You might be interested to learn that the word “confidence” was used to mean confidence in others before it was used to describe an individual’s attitude toward themselves. In the early 1400s, to have “confidence” was to believe someone else was capable or trustworthy. It wasn’t until the 1550s, during the Renaissance, that a reliance on one’s own powers became a meaning of “confident.” Today, we understand that personal confidence is extremely important, but that it also must be justified to be useful and healthy. Here are some basics about confidence in three of life’s key areas and how to grow it in each.
Confidence at Work
Meaningful work that we are good at is one of the things that grows confidence the most. The more roles we fill at work, the more sources there are for our self-esteem. But in fast-paced environments, these duties can be more of a drain. Often, the demand to move on to the next task precludes any positive reinforcement you might get for a job well done on the last project.
This is especially true if you are wearing many hats others don’t see, and for those with deep, strong self-esteem, this might be okay. But if you or a colleague is struggling to keep a game face on, here are some boosts recommended by Psychology Today:
- Spend 15 minutes focused on a passion, whether it’s researching new recipes, calling a loved one, or going for a walk.
- Every day, make a list of the three best efforts you made that day—not the best outcomes you achieved, but where you tried hardest. Or, make these lists for each other as co-workers! Either way, review weekly for 15 reasons to be proud.
- Find some blank wall space you see every day and fill it with tangible representations of your value: a pay stub, a thank you note, a performance review, photos, and more. This could also be coordinated on a team level. Change the display every month so you never feel like the reasons to stay confident have gone stale.
Confidence with Friends
It’s one of the big misconceptions of our youth when we assume a lot of friends and a full social calendar equates with confidence. The trope of the popular boy or girl who is insecure beneath their smile is a stereotype for a reason. One study by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research found that memberships in groups or clubs grows confidence the most over time. This is because “people take pride in, and derive meaning from, important group memberships,” according to the study. Even the most established social circle isn’t guaranteed to share values the way a membership organization does. In fact, it’s feelings of values-conflict and being “snubbed” that often lead us to lose confidence with friends. If you feel like your identity takes a back seat during social gatherings, or want to help a friend with the same, consider these tips from Emilie Wapnik at Puttylike:
- Get up and walk around. Take up space and assert your presence.
- Don’t wait for people to ask questions, just jump into the conversation and start sharing. Even if only one person on the side is listening, you are still being heard.
- If you can’t talk to others, go to a private place and talk to yourself. Remind yourself why you came to meet with friends, and what they like about you, and most of all, what you like about you.
Confidence with Family
Family often knows us better than anyone else, and know more about us, too. For this reason, family gatherings or interactions can be some of the places it is simultaneously easiest and most difficult to sustain self-esteem. This is especially true if you have a critical family. Sharing the story of achievement with the people you have known all your life is an exciting and gratifying moment. But when that is followed up by someone harping on a past mistake you made or bringing up your flaws, the good turns to bad. The motivations for this might be humor, or to inflate their own self-esteem by lowering yours.
Whatever the reasons you or a relative might lose confidence around each other, blogger Teresa Newsome asserts that fixing the issue is all about setting boundaries. “There’s a way to shut down those conversations in a kind way and to steel yourself from the blows to your self-esteem that sometimes accompany them,” she writes. “It takes work, and not everyone will be happy about it, but the people who truly love you will get it and get on board.” Here are some tips she shared for starting the process:
Reframe the conversation.
- If you know your family is always going to bring up your relationship status, job, or whatever else, find data or information to support your side, and be ready to reply with it when the topic comes up.
Lead by example.
- If you are also constantly criticizing and pointing out the flaws of your relatives, both sides will always be on the defensive and no change can occur.
Talk about what’s next.
- Once you set the boundaries, Newsome points out, there might be tension if your family is used to being allowed to say whatever they want. Move the conversation forward by talking about what is exciting in your future and ask your loved ones about what is coming up for them.
Confidence is feeling assured of your own abilities, value, and worth. At work, with friends, and with family, it’s important for you to feel that way. If those around you don’t have confidence in you, that affects your ability to have confidence in yourself. People are usually willing to give feedback about why they don’t trust or believe in you but remember this may or may not be well-intended. The refuge of the insecure is often to attack those who are more confident. If you’re not sure how to tell the difference, refer back to one of our earlier posts about giving and receiving feedback!