A small child learns how to walk. He stands up slowly, makes two steps, everybody goes “bravoooo” while he is already falling and hurts himself. “It doesn’t matter; you can do it”, they encourage him, he falls again, and it starts again, very well determined and totally unaffected. This is how it works for most of our children’s accomplishments. Self-confidence skyrockets, and the child feels like a king.
Years pass by, the child becomes a teenager and one way or the other, the surrounding steps in. And, all kinds of limiting beliefs appear together with hardships, like all the “musts”, “should” and “should not”, all sort of suspicions and taboos. And then the doubts appear, “can I? maybe I am not supposed to? And what happens if I can’t get up? Will they still admire me? What are they going to think? I might disappoint them, no? Will I still be likeable and popular? I might no longer be accepted by my parents and my friends?».
Inevitable, the fear of failure and the unknown increases, and we automatically lose our self-confidence and start having negative feelings and insecurity rises. Then, come the “I always do the same mistakes; I can’t; I worry too much; I don’t know what to do; it’s not for me; my figure is ugly; there is no way I make a good impression; I won’t pass the exams; there is no way I am taken in this job; I don’t have the qualifications; nobody likes me».
Self-confidence starts from self-love. Self-love doesn’t mean you have to like who you are, how you’re acting, or what you’re doing in every single moment. Instead, self-love is the act of being present and attentive with yourself no matter what and being radically honest with how you’re feeling in every breath.
Consider a healthy relationship between a loving mother and her child. If a child is scared and crying, the mother will hold and comfort him. While the mother doesn’t like when her child cries and would prefer that she be happy and smiling, she still loves her child and provides undivided attention and presence. This is a healthy mother-child relationship, and it looks pretty the same when speaking of ourselves.
The aspects that we don’t like and are ashamed of or wish to ignore are like that child crying out for comfort; they create a lack of self-confidence. Imagine a mother not responding with a hug to her child crying out of fear … how will the child feel?
Developing this kind of parental loving relationship with our “inner child” takes time. It will not be that easy if you underestimate yourself and seek your value through others. It will have ups and downs like everything else. Love yourself with your defects to find back your self-confidence.
While self-love is a lifelong practice, mentor Elizabeth DiAlto suggests that we can build a healthy foundation by practising five principles:
Be gentle and kind to yourself no matter what comes up. Write yourself a letter of forgiveness. Try writing it as if you are a mother forgiving her child for doing the best they could. Change your self-talk. Replace “I’m not doing enough, I don’t have enough, I’m not good enough” with “It is safe for me to be me. It is safe for me to be here. I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.”Embrace your past, don’t try to get away even if you feel vulnerable. In the end, you will feel stronger.
Practice setting healthy personal boundaries. Say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no and act this way through your behaviour. When you want to say no, don’t say “of course” or “I will try”. You will end up regretting it and feeling angry!
Reflect on your self-respect. Answer the following simple questions: “Where am I putting myself last?” and “What am I tolerating that I don’t want to be?”
Prioritize you. Give yourself more time than you usually do for just yourself. Allocate your time in ways that you can prioritize acts of self-love. You are what’s more important in your life.
Implement the power of “the pause.” Notice things you don’t love about yourself with curiosity. Pause in those moments and ask, “What’s going on here?” “What’s the pattern? What are the obstacles? Be aware and meditate, breathe.
Experiment with meditation and awareness exercises. Turn your skill of observing others inward and follow your inner world by sitting still with your eyes closed. Try breathing techniques
Explore who you are. Do what you really want to do and be who you want to be. Go beyond what other people have told you you’re supposed to be by answering the following questions in a journal: “Who am I?” and “What’s my truth?”
Recognize that who you are at any moment can change. Give yourself more permission than usual to be someone different today than you were yesterday.
Clarify your core values. Get to know yourself better by considering what your top five values are. Being of service to loved ones? Expressing yourself creatively? Connecting with your community? Feeling safe? Have an authentic life? Having financial stability. When you find out, you will free yourself, and your self-confidence will increase.
Believe in yourself and others.
Allow others to have their own experience. Experiment with releasing the need to control the behaviours of those you interact with.
Put yourself out there. Trust that you are safe to express yourself courageously even if others don’t fully approve.
Listen to your physical body. Trust that your body is constantly sending essential signals. Try naming how you feel right now aloud. If there is something, you don’t like, practice self-love and try to change it gently.
Remember that loving yourself is the result of a conscious decision that will make you feel self-confident. It will take time, so be easy with yourself and take it one day at a time. This lifelong practice and process will allow you to react better in difficult situations, express your opinion freely, and find your life purpose. And at the end, simply said, to be happy. Remember, you don’t have to like yourself to love yourself. Build a baseline of self-love by experimenting with as many of these ideas as you’d like. As you build your practice, treat yourself as you’d treat a child (or a client!) – with respect, honesty, and undivided attention. The art of self-love is a lifelong practice, so be easy with yourself and take it one day at a time.
And as writer Brené Brown says, it is vital to know and understand ourselves, but it is even more important to love ourselves, embracing all our weaknesses.