One of the benefits of living alone is having the time and space to work on ourselves. It also happens that one of the biggest areas of personal development is the area of self-esteem and confidence. In response, we’re resorting to google to search for the secret formula for boosting self-confidence and how to start taking life by the horns (so to speak) because when we’re living alone, it can seem like everyone else seems to be doing a much better job than us.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to improve confidence and esteem (split into 4 actionable tips) it’s good to understand what confidence and self-esteem are and why our stocks might become low. Or rather, why we might feel they are low and what benefits can come from spending some time working on them.
First things first. What’s the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem?
At times they are used interchangeably, but they do have some subtle differences. Having one does not necessarily mean that you have the other. Self-esteem is a measure of one’s self, taking into consideration how we think and feel about ourselves. MIND, a mental health charity, defines self-esteem as being how we perceive and value ourselves.
Our self-esteem can affect many aspects of our lives such as being able to recognise our own strengths and positive aspects, being able to show ourselves kindness and move on from past mistakes. Ultimately, it can affect whether we like ourselves as a person.
Confidence comes from the latin word ‘fidere’ which means to trust and simply means to have trust in yourself, your abilities and judgements. Now, the subtle difference between the two I mentioned earlier is; you can appear to have confidence even though behind the mask you have little. Ever heard of ‘fake it til you make it’? Or, you may know a skill well enough to know that you can do it. However, as self-esteem is an internal perception who are you going to fake it, to? Yourself?…Unlikely.
During this look into self-confidence, I will try to keep them as two separate entities where necessary, but as many aspects of the two cross over they will often be referred to as ‘confidence and self-esteem’.
Who experiences low self-esteem and confidence?
There are many misconceptions about those of us who live solo – one being that people who live alone must also be lonely. Loneliness is linked to increased feelings of lower self-esteem and worth, but living on your own does not default you to loneliness. We have covered this before in the article, Is there a difference between living alone, being alone and loneliness? which may be worth looking at if you’re worried you might be suffering from loneliness and isolation.
An important thing to recognise is there is no stereotype of who suffers from lower levels of confidence and self-esteem. Often the predicting factors happen at points in our lives where we have little to no control over them.
Our past is linked to our levels of self-esteem
How we think, feel and to a degree how we behave, is rooted in lessons from our childhood and upbringing. Whilst growing up, the way we were spoken to by others, what type of upbringing we had, and even if we were encouraged to have dreams and aspiration, all played a part in making up our internal blueprint of how we view the world and our place in it.
Psychology Today goes into more detail about this, highlighting that what happened in the past is not your fault. It goes on to explore some of the roots of lower self-esteem including the role of main caregivers, bullying during childhood or early trauma.
Taking this into consideration it could be said that before even trying to fix the way you feel now, it would be worthwhile spending some time looking back at what has been. The past may hold some of the answers as to what is influencing your current perception of yourself.
Tip 1 for building confidence and self-esteem:
Looking Back in order to Go Forward.
This tip is aimed at showing us that some of the influences affecting our self-esteem and confidence come from things that are out of our control. This activity involves re-visiting some experiences or situations that might be uncomfortable. If you are in a position where revisiting things from the past might not be beneficial for your mental health, then do not feel you need to carry it out.
On a day when you feel in the right headspace, sit down with a pen and a few sheets of paper.
On one sheet of paper, note down things from your childhood or upbringing that may have influenced your self-esteem or confidence. Make sure there is plenty of space between each note.
Some examples could be:
“I was bullied during secondary school, I felt no one believed me. Not even my parents”.
“My father did not believe in showing emotions, he thought boys crying was a sign of weakness”.
Once you’ve finished, cut out each note you’ve written down. Next, take two blank sheets of paper and at the top of one write ‘Things I could have controlled’ and on the other write, ‘Things I could not have controlled’. Stick each of the cutouts under the heading you think best matches it.
Once you’ve finished, I would put money on the chance that you have more notes under the heading of things you could not have controlled.
You can be confident but with low self-esteem
We’ve mentioned how confidence is slightly different from self-esteem. We can build confidence in repeating tasks successfully or without issue. For instance, someone could be a barrister confident in the face of the pressures of a courtroom but outwith the courtroom they can have zero self-esteem and struggle to recognise or like the person staring back in the mirror at the end of the day.
Just as much as confidence can grow, it can also be knocked and without self-esteem, it won’t take a lot for it to cause a setback. Someone saying something negative about your ability can be enough to plant a seed of self-doubt. Feeling like you’ve not completed a job well enough or that you aren’t up to the task are all ways that our confidence can take a bash. If you’re sitting wondering how much lack of self-confidence is affecting your ability to develop or meet your goals, Mind Tools have created a short questionnaire that might help you to identify the areas holding you back.
Tip 2 for building confidence and self-esteem:
I. Am. Good.
Nobody likes saying or writing nice things about themselves, but as a way to start getting our minds to recognise ourselves for our strengths rather than our perceived weaknesses, it’s a great tool.
Now, taking into consideration that many of us would sit with an empty page tapping the pen slowly on the table waiting for something worthwhile to hit us, I have a ‘cheat’ to get you started.
Ask someone who you feel comfortable with, to help you. They could be a family member, a friend, even a colleague. Ask them to give you 3 reasons why they think you’re a good person and ask for an example for each reason they give. For each reason, try to add 1or 2 more examples where you’ve shown this in other situations.
Then try to add another 1-2 reasons why YOU think you’re a good person. If you’re on a roll don’t feel you need to stop there, carry on noting down reasons (just remember to also provide an example).
By the time you’ve finished, you should hopefully have some solid reasons why you’re a good individual and a few examples for each. This will serve as the evidence your mind needs when it becomes easy to resort to negative thinking patterns, to remind yourself that not only are you good but also that you worthy of thinking highly of yourself.
The impact of low confidence and self-esteem
Although the reasons leading to lower self-esteem and confidence can be quite unique to the individual, there are some common themes to what people feel. These centre around not feeling good enough or worthy of good things. Many people feel the symptoms of imposter syndrome or like they don’t belong and are often quick to blame themselves for mistakes, finding it difficult to let go of them.
We may avoid situations involving trying something new, or that could be difficult for us – even general social situations. HuffPost provides an interesting insight into the effects low self-esteem might have, reporting that “for every 10 comments you receive, only the two negative ones will stay at the top”. For those of us who lack self-confidence, we might find ourselves defensive to others who might ask questions. We may be unsure of moving outside of our usual comfort zones or routines that we know work. We may be quick to become upset or angry if things are changed without our knowledge.
Tip 3 for building confidence and self-esteem:
I am …
Positive affirmations. At first, it can sound silly and may even make you cry out ‘this is ridiculous’ but stick with it. Positive affirmation consists of repeating phrases or sayings to yourself that can help you to overcome negative or self-sabotaging thoughts. With this tip, we are going to build on the reasons you noted down during Tip 2.
Taking just the reasons why you’re a good person, stand in front of a mirror and repeat them to yourself starting with the words “I am…”.
So, for instance, if your reason was ‘You’re a good person because you give up your time to help others’. You can repeat the phrase “ I am helpful.” or “I help other people”.
These help us to build up a defensive wall to negative thoughts that might try to tell us otherwise. When the black cloud of doubt creeps up on us, telling us we’re good for nothing; practising positive affirmations means we have a repertoire of retorts to tell it just where to go.
Only you have the power to change how you feel
Some people might think having low self-confidence or lacking confidence is just something we all live with and that we should just get on with it. Ever heard the phrase you just need to pick yourself up or don’t be so hard on yourself. Easier said than done, right? Living with low self-esteem or confidence can make life feel like you’re out in the cold looking in on people in inside warmth, appearing to have it all. It can be frustrating and tortuous, knowing and wanting to strive for more.
Feeling like you could have more potential than you are currently achieving, can be soul-destroying. As cliche as it may sound, only you have the power to change it. Our minds are mysterious and magical. Our mind holds the means to protect us when it knows we need it and pushes us when it feels we can stretch ourselves. But this doesn’t mean that it’s easy to master. The mind’s natural default is to look for the cracks, to focus on the what-ifs and predict that things will go wrong rather than right.
Tip 4 for building confidence and self-esteem:
Overcoming the what-ifs.
Our minds are wired to follow negative thinking patterns, it’s a way of protecting us from emotions such as regret, guilt or shame. For people who walk more on the side of lower self-esteem or lacking confidence, it can create a hold over you, that you feel you just can’t break. Most negative thoughts focus on the what-ifs because we don’t have any evidence to the contrary.
What if… they don’t like me.
What if… I don’t get the deal.
What if… I look stupid.
Next time the what-ifs start to rear its head, try to counteract it with by thinking of these questions:
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- What are the chances of it happening?
- Will it still matter next year?
- Is it worth not doing it?
No one who lives with low self-esteem or lacking confidence should feel like there is nothing that can be done to overcome it. The tips in this article might not work overnight, but they are designed to be helpful if you live alone and should help you to start chipping away at the barriers that are in your way to better self-esteem and greater self-confidence.