I have been lucky: I have almost always believed I could. My parents, teachers, and friends instilled in me a belief that I was smart enough, skilled enough, and good enough to do whatever it was I decided to do.
At the end of the day, we are all enough. We are worthy of healthy relationships, positive outcomes, and success.
But as a friend and a therapist, my interactions with people in my life and the clients I work with has revealed that not everyone believes this idea that they are strong, good, and capable. There are a number of reasons why this could be the case: rough parenting, societal messages about one’s personhood, traumatic experiences, or any number of other histories.
Perhaps you identify as someone who is not always positive and upbeat about your worthiness. If this is the case, this post is for you. These are some tips for gaining self-confidence that I’ve learned in my training to be a therapist:
Make a decision to write down 1-3 things you like about yourself every morning.
A few years back I had a friend who was going through a very rough time. This person was constantly feeling as if they were worthless and without any positive qualities. One day, they took up the challenge of writing down 1-3 things they liked about themselves each day. These were the rules:
- No repeating items.
- No qualifying any of the attributes written down. (For example, saying “I’m a kind person…except when I yell at my sister” would be against the rules. No “excepts” or “buts” allowed.)
- No writing down something just to get it out of the way. It’s important to think carefully about what one will be putting on the list and make it truthful.
It was difficult at first. The temptation to qualify items on the list was heavy, and sometimes my friend had trouble coming up with something new to add. But over time, this person slowly gained more and more self-love. Coupled with other strategies, they were able to fight against low self-esteem and believe they were capable of anything.
Cut out negative self-talk.
Do you have a friend who jokes around in a self-deprecating way? I remember when I was in Kenya with my friend Kat, we had a running joke where whenever we’d do something embarrassing (as one often does when embedded in a different culture than one’s country of origin), we’d say, “I hate myself!” to the other person. It was funny, but at one point a social worker we were working with called us out. She told us that negative self-talk, even as a joke, can erode your self-esteem. But, she said, when people tell themselves they love themselves enough times, they begin to actually believe it. So instead of our former self-deprecating joke, Kat and I would yell, “I love myself!” whenever we were embarrassed or had done something stupid. It was funny and made us laugh because it felt so out of place, but I’ve never forgotten what that social worker told us that day.
If you have a tendency to speak ill of yourself, either internally or to others, try cutting back. Replace those negative words with positive ones. It may just boost your confidence.
Ponder the origin of your view of yourself.
Our beliefs about ourselves are heavily influenced by our surroundings. Whether from our parents or our societies, we have been receiving commentary on our personhood from the time we were born. Perhaps your parents did their best but were unable to communicate to you that you were worthy of unconditional love. Think about why this could be. Did their parents have trouble telling them they were worthy? Are they wrestling with other personal issues that disabled them from filling you with self-appreciation?
Or maybe you are living in a society that tells you that your sex, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other identity warrants you lesser than other human beings. The media may not portray people that look like you in a positive light, or cultural norms may dictate that you must hide truths about yourself because they are considered shameful. If this is the case, I encourage you to look at the history behind these societal discourses. For example, how did it come to be that African American people are routinely illustrated as criminals and unsuccessful in television shows and movies? Is it because they are prone to this kind of behavior naturally, or is it because of the systematic subjugation of people of color at the hand of white supremacy? Understanding where certain discourses come from may help you internalize the truth that it is not that you are unworthy of greatness – it is that society is messed up.
Find a therapist.
I know I say this on the blog all the time, but finding a therapist can be a crucial aspect of generating self-love and fighting against negative views of yourself. Therapists will help you do all of the things listed above and more. They are able to get at the root of the issue and help you come out stronger on the other side in a way that is personalized to your unique experiences. Basically, therapists rock!
What else should be on this list? Anything you’ve done to generate self-love?
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