Some of us wander around, wondering how and why other people seem confident. Where does self-assurance come from? How is it developed? And how do other people get past feeling self-conscious, inadequate, and uncertain, or bypass the problem altogether? The answers are too numerous to count, but let’s address some of them.
Parents are supposed to help their children to develop a pleasant, productive sense of self, but that doesn’t necessarily happen. Parochial schools are supposed to teach spirituality, a process of overcoming personal limitations and achieving ever-better personality developments over time. But the schools don’t always prioritize that goal, and students are left riddled with self-doubt if not anger, frustration, and a sense of bewilderment at contradictory messages. Public schools and colleges are supposed to be all about learning skills to achieve self-mastery, but according to news reports, the staff at some of them are presently focused on safe rooms and letting students pout or protest if they don’t like what someone said or did. That’s the polar opposite of developing a sense of self. It’s about abandonment of personal choices and demanding that other people coddle the student’s intentional immaturity.
Acquiring a mature, productive, satisfying sense of self thus remains a goal that you will have to achieve on your own if other people failed to do their job at helping you to grow into it. That’s okay. Most normal people spend time on their developing a solid sense of self all on their own, anyway. All of us take in the ideas and pursue the actions that appeal to us, working to make them part of our values and behaviors, too. Here are some steps to take in that direction:
Define a “Sense of Self.” Start with the basic definition that it is your consistent perception of yourself, the image that others have of you, and the blending of both. Spend time thinking about that if you haven’t already, and think about whenever you sense a need to update your sense of self. Life lessons have that effect on us. You’ll have plenty of those, over the course of time.
List your character traits, your values and beliefs. Note how you tend to respond to happiness, frustration, anger, curiosity and people. I’m serious. Keep writing that stuff down. You’ll find out why as the list grows.
Self-acceptance matters. Think about your skills, insights, talents, weaknesses and character development failures. Keep a journal about your character traits and note your successes over time. Those notes can help you past low points when you wonder if your life is worth living or if you ever grow past some shortcomings.
Choose wisely. When someone uses insulting vocabulary with you, or makes manipulative threats, you’re free to realize that the problem is with them, not with you. Verbal and other abuses are never “deserved” no matter how much an abuser insists on it.
Decide on your boundaries/limits. What are the situations and behaviors that you choose not to tolerate? Role play at standing your ground with someone you trust, or with a mirror. Practice making firm, factual statements about when and why you won’t comply with unreasonable demands or inconvenient arrangements. As you go through life, respect your limits. Don’t do things that wear you down physically or emotionally. That takes practice, which means making mistakes, regretting them, and resolving to do better from now on. Stick to making firm, factual statements, and your sense of self with strengthen. The reason for that is because your self-respect will grow, as will other people’s respect for you.
Take time to rest. Your mind and body need breaks from regular life and from unusual stresses. By allowing yourself to recharge internal batteries, so to speak, you allow your better self to thrive. Pamper yourself as needed. Get a manicure, pedicure, hair styling, massage, or facial. Take an affordable vacation. Benefit from a StayCation if you’ll feel better about saving money as you indulge in local activities that leave you feeling refreshed.
Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is! Things will happen that are out of anyone’s control. The way we cope with a specific situation is what makes the difference between a solid sense of self and self-loathing. We support and/or improve our sense of self with all the proactive work that we’ve done in the past and strive to continue doing in the future. Keep it up. You’re improving your sense of self. Read all about it in the journals that I suggested for you to keep.
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.