Emerging Confidence Blog

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Confidence Emerges: The Lifelong Journey to Confidence and Self-Esteem (part 1)

September 18, 20236 min read

We all have different journeys with our confidence and self-esteem.  Some seem to be born with it, while others grow into their self-esteem as they age.  We can have days where we feel like we’re on top of the world and can accomplish anything we put our minds to, and the next day, we may feel like we can’t do anything right and wonder why on earth we’ve not been fired yet because, as I’ve said to myself in the past, “I obviously have no clue what I’m doing and it’s only a matter of time until they find out.”.

Confidence is a quality that can empower individuals to pursue their goals, overcome challenges, and live life to the fullest. However, the journey to self-confidence is not a one-size-fits-all process, and it varies significantly depending on your upbringing, your culture, your socio-economic status and so many other factors.

As someone who was bullied in grade school, I would never have imagined having the confidence I have today.  Today, I run my own business, publish blogs, speak on stage in front of large audiences, and coach other women to find their inner confidence.   

In part one of this article, I’ll explore the concept of confidence and discuss strategies for building and maintaining self-esteem from childhood to young adulthood.   In full transparency, I am not a parent, but I will be sharing what I’ve learned from research and from my own experiences in developing my self-esteem over the years. In part two, I’ll dive into mid-life and our golden years.

What is Confidence and Self-Esteem?

Let’s start with some terminology.  Throughout the article, the words confidence and self-esteem are used interchangeably, but the truth is they are two words that mean different things. 

To be confident is to trust in oneself, and in particular, in one’s ability or aptitude to engage successfully or at least adequately with the world.  Self-esteem is our cognitive and, above all, emotional appraisal of our own worth.

A confident person is ready to rise to new challenges, seize opportunities, deal with difficult situations, and take responsibility if and when things go awry. We can have confidence in particular areas of our lives and not in others. We may feel very confident about getting up on stage to perform. We might feel confident regarding our work skills. We may have won several baking prizes and feel confident about our cake-making skills.

Self-esteem is how we regard ourselves.  It’s how we rate ourselves as human beings, how worthy we feel we are of a place in the world just as we are.  It refers to our acceptance of ourselves and the value we place on ourselves.

 As one client said to me “The self-esteem portion "knows" that I have something of value to offer, yet the confidence portion is always sprinkled with a bit of doubt.  Even though I know what I'm saying or doing is worthy of attention, that nagging feeling that no one else feels the same way is always lurking in the background”.

Childhood and Adolescence: Laying the Foundation

We all know the early years of life are critical for so many aspects of growth, and developing self-esteem and confidence is no different. It's during childhood and adolescence that we form our self-image and beliefs about our abilities. Here are some things YOU can do during this stage to support that development.

Model confidence and self-esteem

First and foremost, model confidence and self-esteem yourself. Children imitate what they see.  I remember a client who told me, in tears, that she caught her 8-year-old daughter staring into a mirror, pinching her nonexistent belly, and saying, “I’m so fat”.  If that doesn’t tear at your heart, I don’t know what will.  It was then, and there that my client decided she needed to start modeling more positive behavior in front of her daughter. We can’t expect our children to be confident and have self-esteem if we don't. 

Positive Reinforcement and Encouragement

Providing positive reinforcement and encouragement for their efforts, even if they don't always succeed, helps children feel valued and capable.  Many parents already do this with their children's drawings on the refrigerator, giving high-fives and fist bumps, and other displays of encouragement. 

It’s equally important to recognize failures.  Helping your children learn that failure is a part of life is a way to help them become comfortable with it as they grow. 

Encouraging Exploration

Allowing children to explore various interests and hobbies helps them discover their passions and talents. This exploration fosters a sense of achievement and self-discovery.  Supporting their journey of exploration means providing them with a safe space to try new things, make mistakes, and learn from failures. Encourage them to engage in a variety of activities, whether it's sports, arts, science, etc. Let them know that it's okay not to excel at everything they try, but what truly matters is the experience gained along the way.

Dealing with Bullying and Peer Pressure

I realize this could be a stand-alone topic, and perhaps one day it will.  Addressing bullying and peer pressure is essential during adolescence. Teaching children to assert themselves, set boundaries, and seek support when needed builds resilience and confidence.  It also prepares them for life because bullies don’t disappear when they grow into the workforce.

Young Adulthood: Navigating Identity and Ambition

As individuals transition into young adulthood, they often face increased responsibilities and challenges in education, careers, and relationships. You can help build that confidence at this stage by doing.a few important things.

Embracing Personal Growth

Encouraging young adults to embrace personal growth and learning experiences, even when they encounter setbacks, fosters resilience and self-assurance. Young adulthood is a time of tremendous personal growth and self-discovery, and encouraging individuals in this stage to embrace personal growth means emphasizing the importance of learning from experiences, both positive and negative. It's about understanding that growth often comes from stepping outside of one's comfort zone. Confidence flourishes when young adults view challenges as opportunities for learning and personal development.

Setting and Achieving Goals

Setting and achieving goals is a foundational aspect of confidence-building in young adulthood. It's about encouraging individuals to identify their aspirations, both short-term and long-term, and breaking them down into manageable steps. As young adults accomplish these goals, they gain a sense of competence and a belief in their ability to shape their futures.

Managing Self-Criticism

Self-criticism and comparison to peers can be prevalent challenges during young adulthood. To combat this, it's crucial to teach young adults to practice self-compassion and self-acceptance. They should understand that it's okay to have imperfections and make mistakes. By silencing their inner critic and fostering a kinder relationship with themselves, they can boost their self-esteem.

Building a Support Network

In young adulthood, cultivating a strong support network is essential for confidence-building. This network can consist of friends, mentors, peers, or even professional connections. It's about surrounding oneself with people who provide emotional validation, encouragement, and guidance. A supportive network not only bolsters self-esteem but also provides a safety net during challenging times.

Keep in mind confidence is not a static quality; it's a lifelong journey that evolves with age and experiences. By understanding the unique challenges and opportunities at each stage of life, individuals can actively work on building and maintaining self-esteem. Whether you're guiding a child through adolescence or helping your young adult grow, the principles of positive reinforcement, self-compassion, and continuous growth remain invaluable. Remember, confidence knows no age limit—it's a quality that can flourish throughout a lifetime.

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Sandy Stricker

Sandy Stricker is the CEO of Emerging Confidence, empowering women to listen to their inner voice and live in confidence while achieving their personal and professional goals. She helps women learn to lose the doubt so they can build a career they love and get the salary they deserve. She has more than 30 years of experience coaching high-performing women.

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