Self Esteem and Confidence

Laurie Eddie

(Investigator 115, 2007 July)

Self confidence is a personal opinion, an inner belief in one's own abilities. It is a powerful feeling of self worth that enables a person to overcome many challenges throughout their lifetime. Normally, self confidence is established during childhood, and continues to change throughout a lifetime.

Whatever the origins, people who suffer from low levels of self confidence display certain typical patterns of behaviour, they tend to be reserved, unwilling to express their ideas, and are especially afraid of creating conflict.

Their behaviour is the result of three powerful internal motivations: 
• They lack confidence in themselves;
• They are afraid of appearing inferior to other people;
• They are afraid of conflict.

These three areas tend to form a habitual and destructive pattern of thought, one that constantly reinforces their own negative opinions of themselves.

Lacking confidence in themselves they refrain from expressing opinions, or being in any way “different” fearing that other people will react unfavourably. They are always afraid that other people will think they are ‘stupid’.

Because they fear rejection they are reluctant to initiate relationships, and when formed, because of their sensitivity to criticism, such relationships tend to be rather fragile. In conflict situations, they tend to back off, preferring not to take the initiative or to defend themselves, even allowing others to belittle them; as a result they miss out on many opportunities in life.

They will often create a pattern of life where they avoid normal levels of social interaction, creating a safety zone around themselves, one into which they can retreat into for reassurance and comfort. The problem is that these safety-zones can become a self destructive trap: 
•    As they become increasingly unwilling to leave the security of these zones, their lives become increasingly restricted;
•    They tend to avoid people; afraid of rejection or criticism from others, they tend to become rather secretive and obscure, remaining very much in the background, so that even as part of a workforce, few know much about them;
•    Because they are reluctant to communicate with people, they miss opportunities. Even though they may the cleverer, or more skilled, they rarely push their abilities either in their curriculum vitae, in interviews, or in day to day living.

No single person or event can be held responsible for the levels of self esteem and self confidence that develop in individuals. Young children may inherit certain general patterns of thought and behaviour from their parents and these in turn are influenced by the environment in which they live.

These external factors have a great deal of influence on whether or not their natural abilities and potentials are realized or remain undeveloped.

Generally, low levels of self esteem come from situations where the individual grows up in a family situation where they: 
•    Rarely receive any positive praise from their parents;
•    Where there is little personal trust;
•    Where they are overshadowed by dominant siblings;
•    Are over-protected by parents;
•    Are constantly on the move so there is little opportunity to form stable, long lasting friendships;
•    Are taught to fear the world around them.


Shyness and low levels of self confidence can be destructive to those who suffer from this form of disorder; for it is a fact that these individuals represent an enormous untapped reserve of ability and potential.

While they may appear to lack any purposeful direction in their life, they are in fact often extremely intelligent and thoughtful individuals with many constructive ideas, which unfortunately, are rarely expressed.

They may miss opportunities because they are held back by their internal fears. Sometimes it is their fear of failure, while at other times it is their fear of success, since advancement can bring with it new responsibilities that might place them in situations where they are required to interact with others, and especially might introduce areas of conflict into their life.

Overcoming Low Self Esteem and Gaining Greater Self Confidence:

To assist individuals to obtain their goals a number of different treatments are available. All are tailored to meet the needs of the individual.

These include: 
  1. Personality Assessments: Psychological testing and questionnaires can identify specific problem areas, as well as identifying personal strengths and resources which can be used to reinforce positive changes.
  2. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A practical step by step means of changing negative thought patterns and replacing them with a more positive approach to life.
  3. Behaviour Modification: A conscious approach to changing habits or behaviours, usually by changing thought patterns.
  4. Relaxation Training: Most negative behaviours create internal stress. Even the thoughts of negative experiences can cause stress. While it is normal to want to reduce all aspects stress, it is often necessary to be shown how to reduce stress.
  5. Thought Blocking: Thoughts are a form of internalized communication; too often when we worry about some personal problem that thought becomes a negative obsession, we cannot stop thinking about it, and the more we think about it, the worse we feet. By learning simple techniques to stop these thoughts we can gain control of our mind.
  6. Hypnosis/Self Hypnosis: This is a simple, effective method of treatment that can be used to find many of the causes of low esteem, especially those which might be hidden from our own memory. It can then be used to change negative thought patterns to more positive ones, to reduce stress, and eliminate old unwanted habits. Self Hypnosis can be used by the client to maintain control even when they are on their own.
  7. Bio-feedback: the body reacts to the thoughts created in the mind. Some cause stress. These can be identified and the effect reduced. This method is useful for stress reduction and habit change.
  8. Sound Light Entrainment: A modern method to enhance natural mental processes. A balanced ratio of light and sound, to which is added guided instructions, enables the individual to look at problems in a completely different aspect, enabling them to create changes in the ways that they think and react to specific problems.