents who take too much weight off their children or who prescribe too much for them undermine the child's self-confidence in a perfidious way. On the other hand, the same thing happens - which many people are completely unaware of - when they give excessive praise. They think they are doing something good for the child, but they are doing exactly the opposite. They give him the wrong idea about his abilities. Overprotective parents do not offer the child the opportunity to develop their own personality. It may not be allowed to decide what to wear for itself, or it may not get dirty. They choose their friends and interests, they schedule their time, they resolve their conflicts or protect them from them, and so on. How is someone growing up like this ever supposed to develop self-confidence?
What to do when you lack confidence
Whatever may have gone wrong in the past that insufficient self-confidence has built up, it doesn't have to stay that way. We humans are always able to change or strengthen our inner qualities. I often hear sentences like: “That's just how I am” or “I am a person who…” We are never finally defined as beings. We can shape our inner world and change things we suffer from. To be an adult means to question yourself and to take responsibility for yourself. That means standing by your deficits and actively doing something to change them. It's a lot easier than most people think. I experience this every day in my practice.
In order to get rid of a lack of self-confidence, it is above all necessary to work on the feelings, beliefs and experiences that arose in the past and that led to this state. Feelings of hurt, rejection, repetitive disappointment, helplessness, and so on need to be healed. Beliefs like “I can't do anything”, “Everything I touch goes wrong”, “I don't even know who I am” and the like need to be changed into constructive convictions. In addition, the experiences in the past must be retrospectively deprived of their emotional charge so that these feelings no longer affect the present. There are excellent methods for doing this today.
Through this work on the inner level, self-awareness and thinking change. This makes it much easier to act differently than before. It may be that this happens almost by itself due to the emotional and mental changes. It is extremely important to translate the new, intentionally created thought patterns into active actions. Because this is where experiences are made that were missing in the past and show that one is actually able to do certain things today. It is now possible, for example, to speak to strangers, to do things that you did not dare to do before, to work more independently at work and to take on more responsibility, to appear confident or to represent your own point of view. You show who you are and say what you think. You trust yourself and want to move forward. Along the way, many of the fears and worries that you may have had before will dissipate.
Of course, this is not about a person's worth. Existence alone gives it non-negotiable value and dignity. There are no gradations between different people. It's not about how valuable someone thinks they are. In such a case, the inflated ego should be treated, if this is still possible. It's about how you feel about yourself and how you rate yourself. Your self-worth basically reflects how you occupy and fill your place in the world and how you feel about it. But it is also about how you feel about your abilities, how you use them and how you or the others can benefit from them.
People who have healthy self-worth know their place in the world. They know what they want and are focused. They know what they can contribute to the community and receive a corresponding value in return, so that they can live free from want.
When there is a lack of self-worth
People with decreased self-esteem often do not feel well connected to the world. As a result, they feel insecure and often feel a subliminal threat. They often perceive themselves as disadvantaged or as victims of those who are supposedly more powerful or who are better off. In order to compensate for the feeling of inferiority, such people can tend to devalue or discriminate against others. By defining others as less worthy, they stand up in their self-image, because there is someone who is even less worthy than they are. It is interesting that the feeling of inferiority does not necessarily have to do with one's own material possessions. There are rich people who, despite their abundance, feel inferior and empty.
It is often the case that those affected fall short of their own possibilities. For example, they are not paid appropriately for what they do or do not ask enough for it themselves. In my practice I always have self-employed people who shy away from charging a fee for their work. They are not convinced of the value of their own performance or fear to scare off their customers with supposedly excessive demands. However, once the reasons for the self-doubt have been eliminated, these problems usually resolve themselves.
What happened when there was a lack of self-worth?
People who lack self-worth have experienced in their development that their need for attachment has not been met. They didn't feel loved for their own sake. Fulfilling this need is essential for babies and young children. The reasons why the parent or guardian were unable to give the necessary love can vary widely. Often they have not experienced love themselves and therefore cannot pass it on. Or an important parent is depressed. It has enough to struggle with itself anyway, and having a baby is an added burden. Many parents who cannot give love to their children or who do not take enough time try to compensate for this with gifts. But that doesn't work. Nothing else can replace human ties.
In one therapy session, a client recalled that her father was not interested in her when she was a young child. He ignored her and paid her no attention. During the session she became aware of how she was then wondering how that could be, because she loves him. In order to resolve this inner conflict, she found an explanation for herself: I am wrong. She carried this conviction with her all her life. Anyone can imagine how that affected life and what that does to self-worth. After this session a lot changed in her life.
Of course, pejorative behavior of others can also massively damage self-esteem - for example, when parents tell their children directly, “you're stupid”, “you can't do anything”, “don't always act so stupid” and so on. Unfortunately, things like this happen more often than you might think. The parents don't necessarily have to say that. It is enough that you let the child feel it indirectly. Of course, strangers can also seriously damage a person's self-worth, for example through bullying at school, in training or at work.
Very strong changes in life can also decrease self-esteem. Someone suddenly finds himself in a life situation that is strange and in which he feels insecure: for example, when a long-term partner separates, someone loses their job or their company fails. But this can also be triggered by a development in a positive direction: when someone sets up a company and suddenly becomes the boss; or a career advancement that entails tasks that are completely new. People with stable self-esteem can usually cope with such situations well. However, if it has already been scratched, problems can arise.
What to do when there is a lack of self-worth?
In principle, what I wrote about self-confidence also applies here. As we've seen, it's about attachment and place in the world. When the stresses and injuries of the past are resolved on an emotional and mental level, it is a matter of finding your own place in the world. And that on a physical, social and professional level. The person affected should draft a new vision for the areas of life that are currently inconsistent. The question is: how do I want to live? How do i want to be With this alignment it is easy to walk the path step by step. Every step you take will increase self-esteem. It is important to seek help if needed.
It is also necessary to establish a healthy bond. For the baby or the child, the bond with the parents is existential. It is dependent on care and affection. If it experiences a deficiency in this area, it is imprinted and remains until this experience is processed in a conscious process.The pain of rejection needs to be healed. The adult must recognize that he is no longer dependent, that he has the potential to take care of himself and to take responsibility for himself. The solution is to bond with yourself, with the world and with the present.
Self-esteem reflects how aware you are of yourself. That means: how well you are in touch with yourself; with your body, your sensations, feelings and needs. You may think now: “Of course I perceive myself.” But there are strong gradations in self-perception. It is not uncommon for me to have clients in therapy who live almost entirely in their heads. They are often trapped in mental constructions and feel almost all of their emotions in their heads. From the neck down there is hardly any sense of internal processes. However, most of our feelings and sensations take place in the body.
People with a healthy sense of self lead a conscious life. You are doing something for your body in some way. They play sports or do bodywork such as tai chi or yoga. They do not poison themselves with cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or unhealthy food, because their body awareness makes this impossible for them. They accept themselves and accept themselves for who they are. They lead a responsible life, which means they don't blame others or the system for a possible misfortune. They know what they want and are good at setting themselves apart from others. You are self-determined and take care of your personal integrity. Their words and actions are in accordance with their values.
When there is a lack of self-confidence
People with low self-esteem have limited access to their sensations, feelings and needs. They have limited occupancy in their body and are inadequately connected to it. Just watch people walk. Do they make fluid movements and the whole body naturally swings with them, or do they sway from one leg to the other? Do they have a lively charisma, or do they seem frozen? How do you mean how they deal with their bodies? Does it look well-groomed or rather neglected?
Self-damaging behavior can only occur when there is a lack of self-confidence. Smoking is only tolerable if the person does not feel what he is doing. The same goes for overeating or drug use. Only those who do not feel can eat more than they are satisfied or far beyond their appetite. Perception is to a certain extent split off from the body, and in many ways it becomes possible to go beyond one's own limits.
The feeling of one's own needs is limited. Therefore, the person concerned does not even know exactly what he or she wants. He easily becomes a plaything of external influences and can be manipulated. These people fall for fraud more easily or allow themselves to be persuaded to do something they really didn't want. Of course, it is also difficult to find a suitable life partner, who cannot be felt, who is the “right one”. Those who do not feel themselves cannot feel others, and only externals are available to them when making a decision. And as is well known, they can be deceptive.
Some people live so much in their head, separated from their bodies and their feelings, that they only live in mental constructions. Their worldview deviates so much from reality that they constantly live in conflict with it. You cannot understand other people and are unable to put yourself in their shoes. Those who deviate from their own ideas are condemned and devalued. This is the case, for example, with people who are very strongly indoctrinated by an ideology or religion.
This mental construction can also express itself in a strong professional identification. Such people mainly live their professional function. Since they hardly perceive themselves as living beings anymore, they have taken refuge in this identity. You are the lawyer, the doctor, the intellectual or the nerd and nothing else. In their private life, too, they often speak and act like they do at work. They get some admiration for their role, but they are often not satisfied. Often they feel an inner emptiness and insecurity that can lead to a crisis. It has happened to some of my clients.
This lack of connection to oneself, to others and to the world is usually the basis for many fears and compulsions, because it creates a feeling of loss of control. Those who do not or hardly feel, i.e. have no inner connection, can get the impression that they have no control. There are things that are beyond his control that can surprise or overwhelm him. This is how fear arises.
A compulsion is used to regain control that has supposedly been lost. An action is repeated until it is felt. The door is rattled until it is certain that it is closed. Something is cleaned until it feels like it is clean. Obsessive thoughts often have an aggressive content or revolve around the fact that something bad should be prevented: “If I don't do this, that happens.” This in turn results in compulsive actions that are supposed to restore control.
Those who do not feel usually have problems making up their minds. We can only perceive a decision as being made if we feel it and can stand by it. It has to feel right. That is usually more important than the sensible weighing of the facts. So there are many good reasons to strengthen your self-confidence.
What happened when there was a lack of self-esteem?
The roots of the lack of self-esteem almost always go back to childhood. The child grew up in an environment where their perceptions, feelings and needs were questioned. As a result, it experienced an internal conflict. Children see adults as absolute authority because they are dependent on them in every respect. Getting affection from their parents is existentially important to them. If requests, expectations, statements or comments come from the adults that contradict the child's own experience, it experiences a conflict.
Example: The child fell and hit his knee, which of course hurts. The father says, “Oh, that's not bad.” He may say this with the good intention of calming it down. Now the child has a conflict because he is experiencing something completely different, namely great pain, which may also frighten him. But since it believes the father more than itself, it suppresses the pain and separates itself from him because it assumes that its perception is wrong.
If the adults keep telling the child what to do, feel, think or feel, or if they do not accept it for what it is, the child tries to find a solution to the conflicts he has experienced. It adapts. We have all experienced that. We have all been influenced by our inner experiences and have been made to do things that we did not want to do. We were taught what is socially expected or what behavior is right. We are used to it now because we have adapted and in retrospect it doesn't seem so dramatic. But these are massive interventions for the child. He or she experiences great disappointment, rejection, hurt, or pain at that moment.
In order to achieve this adjustment, it was necessary to put one's own feelings and needs aside or even to deny them completely. The degree of adaptation is of course individually different. However, it can go as far as complete dissociation: that is, people have hardly any connection with themselves. Self-perception is severely restricted. He is deeply hurt. In order not to feel this pain, he has completely split off from himself. He remains in a state of alarm all his life from which he cannot find his way back. Emotional or physical abuse, for example, can trigger this. Dysfunctional parents pass their unresolved injuries on to their children.
What to do when you lack self-confidence
Almost all of the problems my clients come to the sessions with have their roots in the past and have to do with adapting to their childhood environment. Of course, it's not always just the parents who made mistakes. Relatives, playmates, classmates or teachers, for example, can also cause serious injuries through their behavior. Most of the time this is not done maliciously, sometimes thoughtlessly, often even with the best of intentions. We don't live in an ideal world with ideal people. To a certain extent, such experiences do not leave any lasting damage.
However, if this individually different level is exceeded, this is usually noticeable in adulthood at the latest, as undesirable and restrictive internal states set in. These can be fears, depression, compulsions or addictions of various degrees. Or simply a diffuse malaise, a crisis or an inner emptiness. If you notice something like this in yourself, it doesn't make sense to blame others and rest on having had a difficult childhood. Now it is important to take responsibility for these inner states and to seek help.
In therapy, the first steps will be to heal the old injuries. It should be done in a way that events can be remembered without being painful or uncomfortable. These feelings belong in the past and do not need to be activated again and again in the present. This makes it easier and easier to get back into your body with your self-awareness and to feel your actual, current feelings and needs. Body awareness increases until it feels good to be in connection with yourself and to feel your own aliveness. Sport and exercise can aid this process.
You can define yourself who you want to be, what you want to experience and feel. The time when you were dependent on others is over. If you shake off the voices and experiences of the past and arrive in the present, you experience harmony with yourself and the world. When self-confidence, self-worth and self-awareness are realized within, they can also be experienced outside. Trust in other people and the world is returning. You experience the value of life and you can let it touch you. Doubts decrease and self-determination increases. With self-awareness, your awareness of everything around you increases and you can perceive what actually is. This opens a space that can be filled with what I call a baseless joy of being.
Find out what is possible with modern psychotherapy!
I have been working in my own practice since 1995. My focus is on psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and psychosomatics. In these more than 20 years, I have developed the experience from my work and numerous additional training courses into a very effective approach. My work in adult education and for the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf also shapes my work. I accompany clients in individual and couple sessions, but also offer courses and workshops.
My life question “How does it work?” Was the reason I started my career in the natural sciences, until I extended this question to being human. How does being human work? What does it mean to be human? Why does one suffer but the other not? What's all this about here? This question actually allowed me to find working methods that I mostly use successfully in my practice today.
Would you like to know more? Do you want to solve your issues or problems? Would you like to improve your quality of life or get rid of things that have been bothering you for a long time? Make an appointment for a first telephone consultation or an individual session!
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