By: Brittany Hofferber & Charlotte Miller
As a young girl going through puberty and entering high school, self-confidence was hard to find. My body was changing, my friend group was shifting, and high school was just around the corner.
Looking back on this as a twenty-one-year-old college senior, I sympathize with my younger self, not knowing exactly who I was and what I stood for. Self-confidence is not something that you wake up with one day. It is a continuous journey of self progression and realizing your self-worth.
There are a lot of words that surround “self-esteem” that sometimes get used interchangeably, but I think it is best to clearly define the differences to better understand key aspects of self-concept. “Self-esteem” is your overall opinion of yourself- how you feel about your abilities and limitations and it is shaped by your thoughts, relationships, and experiences (Orth U, et al). This tends to fluctuate over time and what we define as a “healthy amount” is more so about having a balanced view of yourself than feeling superior. In other words, it’s okay to not feel great about yourself ALL the time, in fact- it’s absolutely normal not to. Recognizing that this is just a natural part of life, rather than letting it hurt you, is in itself an empowering idea.
Another key aspect of your “self-worth” is an idea called “self-efficacy.” This refers to the confidence you have in your ability to exert control over your motivations, behaviors, and social environments (Bandura, A; 1997). In other words, have you built trust with yourself to do the things you say you will do? Do you keep the promises that you make to yourself, whether small or large? Building your self-efficacy is a proven way to build up your self-worth and in turn, self-esteem.
For me, one way I started developing self-confidence was writing down my personal values and goals. When I say “values”, I mean what do I value in myself and in others? Is it compassion, honesty, creativity, or balance? Identifying your core values and reminding yourself of these every morning may help you go about your days with more determination and intentional focus. In terms of “goals”, this does not necessarily mean grandiose goals and huge aspirations. Although it can be helpful to identify your dreams of where you want to go, we more so want to focus on the present moment and the present goals of the day. This could be anything from calling your grandmother to going for a walk or even helping a friend out. The point of this task is to build your self-efficacy by identifying promises that you make and most importantly, keeping them. By creating a tangible list of all the things you have accomplished, you can gain confidence in your abilities to overcome challenges and show-up for yourself.
Empowering yourself seems daunting. Trust me, we have all been there. But by focusing on the present moment and aligning yourself with your values and goals, you will be able to see and feel a change. It does not happen overnight and it isn’t a quick fix- it is something you and I will work on day after day. Be kind to yourself. In time, you will see and feel the progress and take pride in how far you have come.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. W H Freeman/Times Books/ Henry Holt & Co.
Orth U, et al. Self-esteem development from young adulthood to old age: A cohort-sequential longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2010;98:645.