Confidence Hack #2: Set the Pillars of Your Confidence Right
There’s been a lot of hype about self-esteem in recent years. Thousands of books, research and articles tell us why it’s so essential to us as human beings. We simply can’t go without it—we need it for all sorts of reasons—from personal and professional success, relationships, mental and physical well-being, happiness, to just feeling good or having a positive self-image. Or, to just function as normal individuals and have a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
And while confidence comes from a variety of sources, not all of them are the “right” ones, which will produce a lasting sense of self-respect and fulfilment. Quite often, we base our worth on the “wrong” sources—on things that are external, short-lived or unstable—as material possessions or appearances, for instance. Naturally, these lead to a volatile and fragile sense of self-esteem.
Therefore, finding the accurate foundation on which to base our worth is as important (if not more important) to building a lasting confidence, as are the actual steps and the efforts we put into it.
Psychologists commonly recognise two types of self-worth—global and domain. The former describes how much we generally tend to like or dislike ourselves, and it’s stable and enduring. The latter, in contrast, is linked to particular things—that is, how much we value our abilities or qualities in the specific areas of our lives—for instance, academics, work, appearances or our relationships. This type of self-esteem is also considered contingent as it’s based on “externalities.”
The reason why we often fail to accomplish our goal of having better self-esteem and of acting with greater confidence is that we frequently base our self-worth on the contingent sources. True, they can give us a much faster boost, and short-term confidence feels good in the moment, but it’s exactly this—short-lived.
What we are truly after, though, when we wish to be more confident and assertive, is the long-term kind. But it also requires more work, certain effort and time investment—and this is why we frequently go for the instant gratification. It’s easier and quicker, although often it doesn’t last.
Simply put—our own preference for instant vs. delayed gratification when it comes to building self-esteem creates our fluctuating sense of self-worth.
Luckily, there are few things we can do to fix this.
Understanding of what makes us tick, of the things we are good at or unique to us, are the starting points. Because a stable confidence is based on intangibles, we should learn our value as individuals and build onto this foundation—by setting goals for personal growth, by finding meaningful and fulfilling relationships, by giving back—as these are the enduring paths to greater happiness, fulfilment and less anxiety.
And although self-esteem begins with a focus on the self, research confirms that sometimes we have to practice less emphasis on ourselves and more on helping others, while expecting nothing in return. Such compassionate goals create a better self-image and build our self-respect, and they also help us to become the heroes in our own life stories.
Similarly, the famous Canadian-American psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden (also known as the “father of self-esteem”) believed that basing our worth on external factors as achievements is a flawed way to measure our value. “The root of our self-esteem is not our achievements per se,” he argued, “but those internally generated practices that make it possible for us to achieve. “Resourcefulness” is not an achievement in the world (although it may result in that); it is an action in consciousness – and it is here that self-esteem is generated.”
So, for an enduring confidence, he recommends, we should follow the practices of living consciously, of self-acceptance, of self-responsibility, of self-assertiveness, of purposefulness, and of integrity.
And to me, these sound like some wonderful “better me”- goals worth pursuing.