How to have more confidence?

In many contexts I feel like I lack self-esteem and self-confidence. Whenever anyone asks me for my notes, I always say yes even though I really don’t want to give it to them – I just don’t want to upset them. My parents are bitterly divorced, but I always nod and agree with them whenever they badmouth the other parent, even though I really would like to tell them how sad it makes me feel when they do that. Any tips on how I can be more assertive and confident in these circumstances?

We draw on a range of sources to feel OK about ourselves, and it’s easy to become too reliant on the reassurance and acceptance of those around you. Perhaps there is a growing gap between what you want inside and what you want to stand for, as well as how you express yourself in your relationships with others. It can be helpful to identify what it is that you are avoiding by saying “no” or expressing your real opinions. Asserting oneself may lead to conflict and uncomfortable discussions, or possible rejection by the other person (parent or friend). While we do need some validation and reassurance from those close to us, it is possible that you end up always acting in accord with what they “seem” to want and they never see the real you. They may actually love and respect the real you, if you asserted yourself. Right now they may not be seeing much of the real you.

Another major source of esteem and wellbeing is internal, from feeling that you are acting and speaking in a manner which is aligned with your values. What has been your experience doing that, and how has it affected your feelings of self-esteem and confidence? It sounds like you have a clear sense of what some of those values are and what actions or words they may lead to. This is a vital and ongoing journey that is difficult for everyone. It sounds like it would be helpful to discuss this further in individual counselling. Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) also regularly offers workshops on topics such as assertive communication.

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