CONFIDENCE AND SELF ESTEEM
In my over-twenty-five year practice as an outpatient psychologist, I hear from people with low self-esteem almost every day. It touches every aspect of their lives, most importantly their relationships. Self-esteem impacts job performance, raises, promotions, and work locations--the bottom line being quality of life. It is a BIG issue.
I think of self-esteem as being made up of four foundations experiences. I call them Powers. They can be found in an ebook I have written about how these evolve from our early experiences and how they manifest in just about every later-life experience. There is a self-test to figure out which of the four Powers is strength and which is a weakness. Frequently we use the stronger ones to compensate the weaker one(s). Sometimes we just focus on remediation of just one Power. In any case, once diagnosed, the psychological work begins. Confidence comes from having a good self-esteem, which can emerge from any one of the four Powers.
The first Power is Worth. It usually reflects early-in-life experiences, largely derived from messages gleaned from parents. It ties to religion, philosophy of the world and chronic expectations based upon "how it went" when we were very, very young. This Power, and the foundation concepts to follow from the other Powers carry us through later life events. How we "are" in the midst of any life event largely dates back to how we "were" early on, and how our parents or caregivers nurtured us, or left us to the elements.
Central to these experiences is the surfacing of our core experience of self. It is either worth something or impaired in some way. The sense of self interacts with the environment, nearly one hundred percent in the beginning, less so as we grow up and become autonomous. At any stage, it has value or is dinged by life events. In the latter case, there is doubt about self-worth. Lack of confidence is the subjective experience stemming from lack of basic worth. If we did not manage well in early life, or if we feel that support is lacking in adversity, then there is proportional anxiety about future events. Even in "the present," there is anxiety because lurking in the background is that ever vague but pressuring feeling that something is amiss. "Something will go wrong or perhaps it is just me that is wrong," are comments I frequently hear. The former is more of a response to early adverse circumstances. The latter is a direct reflection of thoughts of poor self-worth.
This is only one of the four Powers, any one of which can contribute to the experience of poor self-esteem. I picked this one to initially focus on because it is the first in line, so to speak; meaning, the formation of this Power occurs earlier in our developmental timeline and usually forms the foundation upon which most of the other Powers build. In future articles, there will be discussions of the other three Powers.
In short, to build confidence, first we need a foundation of self that is worth something. Put negatively, lack of confidence reflects deficits in our early environment, but more importantly, our relationship to the experiences in that early time. What we "came away with" is relatively stable even though the events that formed our impressions have passed. The core of this identity we call self, and its relative value we call esteem.
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