How to Build Confidence in Yourself and Your Relationship
The pandemic has turned many lives upside down, and as we transition back into in-person events, you might notice that you are not the same person that you were pre-pandemic. Those who were sociable and extroverted prior to the pandemic may have found their self-worth has taken a dip, or they're struggling with restoring their sense of self. Factors contributing to the psychological distress that impacts our sense of self may include facing changes in employment, having a decrease in social interaction, and living in ongoing uncertainty.
Common symptoms stemming from ongoing social isolation have resulted in an increase in anxiety, self-doubt and low self-confidence for many. As we re-integrate into the world with wellbeing in mind, here are strategies for how to build self-confidence–and in your relationship too.
In This Article:
Defining Self-Confidence & Beyond
Let's start off by getting to know the different components of "the self" that we can build and restore. Between self-confidence and self-love, there are differences between each term that will help you differentiate how you measure each in your life.
Self-worth is the inherent belief that we are worthy of love and belonging. A person with a healthy sense of self-worth may believe that they are inherently good and worthy of receiving good things in their life. One's self-worth, when healthy, remains constant. It shouldn't shift or falter based on external consequences (accolades, awards or status).
Self-esteem is the perception of ourselves based on external achievements (praise, awards, status, affirmations). Our self-esteem is based on the thoughts and feelings we have towards ourselves, which are filtered by our moods and our interactions with the outside world.
You might be surprised to hear self-esteem can fluctuate from time to time. Some days or weeks, you may feel good about yourself–which can be influenced by how well you're doing at work or by ongoing positive interactions with friends and family. The next thing you know, you may experience conflict that might cause you to become hard on yourself and struggle with an inner critic. Self-esteem comes down to one question: At this point in time, do you like yourself?
Self-confidence is our belief in our capabilities and our belief that we are able to successfully and effectively show up in certain situations. Self-confidence means that you have a certain level of trust in yourself and your skills. For example, you might have a lot of self-confidence when it comes to the work that you do. If you work in sales, you might feel really good about what you do. In fact, you know that you can talk to people and meet the demands of your job.
Can self-confidence be high while one's self-esteem is low? Absolutely. The two aren't the same, though they can certainly influence each other. You might have good self-confidence in your ability to make sales at work, but struggle with your self-esteem when it comes to your perception of yourself as a friend or partner.
Self-identity is the concept of knowing who you are, and what makes you yourself. Self-identity is the ability to be clear about your traits and qualities, and what distinguishes you from others. Just as the question to self-esteem is "Do you like you?" The question for self-identity is "Who are you?" or "what makes you, you?"
Self-love is a combination of the aforementioned parts of the "self" and includes a sense of gratitude and respect that you have toward yourself. Self-love is expressed in action and the ways in which you value yourself. To help explore self-love, as yourself questions about how you perceive yourself. Here are a few reflection starters: What do you do to take care of yourself? What do you do to take care of and honor yourself spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically? How do you treat yourself?
Tips for Building Your Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem & Worth
How to Build Self-Confidence
Learning how to build your self-confidence might take a bit of practice. If you want to feel confident in a certain area of your life, you have to be willing to take the necessary risks to learn, grow and ask questions. You also have to be willing to be wrong and make mistakes. We grow our confidence through our willingness to learn and try something new. For example, if you want to feel confident in your communication skills, practice communicating by sharing how you feel and stating what you need. Get into the habit of stating your needs without having to apologize for them. The more we can practice a skill that we are wanting to gain confidence in, the more mastery we gain, which results in improved self-confidence.
How to Build Self-Esteem
Since our self-esteem is our perception of ourselves, along with the thoughts and feelings we have about the self, then building it starts with your thoughts. Pay attention to how you're speaking to yourself. Observe the patterns that dominate your thinking toward yourself. Are you overly critical? Are you compassionate? Are you loving and kind or are you constantly doubting yourself?
When you find yourself engaging in negative thought spirals about yourself and your worth, shift your thinking to positive or neutral affirmations. These include: I am enough at this moment. I am doing the best that I can, with what I have.
Learn to affirm yourself and challenge your negative beliefs about yourself. Here is a little bonus question for you: if you find that you tend to speak to yourself negatively, ask yourself where you learned this behavior. Ask yourself if the voice of this inner critic sounds like someone you know. Sometimes, it helps to do a little bit of exploring about when this inner critic began. Finally, when it comes to self-esteem, we do heal in the context of our relationships. This means setting boundaries when necessary and spending time with people who uplift you and those who are sources of support.
How to Build Your Self-Worth
Since our self-worth is our inherent belief that we are worthy of love and good things, then it is important to pay attention to the beliefs that we have toward ourselves. Let's start with a basic question: Do you believe you're worthy of love and belonging?
Those with low self-worth tend to be overly critical of themselves and blame themselves when things go wrong. They tend to internalize the belief that they are inherently flawed and inadequate. If this is you, it may be helpful to process in a therapeutic setting where those beliefs stem from, address any history of unresolved traumas, and learn cognitive coping skills to challenge those beliefs.
The journey to improving your self-worth includes practicing self-compassion, giving yourself grace, and affirming to yourself daily that you are worthy of love and belonging. If you struggle with offering yourself compassion, practice the best friend technique: what would you say to a best friend or someone you love? Now, turn those words around back to yourself.
How to Be Confident in a Relationship
Now that we've learned about the different parts of the self and strategies we can do to increase our sense of self, let's talk about how to build your self-confidence within your relationship. There is this common misconception that you have to be "healed" or in a certain place before entering a relationship, but the truth is that we heal in the context of our relationships.
Let's integrate the concepts that we learned throughout this article. Building self-confidence in a relationship first requires the belief that you're worthy of a healthy and loving relationship. In a practical sense, this manifests in how you receive love, kindness, compliments and thoughtful gestures from your partner. If you struggle with receiving kindness from others, practice by just saying "thank you" and internally saying to yourself, "I receive."
If your self-confidence feels low, it's important to share this information with your partner so that they can offer support and words of encouragement. When building your self-confidence, identify the areas in your relationship where you'd like to build confidence. Is it communication, intimacy or relational security? Once you have identified those areas you'd like to improve, set small and reasonable goals for yourself. Share your goals with your partner so that they can help hold you accountable.
Again, building confidence also comes from being good at something. Pick a new skill or explore a hobby; when we develop mastery, we tend to feel good about ourselves, which improves our overall self-esteem.
When it comes to building up your partner's sense of self, this comes in the form of conversation and action. Building up our partner's sense of self is a consistent process of affirming them and giving them grace. As a couple, it may help to venture out and engage in a mutually satisfying hobby or activity together. Learning how to authentically and sincerely praise your partner can be a source of increasing their sense of self as well as the health of a relationship.
It is important to note that while we cannot do this work for partners, we can support them in heading in the right direction. You can start by having a conversation with your partner about what they need from you in order to feel good about themselves. Do they need to feel recognized for what they're doing? Do they need verbal affirmations? Do they need someone to set goals with and hold them accountable? Once you've been able to identify what works for your loved one, create a plan of action that helps you follow through with what they need.