The seeds of doubt are planted early in life — in the years of greatest vulnerability. Unless you were extraordinarily fortunate, much of your early education was grounded in fear and intimidation.
These kinds of experiences structure a defense against the world. You may have come to doubt yourself after having been pitted against awesome forces—teachers, parents, insensitive peers, and the presence of law enforcement in your community. These forces often act to make the individual feel quite small and inadequate.
Self-confidence, on the other hand, is born out of self-esteem. Some people are wise enough to overlook, sidestep, reject or transcend earlier life experiences detrimental to positive self-regard and, in time, come to a realistic understanding and balance appreciation of themselves.
When we are unhappy, our sadness is often sustained by repeated, intrusive thoughts. These push themselves into consciousness and preoccupy or even dominate the mind, leaving little opportunity for the experience of happier thoughts. There are several categories of such automatic thoughts.
Low self-esteem thoughts express an unjustified lack of self-confidence. Examples are: "I cannot do it. "'I'm going to be a failure in life."
Excessive self-depreciation is thoughts that criticize the self to an extent more than is justified. Examples are: "I should have been more careful." "I shouldn't have said that." "I shouldn't have done that."
Excessive self-blame are thoughts that assume more than is justified. Examples are:
"I've been a bad father"; "I've wasted my life"; "It's all my fault."
Scapegoating are thoughts that blame others more than is justified. Examples are:
"If it hadn't been for my family, I could have had a successful career"; or "If it hadn't been for my father, I would have been twice as rich today."
Ideas of deprivation are thoughts that focus on liabilities rather than on assets. Examples are: "We're so poor"; "My friends have been able to travel. I haven't even been to Las Vegas or Disneyworld"; "Why do I have such a rotten life?"
Thoughts that insist upon assuming more responsibilities or difficulties than are warranted. Examples are: "I should do more for my children"; "I ought to work harder and earn more money."
All of us have repeated intrusive thoughts that make us miserable. We need to identify such thoughts, realize their irrationality, and switch over to more positive topics.
Unrealistic assumptions describe attributes or goals that must be attained; a failure to attain these goals leads to ideas of decreased self-worth.
Examples of unrealistic assumptions are:
"I must be perfect."
"I should never fail in anything that I do."
"I cannot handle it if anyone criticizes me."
"I cannot be happy unless I have a lot of money."
Unrealistic assumptions can make us unhappy, and we can wreck the peace and tranquility in the family as well. It is important that we learn to accept our self — imperfections and all.
I have on many occasions laid in my bed staring at the ceiling. But, I wasn't counting the cracks. Suddenly the ceiling became the surface for me to map out what I desired for my family and what I would do to get us there. It was the canvas, and I was Da Vinci. I was only 6 years old but I was already becoming the Mr. Energizer. My mind was racing with thoughts of possibilities and dreams. I didn't allow any thoughts of negativity to enter my brain.
Can self-confidence be learned? The answer is a resounding yes. People become more assured about themselves by doing things they thought they couldn't do. There's not better teacher of self-confidence than success.
All along the way one becomes stronger and thus establishes a more positive self-view.
This progress can be sustained by associating with people who appreciate the importance of the new found self-confidence.
Farrah Gray is the author of the international best-seller "Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out."