As I mentioned in my article about limits, a lack of self-confidence is the number one psychological limit I witness in my classes. Unfortunately, this is a very common issue nowadays: self-confidence, self-love or self-care are still taboo or misunderstood notions.
However, it is the key in any learning process. But what is it exactly?
Difference between self-confidence and arrogance
In the Larousse dictionary, the definition of self-confidence is: assurance, boldness, courage that comes from the awareness that we have of our value, of our luck. Look at this woman for example, she knows she’s capable of being a great mum and an awesome business owner, this is her expressing her self-confidence.
The definition of arrogance is: attitude manifested in haughty, hurtful ways. For example: “I speak French way better than him, he sucks, he’ll never be able to speak like me”, this is being mean while comparing two skills.
Believing in yourself is not the same as pretending or thinking you’re better that the rest of the universe. So the difference between self-confidence and arrogance is the fact that you look at yourself and not others when it comes to doing or learning something, you see what you’re capable of instead of always comparing yourself to others, you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly instead of using others to make you feel good about yourself.
Actually, arrogance comes from a lack of self-confidence: when someone needs to diminish others to shine, it’s because they don’t know how to shine otherwise. This brings a light of compassion on all the annoying people you may have met that made you feel bad about yourself. When you can see behind the words, you actually realize that people are just people, and most of the time, the meanness comes from a place of suffering inside…
Your inner child
The thing is, most adults don’t realize that if they are struggling, it’s probably because they have an inner child who is suffering. This notion of “inner child” is known in anthropology and psychology thanks to the work of several people including (but not limited to) Paul Radin, American anthropologist, and Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist.
Now I’m going to take my “mama side” here; not to treat you like a kid, but to explain to you how inside every unhappy adult, there is a child who wants to be heard and cared for.
Have you ever asked yourself the real questions about your emotions? Like what am I really afraid of here? Or, why is it that I feel insecure? Why is this person making me so upset right now?
Most of what we feel as an adult (with low self-confidence) is a reflection of something that happened to us in the past. So when you go to the roots of a damaged self-confidence, you usually see the trauma(s) experienced as a child that were not processed properly and resulted in abandonment or rejection issues (just to name a few).
This can come from a lot of things and is actually deeply connected to your self-esteem. As an adult, there are several signs that can help you to be aware of it. Here are a few questions to reflect on:
- Can you list in less than one minute, 5 things you know you can do?
- Do you talk to yourself like you would to your best friend?
- When you face a challenge, are you able to find a solution?
- How many of your dreams have you made come true?
If you haven’t answered 5 or yes to these questions, it’s very likely that your self-confidence needs some improvement.
Now you might think “Who are you to talk like that? I thought we were talking about learning, not psychology…”; well, yes, but they go together.
Allow me to give you an example here: let’s take the third question in a class situation. We are working and an activity is very challenging for a student, because of the vocabulary or the grammar maybe. I’m always careful about activities being appropriate for the level I teach; so if we do something together, it’s because I know my students are capable of doing it. But this student is still struggling and sees that others are working…
The situation creates a sudden discomfort (more or less important depending on the person) and the student thinks “I’m the only one who doesn’t get it, I suck, it’s too much for me”… Sometimes it can even go to “I knew I shouldn’t have started this, I’m going to quit because I will never succeed, I’m not good at learning French, I knew it”…
Throughout my years of teaching, I’ve seen it soooooo many times in my students’ eyes; this fear triggered by the situation, this sudden panic because they feel insecure… I feel it and I wish I could just hug them and say “It’s ok, you’re safe here, there is no danger, you’re going to be ok, we’re going to take a look at that together, it’s going to be fine”. But that would not be appropriate, would it? Lol!
So we started with a new activity and we ended up at “I should give up, I can’t do this”. This is a typical example of damaged self-confidence. The activity is probably challenging, but because it pushes the sensitive button of this student, the cycle of self-sabotaging takes over and blocks any other possibility.
All this could have been avoided by taking action to stop the cycle:
- Asking the teacher to repeat or clarify the instructions
- Asking for an example
- Asking a classmate what they have to do
- Raise a hand or call the teacher to get some help
- Work in pairs or groups to help each other
Every single one of these actions can completely stop the self-sabotaging cycle and shift the situation. But some adults are so deep into this cycle that they don’t even think about these solutions or think that it would be worse: “If I ask, others are going to laugh at me or think that I’m dumb…”.
This reaction doesn’t come from a challenging activity in class, it comes from a pattern (abandonment, humiliation, rejection) that was integrated somehow.
Many times, I’ve heard (in my professional or personal life) “I’m like this” or “I’m like that”; people would tell me who (they think) they are by using labels. For example, I’ve heard “I’m not interesting” or “I’m not fun”; usually, what they mean by that is “I’m not interesting because I don’t read books or I don’t go on adventures like this or that person”, or “I’m not fun because I don’t drink alcohol or dance like this or that person”. What they do here is comparing themselves to others; that’s the first mistake. You’re not YOU because you are “not like” your husband, sister, coworkers or parents; you’re YOU because that’s YOU, period! It’s not because you don’t read books that you’re not interesting; it’s not because you haven’t travel around the world that you’re not interesting.
Little story here: I’ve been told many times (especially when I was younger) that I’m not fun because I don’t drink alcohol. I’ve learned to answer that I don’t need alcohol to have fun, and if they do, maybe they are the ones with an issue, not me, lol! This comment doesn’t really have an impact on me anymore because I know I’m fun, they just don’t know it, and because they associate fun with alcohol (in their own mind), if I don’t have one, then I don’t have the other. This is negative judgment; putting labels on people is very different from learning to get to know someone.
To go back to the example I gave, what they should say is “I have different interests” or “I’m more of a quiet person, I don’t really enjoy going out to a bar”. Do you see the difference here? Instead of having a “not” label, I express who I am; I speak from a place of kindness instead of judgment. The way you talk to and about yourself reveals how you perceive yourself and will have an impact on every single thing you do in life (especially your relationships!).
This way of thinking can also come from multiple mean comments they received from friends, family or strangers. When you’ve been told over and over again that you’re not fun, you end up believing it and adopting this label as your own… But when we do that, we let our lack of confidence take over.
We are evolving (or at least we should) throughout life, so the person you used to be may be different from the person you are now, and who you are now is probably different from the person you’ll be in 5 or 10 years! We have to be aware of those labels we put on ourselves, not to hide behind them. A label can be a cage or a comfortable excuse not to change something about us; by being aware of them, we can decide if they are still true, or choose to get rid of them because they don’t fit the new version of ourselves.
The key to overcome a lack of self-confidence is knowing yourself. When you learn to know yourself, you can anticipate your reactions and not be triggered as much as before because you know! Becoming our own best friend should be our first goal in life; remember, you’re the one person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, so if you don’t know and love yourself, how fun do you think it’s going to be?
Your learning experiences
In my personal and professional experience, I’ve been asking myself: how is it possible that happy kids become unhappy adults? As a student and then a teacher, I’ve been wondering how come so many young people hate school and so many adults are afraid to go back to learning.
Have you ever asked yourself why is it that we are so supportive, encouraging, caring with babies and young children but not with adults? I have! I wanted to know when this change happened and the reason why. I started by reflecting on my own journey; to help you see what I’ve learned, I’m going to share a little bit of my personal experience here.
When I was young, I was a happy and enthusiastic child; I used to love school (yes, even homework!) and was a good student/learner. Because my family moved, I had to change schools a couple times and the sensitive and dreamy kid that I was, started to discover that school can be the best or the worst thing… My teachers used to tell me over and over again that I was a good and serious student but too slow or too distracted and it would show up in my grades. Before then, I had never really asked myself who I was; like all the kids, I was just living. But suddenly, adults were putting words that were supposed to describe me.
In secondary school, I had to endure bullying for several years. School became more like hell than a place where I enjoyed learning. This deeply affected me: my self-confidence was shrinking, my inside world becoming darker and my desire of living slowly disappearing… I just couldn’t wait for high-school to be over to get away to university and start fresh! But because I didn’t get the help I needed at that time to process all this, my damaged self-esteem followed me at university and then on my first job experiences…
I had a huge amount of anxiety, I was seeking approval, became a people-pleaser to try to avoid any conflict, couldn’t accept feedback because I was feeling attacked, was trying to be fast not to hear I was “too slow”… At some point, I let others define me because I didn’t believe in my skills and knowledge; I used to be so scared of confronting people that I didn’t stand up for myself because I thought it was my fault somehow and that I wasn’t really worth it…
It took me quite a long time to be aware of the damages all this had made, to rediscover and rebuild myself. I’ve realized that the labels people put on you are not who you are and that when you’re growing up, it can be devastating to carry some labels that are not true. I’m sharing all this with you today to let you know that if you recognize yourself somehow through my words, keep in mind that this behaviour is a consequence of something that happened to you, it’s not you. So if you think that you’re not good at something or that you could never succeed in something, it’s not because you suck, it might be because you have lost faith in yourself…
Throughout what I call my “way back to life”, I’ve actually learned to reconnect with the joyful child I was. That is the natural state of a human being: joy! It can be hard work as an adult to stay connected to this inner child, to be aware of and work on things to find again this place of confidence every single human being should have. But it’s so worth it, and the only way to be authentic, free and happy!
Each and every one of your learning experiences has shaped your vision and your behaviour in a learning process. I’ve come to understand that the main issue is actually the school system. A person growing up with judgement, competition and punishment will easily become an over-demanding boss, a mean colleague or a non-supportive parent because that’s what they learned to do and/or to be. Bullying can then happen all over again if you don’t do something about it.
Make the tree grow again
Not long ago, I was sharing the metaphor of the tree. Your self-confidence is like a tree (I am Groot!): when you’re a baby, adults around you water the tree and you build your self-confidence as you grow up. But throughout your life, people or experiences can be like an ax cutting off parts of your beautiful tree and if you don’t stop it, your tree eventually falls down… The great news is that your resilience can help you make the tree grow again! It’s never too late to work on yourself to be better and happier. I’m the living proof that you can be completely destroyed and still find your way back to being the most joyful version of yourself!
Take the time to explore, know and take care of yourself; yes, you deserve it, even if you don’t believe it as you read these lines, I’m telling you, you deserve it! So go on this adventure of rediscovering who you really are; I’m sure you’ll be surprised of what you’ll find… 😉
Learning to be your best friend is the most beautiful gift you can ever give to yourself… The goal is to reconnect with your inner child, to heal and find your natural joy, love and confidence again!
Have you ever seen a child giving up on learning to walk? No! They try again, again and again until they can stand on their own two feet and go conquer the world! That’s the kind of perseverance you should always have for your goals and dreams.
Remember that the way you see and feel about yourself will determine every single thing you do in your life. So I really encourage you to take some time to reflect on it, take the step out of your comfort zone and know yourself better, so that you can have a better life! 🙂
As you may know, I love music so here is a little song (in French of course 😉 ) to make you move and help you memorize the message; turn it up and dance! Yes, it’s ok if you are in yoga pants or winter socks; yes, it’s ok if your hair is not combed and yes it’s even more ok if you don’t have make up on!
Ok, here is an extra for you (in English this time): because I love this cover! 😀
I wish you the best in your life and French journey; share your experiences and/or your thoughts in the comments! 😉