Self-Confidence Lies Sleeping: It Needs Waking
‘I suffer from a lack of self-confidence’ is a statement that many might make to describe how they feel about their circumstances. Implicit in this is the belief that we need something added to us to make us confident. I believe that this is wrong way to look at the problem – and that to change how we see it could make a significant difference in helping us overcome it. Our self-confidence lies sleeping and needs to be gently woken.
Traditional views of confidence
The typical view is that our self-confidence has been stunted as we grown up and has never fully developed. Maybe we had confidence once but we lost it. In order for us to be more self-confident, we need to realise some things about ourselves, or gain new skills or do particular actions that assert ourselves. Implicit in all of this is that somehow self-confidence needs to be added to us from the outside.
It seems like this is some sort of missing ingredient that never got put into the mix of our personality, and when we can add it to the mix all be okay. Of course, the difficulty with this approach is that it means we are left trying to find something that we are missing, and it can feel like we don't know the first place to start to look for it.
Self-confidence has been locked away – by us
Heinz Kohut conceived of the problem quite differently. It was his theory that all of us are born with an innate level of self-confidence that it is part and parcel of being an infant. In the course of growing up this self-confidence develops into a quite assurance. However, in some circumstances, this confident self is not responded to in a way that causes it to grow. Instead, this confident self is undermined and stunted when it isn't responded to appropriately by the infant's parents. Instead of being affirmed and validated and allowed to grow, it is ignored or even subtly mocked and teased. In time, we come to believe that as this confident self is unacceptable or perhaps even damaging to our caregivers; therefore, it needs to be suppressed and locked away.
This is the tragedy of self-confidence – we ourselves suppress it in order become more acceptable to others. There it sits, waiting to be revitalised, bound by the constraints we ourselves put on it.
This marks a radically different way of treating issues of self-confidence. Rather than trying to pass on skills to the client that will make them more self-confident, Kohut saw the role of psychotherapy in situations like this to be one of revitalising the confidence that is already there but suppressed. It is there just waiting for the right response so it can start to reawaken itself.
– Tim Hill
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.