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*The Definition of Confidence
*The Origins of Confidence
*The Human Confidence Triangle©
*The Twin Side of Confidence: SELF-ESTEEM
*The Greatest Single Asset in Life
*The Real Value of Confidence in Wellbeing and Success

The Definition of Confidence



We all speak of confidence as something essential to life quality but few people really know what it is. Confidence is also hard to quantify, and equally hard to describe in detail, but it is real enough.

It is determined by three basic elements: our level of achievement, our sense of belonging and our level of self-esteem. These aspects, which form a highly personal triangle, are closely interwoven and each one affects the other two. Most important, our achievement and sense of belonging absolutely control the level of our esteem. Without both aspects being fulfilled we will always believe there is something missing from our lives and suffer a sense of inadequacy.

A simple definition of confidence could be: Self-confidence is an attitude which enables a positive and realistic perception of one's self and abilities. It is shown by high self belief, optimism, enthusiasm, assertiveness, independence, trust and, above all, emotional maturity. However, nothing is ever simple when it comes to our emotions!

Confidence is learned, it is not inherited. If you lack confidence, it probably means that, as a child, you were criticised, undermined, or suffered an inexplicable tragic loss, for which you either blamed yourself or were blamed by others. It could also be connected to the kind of relationships you have had with others, especially if you have been romantically hurt or rejected. A lack of confidence isn't necessarily permanent, but it can be, if it isn't addressed. Our religion, the influence of the culture which formed our perspectives, our gender, social class and our parents, in particular, are all factors which influence and contribute to our level of confidence and esteem.

The way our family treats us (especially in childhood), the state of our relationships and our progress at work all affect our sense of belonging and self esteem through positive acceptance. Coupled with the success we have in our careers (professional validation and sense of achievement), these elements will always affect how we feel, how much self-belief we have, how much we value ourselves and how motivated we are to progress consistently.

When any of these three elements are out of synch, when they lose their positive edge, it is usually difficult for the person to focus or function, and it can lead to depression, an eternal feeling of unworthiness and even mental illness. In short, any missing element creates a domino effect for everything else. That is why real confidence cannot be faked. One either has it, or one doesn't because its loss means an important damaged link in the social interaction chain. We have true confidence only when we are happy with those three elements of life which then make us happier within ourselves. We tend to love ourselves more and have a higher opinion of who we are when all three key elements positive and abundant.

Confident people have deep faith in their future and can accurately assess their capabilities. They also have a general sense of control in their lives and believe that, within reason, they will be able to do what they desire, plan and expect, no matter what the foreseeable obstacle. But this faith is guided by more realistic expectations so that, even when some of their goals are not met, those with confidence continue to be positive, to believe in themselves and to accept their current limitations with renewed energy. However, having high self-confidence does not mean they will be able to do everything they want. That view is unrealistic, one for perfectionists. Furthermore, a desire to be good at everything we do in order to impress others stems from a competitive instinct and lack of personal reinforcement.

Any truly successful life has both rewards and the ability to learn from any setbacks, which increase our resilience, self-belief and determination. Real confidence requires that we face the possibility of failure constantly and deal with it. However, if we consistently lose out on both achievement and personal validation, we begin to feel such a 'failure', even our identity is called into question. Low confidence is reinforced by low self-esteem. Like sad twins, the two go hand in hand.

The Origin of Low Self Esteem
The other half of confidence, self-esteem is the opinion you have of yourself. It is based upon how you perceive your value as a person, particularly with regard to your strengths and weaknesses, potential for success, the work you do, your status, responsibilities, perceived place in the social order, personal achievements and your purpose in life. It is also connected to how you relate to others and your ability to stand on your own feet. Because esteem is a perception of your worth, your own value of yourself dictates how others perceive you too and they can never treat you higher than you rate yourself. Buddhists classify low self-esteem as a negative emotion or delusion, which "exaggerates one's limitations in capacity, quality and potential for growth".

Low esteem results from having a poor self-image according to personal experience in the three elements mentioned above. People with poor self-esteem never feel in charge of their lives. They often feel like victims, or outsiders - ignored, excluded, unimportant, insignificant and unloved. As they spend their lives internalising the criticism of others, taking it to heart while searching constantly for that elusive acknowledgment, their personal assessment will reflect itself in the appraisal of others:€“ no more, and no less. But if we allow others to take control of decisions we should make, we gradually become dependent upon them too, abdicating responsibility for our lives, which tends to lead to us being doormats for other people's benefit or to blame our parents forever even for our adult actions.

The Origins of Confidence



Your confidence comes from two distinct places: your background and your education. Nothing happens by accident. Your present knowledge, attitude and actions are influenced entirely by your education and social background which include everything you learnt from your parents, family, school, college and work; people you met and events you participated in. All those aspects would have influenced you and moulded your current perceptions and character.

For example, if you are used to seeing people stealing to survive you will come to see that kind of activity as the norm because everybody else around you does it. In such a situation, stealing would be regarded as 'natural' to you, and routine, though deviant to others who do not share it. Examples of how cultures dictate our actions include thriving drug cultures, violence, Congressmen in hock to lobbyists, white-collar business crimes. Hence why some communities get locked for generations into certain behaviour. Such actions acquire a normalcy and a chilling routine about them because everybody does it, which then makes it acceptable.

Such a belief would not change unless you were shown a different way through education or a change of values or you began to mix with people who survive by other means. But old habits die hard and you would take a lot of convincing before you eventually changed your behaviour. That is the main reason why some people never recover from a traumatic or unhappy childhood, particularly if others reinforce their negative experience in later life. People who change easily would already have their doubts, or be actively seeking a new perspective and approach. They would need only a catalyst to push them into that positive direction.

Fears Dictate Action
Despite a history of low esteem, we are all capable of change, if we really want it. But it won't come without great effort because change is the thing we fear most. We genuinely believe we lose the old us, like favourite suits we have grown accustomed to, or lose the old ways of doing things, which make us feel comfortable. But, fear of losing our old selves is groundless. Only thoughts and actions change, not people, and each of us has power over what we think and do. We do change, yes, but not in some dramatic way, only in small, imperceptible shifts which then amount to a whole new experience when viewed over a period of time – rather like still frames on a film which become animated when they are run together.

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We become gradually more confident, and worldly-wise, but our personality does not change. The only things which would change are the knowledge of our surroundings, our ability to deal with life's challenges, knowledge of the choices available to us, our perception of our situation and our routine actions. It is our fears which dictate our actions and, if we are fearful, we will be reluctant to act. We would still change in those circumstances, but, being forced, the process would be more superficial, stressful and problematic.

For example, it is a lack of confidence, faith and trust in others and their capabilities, that causes people to seek to control their existence and interactions unnecessarily. This kind of control stems from being let down a lot in childhood and feeling vulnerable and insecure. Such people find it hard to leave anything to chance. They believe that if they let go or act differently, everything would fall apart and others would not be able to cope. But should they fall ill, be out of the picture or simply drop dead, there is one guarantee above all. After the initial shock of the loss, people around them would continue as usual, and perhaps in an even more competent manner. One only has to think of children who lose their parents to see how quickly they adapt to their new circumstances and get on with their lives. The trauma would be felt, but circumstances dictate that we can never stand and stare. We always have to move on in time with the relentless flow of life, much wiser from the experience.

Dramatic Change
I am a living example of background and education dictating my confidence. My childhood had two significant and far-reaching traumas. Without any form of counselling, I felt unable to let go of the memories which dominated my life for nearly 30 years. I was inexplicably prone to frequent depression, often with a desire to end it all, and very low self-esteem. There were tons of tears, constantly feeling worthless and devalued, and even blocking out a significant part of my childhood to avoid the pain of recall. A cathartic exchange with a complete stranger, who had suffered some pretty damaging things in his life too, as well as greater understanding of the human condition, helped me to rise above my pain, to put the awful memories behind me and to renew my life with much confidence, vigour and self-respect.

Years after that metamorphosis, I feel absolutely fearless as a confidence guru. Now I marvel at the new, positive and dynamic woman who is a much stronger version of the old fearful and negative one. In fact, often I find it hard to believe that the former person really existed, with the change being so dramatic.

The Human Confidence Triangle©



Confidence is not just a single word. That is why much practical advice about how you can boost it almost immediately does not work, because confidence is not just a simple emotion or feeling. It forms the backbone of our attitude and approach to life and dictates everything we do. Most crucially, confidence has deep roots in three essential aspects of our lives: our sense of belonging, sense of achievement, and, most crucial, our life acceptance. The combination of these forms our individual Confidence Triangle.

Each aspect affects the other in a never ending circle. The weaker they are, the less confident we feel, and the stronger they bind together, the more empowered we are. Together, these three elements also decide our self-esteem and are the foundation of our emotional health. Quite simply, almost every major problem, obstacle or difficulty we encounter will be connected to one or more of the three emotional strands of our Confidence Triangle.

To begin with, the BELONGING aspect is the most important for us. It emerges from how were treated in childhood. It’s the domain of our parents, relatives, peers and immediate community and it ultimately decides how we feel about our world, the attitude and perspectives we have and even our identity. This sense of belonging starts as soon as we are born and bond with our parents. It carries on through adulthood, always modifying itself through the friendships we make, the intimate relationships we create, and our work interactions. Any of those relationships not in tune and we are likely to feel unwanted, unappreciated, undesirable and undervalued.

The ACHIEVEMENT aspect is controlled by our aspirations and ambitions. When those are not in sync, or have not lived up to personal expectations, we tend to get a feeling of worthlessness, incapacity and self rejection, or we might blame others for that feeling of ‘failure’. ACCEPTANCE comes from having a strong sense of both belonging and achievement. We feel significant - a person who matters - valued and worthy, which controls how we feel about ourselves and others.

Acceptance is important to self-esteem because we cannot have real self-confidence without accepting ourselves fully, warts and all. And we can’t have inner peace and happiness if we are constantly feeling anxious or insecure about situations or people. The minute we feel unhappy with ourselves, we tend to be critical, to compare ourselves to others negatively, or wish we were someone else, and lose our confidence through non-acceptance. It's like building a great house on shaky ground. The minute there is an ill-wind, it will be blown over! Once we lose that confidence in ourselves, it affects everything else in our lives: that’s how important our Confidence Triangle is to our emotional health.

For example, we are prone to more problems, difficulties and illnesses when our self-esteem is low because we tend to laugh less, often loathe ourselves and systematically lower our resistance to coping with the rigours of life. With a lack of confidence we make far more mistakes because we become unduly anxious, especially if we are being watched, and it reduces the quality of our performance. We also appear either negative and thin-skinned to other people (mainly through extra sensitive and aggressive behaviour) or are excessively fawning or friendly, to mask our feelings of inadequacy. In a vicious circle these actions only prompt others to reject our behaviour, which then reduces our self-acceptance even more, damaging personal competence and confidence even further.

Self-esteem is high, only when there is acceptance of ourselves and others. If we believe we are wonderful because of our sense of achievement and belonging, we are likely to have high self acceptance and a stronger self-image. We feel greatly empowered and motivated. On the other hand, if we think we are victimised, worthless, undervalued, discriminated against, and neglected, we carry around low self-esteem like a huge boulder which not only knocks out our potential but also blunts the reactions of others.

The Confidence Triangle is the greatest influence on our daily lives because it involves the people who matter the most. That is why it is never good to fall out on a long term basis with the closest people to us, like parents or partners, because it immediately affects our sense of belonging and worth, no matter how much we might pretend otherwise, and ultimately affects our aspirations and achievement. It is also the main reason why, when relationships break, they sometimes hurt so much, because they immediately reduce our sense of belonging, self acceptance, desirability and value.

The Importance of a Smile
A smile is the biggest indicator of how we can affect the responses of other people around us. As someone once said, "A smile is the shortest distance between two strangers!" If we are being cheerful and welcoming, it is difficult for someone else to be miserable, and if we sense our partner is in a bad mood, for example, we might modify our behaviour, perhaps help or ignore him/her, until we detect a more welcoming air. However, people with low self esteem, especially those with negative body images, find it difficult to smile, often wearing a look of misfortune which repels others. Pretending to be better than others also provides the only way for them to feel significant, but that only reduces their attraction and keeps them fixed in the same negative mode.

In a competitive world there is no place for low confidence or faint hearts because the key driver of the Confidence Triangle is self belief. You really have to believe in yourself to get ahead or be successful. If your esteem is low, there is no self-belief because that belief is positive perception based upon pure faith, created and sustained by a knowledge of past achievements. Low self-esteem is dominated by negativity and a denial of those very achievements. It is hard to recall past glories when we are down. They become insignificant or non-existent in our eyes as we cease to acknowledge our capabilities and potential.

If you are tempted to reject yourself, find fault with your body, perhaps feel depressed about it, or find yourself being too critical of others, there is one key question to bear in mind, especially if you are seeking relationships: Which part of your Confidence Triangle is out of sync and needs attention first? More important, how can anyone else love you, if you loathe yourself and have low self esteem? It has to start with you first.

The Twin Side of Confidence: SELF-ESTEEM



Self-esteem is the opinion we have of ourselves. If we believe we are wonderful, we have high self-esteem and if we think we are worthless, invisible and insignificant we carry around a low self-esteem which not only affects our potential, but also dictates the reactions of others. Gradually they pick up the negative body signals we send out and treat us accordingly.

A smile is the biggest example of how we can affect the responses of other people around us. If we are being cheerful and welcoming, it is difficult for someone else to be miserable. And if we sense that the manager/partner is in a bad mood, we modify our behaviour to suit, to avoid attracting unnecessary attention until we detect a more welcoming change in the air.

Any feeling of well-being is controlled by how we feel about ourself. We are prone to more illnesses, more problems and more difficulties when our self-esteem is low because we tend to feel bad, laugh less, become more critical of our situation and others, often hate ourselves and systematically lower our resistance to cope with the rigours of life. Talk about walking disasters: with a lack of confidence we make far more mistakes because we become unduly anxious, especially if we are being watched, which reduces the quality of our performance. With no confidence and low self-esteem, we appear either negative to other people (seemingly through aggressive behaviour) or excessively fawning or friendly to mask our feelings of inadequacy. In a vicious circle, these actions only prompt others to reject our behaviour, which erodes our self-esteem even further.

In a competitive world there is no place for low confidence or faint hearts. You really have to believe in yourself to get ahead. If your self-esteem is low, there is no belief because belief is positive perception based upon pure faith, created and sustained by a knowledge of past achievements. Low self-esteem is dominated by negativity and a denial of those very achievements. It is hard to recall past glories when we are down. They become insignificant and non-existent in our eyes as we cease to acknowledge our capabilities and potential.

The Need to Blame Others
In the end, our self-esteem can make or break us. People with low self-esteem tend to be very self-conscious in appearance, difficult to please, superficial and materialistic, mean with appreciation and praise and often inspire little faith in, or respect from, others. They often find it hard to resolve personal difficulties because, being too ready to blame others, they expect such scapegoats to provide the answers. They refuse to believe any solution might lie within themselves. Blaming others become a handy support for doing nothing while maintaining their low esteem and sense of inadequacy.

Ultimately, no matter how simple the achievement, if we do not manage to get it, we will remain unfulfilled and dissatisfied and its loss will affect our self-esteem and our subsequent actions. The level of esteem will be dictated by our sense of belonging. If this is high, because we feel loved and secure, we will be able to take disappointment in our stride and weather any temporary setbacks in achievement. We will be more willing to try again because our confidence will get us through the bad patch. So these three pillars make up the confidence we desire and once any pillar is missing, our confidence will be affected too. If you are feeling low at this moment, one or all of those three is the culprit. You only need to examine why you feel that way and it is very likely to be caused by them. Genuine confidence will not be possible until each is addressed.

But what makes us this way? Why is our self-esteem so tied up with our desire to belong and to achieve?

It could have a lot to do with an innate drive for power and control. We have a strong capacity for freedom of thought, choice and action, yet any potential for hurting others with this unrestrained freedom is tempered by an equally pressing desire to be loved and wanted. Without exception, at some point in our lives, we all want to be recognised, feted and adored; to be known for something of value. Just for one brief moment in time we would all like to be noticed and honoured.

In short, what propels us forward in life is an overriding need to be somebody. Once we believe we are somebody we tend to feel wanted, we feel we have achieved and our self image and esteem are very high.

The Greatest Single Asset in Life



Confidence is the greatest single asset we can possess because it often moves mountains. It is a product of self-esteem which, in turn, is dictated by self belief, self love, and self-value. When those three elements are absent, it is impossible to have true confidence in one's self because the essential foundation would be missing. We would have very low self-esteem which means equally low confidence to match. Low self-esteem is driven by fear: the fear of not being good enough, not being wanted and valued and being worthless and insignificant.

That is why many tips for 'boosting' one's confidence are ineffective because they ask people to do what they are not capable of. For example, one tip an article gave was this:
"Make a conscious effort not to compare yourself to others. Affirm your uniqueness. Remind yourself of your talents and strengths."

Low self-esteem is about feeling worthless. It is well nigh impossible not to compare one's self with others and be found wanting. Additionally the low confidence person cannot affirm their uniqueness if they do not value themselves enough to appreciate that uniqueness in the first place! They also cannot focus on their talents and strengths if their weak self-belief tells them that they don't have any! It would be very difficult for them to see those strengths. Such tips are merely putting the cart before the horse!

Another tip said: "Accept yourself. Admit your mistakes and move on."
That's a really silly tip because the basis of low confidence is a lack of self-acceptance, always thinking the worst of one's self. How does someone of low esteem suddenly accept himherself? Not possible! That's what a confident person does, one who already possesses the self-belief to do so.

That is why people who simply follow 'confidence tips' might be able to cope with an immediate situation but are soon back to their normal fearful selves because the root cause of low self-esteem has not been addressed. The only sure thing to boost one's self confidence is to focus on WHY the person lacks self belief, does not love him/herself or believe they have no value.

The reasons usually lie in how we are treated in childhood or in a faulty relationship somewhere. Once we can identify them and begin to understand the negative ways they affect us, and how we can turn them around to our advantage - mainly through emotional exploration and self education - we are on our way to appreciating our unique selves and building true confidence within us.

However, many people, especially men, fear that emotional exploration; fear the answers they might find, and resist it. So the low confidence and esteem continue to dog them while they put up with behaviour which is not appropriate for them just to feel valued.

The Real Value of Confidence in Wellbeing and Success



Confidence is one of those things we know greatly influence the extent of our happiness and success, but which seldom seems to come our way, no matter how hard we seek it, especially in interacting with others. One cannot see confidence or touch it, but without this essential life ingredient, we can feel very miserable and isolated. Without it we think we're failures -€“ life's rejects. Even more galling, everyone else seems to have this precious self-assurance, while we are left to wonder where, and how, we missed out.

For too many of us, confidence is a scarce commodity. It comes and goes in fleeting gusts and, just when we think we have it covered, it flutters away mockingly, deserting us at our most needy moments. We are left feeling either helpless, nervous, vulnerable, impotent, angry or disgusted with ourselves; in a state of depression brought on by what we think we should have done but didn't. Confidence dictates the quality, timing and effectiveness of our actions. It also affects the tone of our voice, what we actually say and the impression we ultimately give.

Real confidence cannot be faked. It affects us from the time we are very young and has to be nurtured and maintained by others around us. False assurance is what we give to ourselves when we are unable to get any reinforcement or positive feedback from the people who matter. It bolsters our ego and self-esteem temporarily but it can be easily knocked away at the slightest negative reaction, leaving us feeling bare and weak. More likely is that we all tend to feel confident in one area of the triangle of life (either family, work or relationship) and nurture that aspect, while feeling inadequate in the others.

Real confidence comes through recognition and encouragement of our actions by ourselves and our peers in a kind of 60/40 split. The acknowledgment and reinforcement of our peers is an important tonic to our identity and self-esteem. If we know we are good at something because of our self-belief and the way we are regarded and reinforced by others, it will take a great deal to change that opinion. If our self-perception is never confirmed by others, especially the ones who matter who matter, we will be always feel insecure, never sure of ourselves. That is why it can be difficult to get over a relationship when it breaks. It doesn't matter how many other people fancy us at that moment. All that matters to us then is the one we have parted from. And unless they are responding positively, we simply feel like crap!

Deviance and Anger
The power of confidence within the family is indisputable. A child who is told repeatedly he is good for nothing turns into a man who believes he is worthless, useless and has no talent. He may try harder to carve his own future in a competitive arena by utilising any encouragement given to him in later life. But he is likely to be either apathetic, lacking the necessary confidence to make the right decisions for a successful existence or just happy to settle for what he can get.

Worse still, he could decide that, if he is already worthless, he cannot change, so he might as well be deviant or 'bad', an attitude which does not depend on the approval of others and which actively creates conflicting situations he can easily control. If he chooses this way, he will carry that anger against others with him and his new false assurance will encourage negative actions which will be channeled towards his environment and community, or even himself. It is not so difficult to see the important role confidence has in our growth and development.