Since self-esteem is made up of self-confidence and self-respect, these two areas must be targeted to increase it. This post will focus on building self-confidence.
Self-confidence, essentially, is confidence in your ability to think. All of your decisions, actions, problem solving, choices, knowledge, and understanding come from your thinking. And, if you aren’t confident in this most basic ability, you’ll have chronic self-doubt, because everything you do begins with thought.
To improve your self-confidence, you must develop confidence in your ability to think, and be certain that the conclusions you come to are correct. The way to accomplish this is by using reason and logic as your sole method of thinking.
How does this work in day-to-day life? Let’s say you’re trying to decide whether or not to marry someone. How do you go about this decision? How do you know if he or she is “the one” and have confidence in your choice? Let’s look at a couple examples, one where reason and logic are used, and one where they’re not.
Bob is trying to decide if he should marry Cindy. He’s the oldest of three brothers, and both his brothers are already married with kids. There’s family pressure on Bob to marry, but he’s not sure if he loves Cindy. After all, what’s love anyway? He thinks Cindy is attractive and has a nice figure, but he doesn’t have much to talk about with her.
Bob wants to live in the country on a ranch and raise chickens, while Cindy wants to live in the city and have a lavish lifestyle. Bob doesn’t know this, though, because he’s never asked her. Bob wants to have lots of kids while Cindy doesn’t want any, but he thinks she’ll give in once they’re married.
Bob’s not sure what to do, but he feels as if he should marry her. All his friends tell him to not think about and just “take the plunge.” Bob decides they’re right, and can’t stand the pressure from his family, and decides to get married, despite having serious self-doubt about it.
Melanie and David have been dating for two years and have lived together for the past year. Melanie loves David’s honesty, ambition, sense-of-humor, gentleness, and courage. David treats her with respect and really cares about what she thinks. These are qualities that are extremely important to her in a partner. They also share many other values and interests, such as travel, sports, movies, dining out, modern design, city living, and neither wanting to have kids. Both are passionate about their careers and want time for each other and for leisure.
They have some minor differences in values, such as food choices and TV preferences, but nothing that’s a deal-breaker. They have fun with each other and enjoy each other’s company. They’re best friends and lovers. Melanie is very attracted physically to David, and he to her, and they have a satisfying sex life. They have disagreements sometimes and mild “arguments,” but they never get nasty or treat each other with disrespect, and can always come to a resolution or workable compromise.
Some of Melanie’s friends and family don’t like David for various reasons, but Melanie doesn’t care what they think because she loves him and knows why she loves him, and she’s the one who’ll be marrying him. Melanie thinks about all of these facts and decides with complete certainty that she wants to marry David.
Obviously, Bob is not using reason and Melanie is.
Reason means considering all the relevant facts about a decision and seeing if those facts align with your values and goals. Melanie knows what she wants and doesn’t want in a partner and relationship. She admires David’s character, enjoys his company, and is sexually attracted to him. They also share many similar values and goals. Melanie knows all of this consciously because she’s thought about it. Her feelings of love, admiration, respect, and happiness related to David are coming from a rational assessment of David and the relationship, and are aligned with her values. In addition, her preferences for a partner are reasonable. She’s not looking for someone who’s “perfect,” but someone who’ll fulfill her most important values. Where David lacks, she’s willing to do without because he has enough of what she’s looking for.
Bob, in contrast, is not considering any of the facts. He wants kids and to live in the country, while Cindy wants something vastly different. Bob’s not even sure he’s in love or what love is, and is giving into pressure from his family and friends, rather than deciding what he wants and evaluating whether Cindy meets this. There is physical attraction, but no other indication that this is a good relationship for a successful marriage. In the end, Bob goes solely with his feelings (mostly fear) rather than facts, which of course lead him in the wrong direction. Bob will either end up getting divorced or staying in an unhappy marriage for years. By thinking it through, Bob could have avoided this mistake.
Using reason to guide you through life gives you self-confidence. When you don’t know what to do, you’ll have the confidence that you can figure it by using your mind to gather the relevant facts and coming to a conclusion with certainty.
However, two things can get in the way of this process: one is when you doubt the validity of reason; the other is when you accept reason, but doubt your ability to use it effectively, or what I call “doubting for the sake of doubting.” I will cover these problems in my next post.