Self-confidence. It’s the stuff that helps people banish negativity and feel pretty good about their life and abilities. Self-confident people are thought to be better at trying new things, rebounding from disappointment, and overcoming obstacles. They’re also more successful at handling stress, relating to others and achieving their goals.
Self-confidence, or how you see yourself, affects every aspect of life, from physical fitness and mental health, to work and finances, to social interactions and education.
Although self-confidence is initially developed in childhood, building self-confidence on your own at any age is possible. And, believe it or not, finishing your college degree is the perfect example of how you can do it. In fact, research shows that through the college experience, “adults improve self-confidence and enhance their social capital while embracing a personal identity of ‘learner.’”
Here’s some going-back-to-college advice, activities and strategies to help you overcome self-defeating patterns and develop newfound self-confidence—the kind that paves the way for better career opportunities, improved financial success and greater job satisfaction.
Conduct a reality assessment.
Make a list of your best qualities. What things can you do? What are you really good at? What positive things do other people say about you? Read your list slowly and out loud. Take the time to appreciate and celebrate your unique strengths and achievements.
Face the challenge.
Trying something new is scary for most people. And going back to college is no exception. Facing your fear, however, is where the victory can be found. So instead of focusing on the fear, look at it as an opportunity. Imagine a successful outcome. Then take a small step of action; then another and another. A series of small successes, such as taking a class in a difficult subject, asking for help from your instructor or getting a good grade on a test, is a sure-fire confidence booster.
Fake it ’til you make it.
Twelve-step programs made this a famous catchphrase. But don’t let the cliché nature of this advice stop you from trying it. Acting with self-confidence can actually produce self-confidence. Behaving as if something is true (even if it’s not) is a therapeutic technique that dates back to the 1960s. Known as a positive feedback loop, it is a profoundly effective tool that is proven to actually change behavior. Here’s an example: Let’s say you feel out of place in the classroom. You haven’t been a student in years. and you’re surrounded by people younger than you. Rather than focusing on your differences, simply act as if you belong. The fact is, because going back to school has no age restriction, you really do belong! Take it even further by engaging with other students, participating in class discussions, and taking a seat anywhere but the back of the room.
Collect the proof.
Look for success. Seek out proof of your abilities. One way to do this is to start an evidence file. You can create a physical file or an electronic file on your computer. Fill it up with things like good grades on papers and projects, achievement awards, notes from others that say positive things about you, thank you notes from fellow students or letters of recommendation from teachers.
Remember that you’re only human
Self-confidence won’t necessarily come quickly or easily. You will make mistakes on occasion. You will feel defeated from time to time. And you often will encounter people who seem smarter or better than you somehow. Refrain from chastising yourself. Refuse to compare yourself to others. These behaviors are completely unproductive. Instead, go back to your reality assessment. Review your admirable traits and qualities, and then add some new ones to the list. While you’re at it, give yourself a pep talk, and then compliment or reward yourself on your ability to bounce back from negative self-talk.
More Resources for Reaching Your Potential:
Source: Zacharakis J, Steichen M, et al. Understanding the Experiences of Adult Learners: Content Analysis of Focus Group Data. Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal, Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2011.
There is a saying that there is no bigger enemy to a man than a man himself. This saying is fair for all genders though; indeed, no one can affect your life as much as you can do yourself—both in a positive or a negative way. All of us have at least once met people who would have nice jobs, pleasant appearances, fulfilled lives—but who are chronically displeased with themselves, would tend to criticize or underestimate themselves, or to seek and find flaws in whatever they do. Such people create obstacles in their own way—so one might say they are enemies of themselves; and the most common reason for such destructive behavior is low self-esteem.
What people think about themselves seems to be based on facts, and we have got used to thinking we can trust our visions of who we are—but in fact, these are nothing more than opinions, and these opinions can be wrong. Such opinions usually exist as statements, stationed in our subconscious and affecting the way people consciously think and act. When these opinions are positive (“I am good,” “I am worthwhile,” I am creative,” “I am loved and respected”) a person has more confidence in themselves, is less prone to stress and self-ostracism, and tends to deal with life complications better; however, if the set of subconscious opinions is negative, a person may experience various difficulties in their life—and the larger part of these difficulties they create for themselves (IFR).
Low self-esteem does not strike a person out of the blue. Reasons exist in a person’s past that lead to the formation of negative beliefs. Usually, low self-esteem has higher chances to develop in a person if he or she was punished systematically in their childhood; alienated from peers at school, misunderstood, or did not meet certain standards; was openly abused or neglected; were an object of someone’s else frustration and distress; was deprived of warmth and interest; belonged to an ostracized social group, and so on (Overcoming). The potential reasons are numerous, and foreseeing them all in the process of parenting is impossible; however, parents should do everything possible to minimize the risks. Other possible risk factors are illness or injury, culture, or religion, the way other people react to a person, and even mass media messages (Mayo Clinic).
So, how does one know if their self-esteem is low? There are certain patterns people with the regarded problem think and act. The whole list of how they manage to hurt themselves would probably be too long for an academic paper, but generally a person with low self-esteem tends to withdraw from social activities; feels constant anxiety, severe changes of mood, and shyness; feels like they fail to socialize—a situation of direct communication may cause stuttering, blushing, and so on. People with low self-esteem cannot be helped by giving them cheering compliments—they do not believe them, and fail to accept them, since they tend to focus only on his or her negative sides. Also, cases of eating disorders, orientation on the opinions of surrounding people, depression, and reluctance to do anything connected to socialization are more frequent among people with low self-esteem (self-confidence.co.uk).
Is there a way out? Yes, and it might be more obvious than what many people probably think. The trick is that people with low self-esteem are incredibly confident about themselves—in their worthlessness, to be exact. For some reason, they believe only their negative images of themselves are true, and tend to doubt any positive signals about their personalities. Therefore, one of the methods to deal with the problem might be to raise these people’s uncertainty: why should not they start doubting their negative affirmations as well? This might be the first step towards a turnaround: when a person treats his or her negative beliefs critically, it is easier for them to turn to a healthier self-image. Yet another way might be to quit trying to affect self-esteem directly, and find a bypass; since self-esteem is rather often affected by what we do, success in certain spheres of life might lead to a boost of self-esteem as a happy side-effect (self-confidence.co.uk).
The problems people with low self-esteem imagine exist mostly within their own heads, and have little to do with reality. Mostly developed as a result of traumatizing experiences in childhood, low self-esteem can prevent a person from engaging in collective environments, and enjoying social communications. However, if a person starts to evaluate their negative self-beliefs more critically, and focuses on real life activities, their self-esteem might turn to a brighter side.
“Understanding Low Self-Esteem.” Overcoming. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
“Self-esteem Check: Too Low or Just Right?” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
“Top Ten Facts about Low Self Esteem.” Confidence.co.uk. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
Doe, John. “Low Self-Esteem.” IFR. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
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