Why do so many of us look to others for affirmation and approval? Do we value the opinion of others more than our own? Maybe we feel that those close to us can be more objective, know us better, or will be more honest. Or maybe we don't believe we can do a good job of evaluating our own strengths and weaknesses. These are all valid reasons. However, we may also look for outside approval because we never learned how to generate self-approval. We may have grown up in a household that only focused on our flaws, weaknesses and mistakes, so we became our own inner critic. While we can easily name ten negative characteristics, we may have a difficult time identifying ten positive traits within ourselves. Often when we don't receive unconditional love, praise, and encouragement growing up, we seek them from others because we never learned how to generate them internally. Unfortunately, adolescents often seek that acceptance and approval from their peers and may engage in destructive behaviors in order to fit in and be accepted.
Sometimes we allow our insecurities and lack of self-confidence to contribute to our choices and decision-making. In fact, if we feel really badly about ourselves, we may not feel worthy of healthy, positive, and functional relationships. In that case, we may surround ourselves with toxic and unhealthy people so we will be accepted and not judged. We choose dysfunctional people to be in our lives and reject or sabotage our relationships with healthy people. Unfortunately, it's often easier to be around those who have their own issues and problems than to risk being with someone who might challenge us to be better, healthier, and stronger which may require change. We get stuck in a rut, give up on ourselves, and accept that being dysfunctional defines our life.
The good news is that we don't have to remain stuck and can change the way we approach life and the choices we make. It will require us to change the way we think and the way we interact with others. For example, we may need to learn to recognize our positive traits. Ask a healthy friend or family member to help with this if you are having trouble on your own. Ask them to be specific, such as "you listen without judging when I need to talk" rather than "you are a good friend." Then, whenever you notice yourself behaving in a positive manner, write it down so you can review the list at the end of the day. Be gentle on yourself when you fail, telling yourself you'll do better next time rather than characterizing it as an unchangeable personality flaw. Over time you will notice more positive behaviors, feel more assured, and therefore seek out healthier relationships. Modify the way you talk to yourself so that it is more like speaking to a friend than to an enemy. Engage in activities such as exercise, volunteering, and hobbies that give you a sense of fulfillment. Lean into your faith and let go of conflict that has kept you stuck in pain. Lastly, speak assertively and don't allow unresolved conflict to take up anymore space in your head. Increasing self-confidence starts with you.