THE MOM’S SPACE: Self-confidence
Knowing your true self
Most of us mistakenly think self-confidence comes from reaching our goals and meeting expectations. It makes sense. Since childhood, we’ve been inundated with messages about who we should be, which leads to a relentless strive for external validation.
The truth is, real self-confidence comes from knowing our true self, the very opposite of who we should be. Once we discover who we are meant to be, we empower our true self, and only need to rely on our internal validation.
While this might sound simple, it’s difficult to figure out who we are. Most adults, when questioned about our authentic qualities, have a tough time answering. We can easily identify who we’re supposed to be, describing our many roles, responsibilities, and accolades, but many of us don’t know who we are at our core. A quick, fun, and easy way to rediscover our true self is to think about who we were as a 6-year-old. This is the age just before we typically start to receive messages about who we should be, before pressures and expectations from others become overwhelming.
Thinking about your 6-year-old self, ask:
- What did I want to be when I grew up?
- What did my first grade teacher say about me?
- What did I love to play?
These answers can give us clues as we uncover the innate qualities of our true self. For example, if you wanted to be a Broadway dancer as a 6-year-old, think about the qualities of a Broadway dancer. You might think of creative, charismatic, easily connects with inner emotions, etc. Consider these qualities and ask yourself, could these also be true about me, at my core? The likely answer is yes, and our first grade teacher would probably agree.
First grade teachers typically know our true selves, and remembering what they said about us can help magnify our innate qualities. If we don’t know or can’t remember what our first grade teacher might have said, that’s OK. Remembering what we loved to play when we were 6 can also give important insight into our authentic self. For instance, if you loved to run and play outside, think about the innate qualities of people who enjoy being active and in nature and how those relate to your true self. Just as reconnecting with our 6-year-old self gives us clues that lead our authenticity, we can discover more by asking questions of our adult self.
Thinking about your adult self, ask:
- What roles do I most enjoy?
- What would my best friend say about me?
Interestingly, the roles we most enjoy as an adult often connect with our true self. For example, if you love being a mom, consider the natural qualities of a mother; nurturing, loving, accepting, fun, etc. If you love your role as a nurse, qualities you might think of are compassionate, empathetic, trustworthy, safe, etc. Finally, think about what our best friend, someone who unconditionally loves and accepts us, might say about who we are.
While it’s not always easy, exploring our 6-year-old selves and considering our adult selves can reveal clues about who we are meant to be. Once we become familiar with this part of ourselves, we can navigate our lives with realistic expectations, tremendous self-acceptance, and incredible self-confidence.
(Note: if any emotional, physical, or sexual trauma occurred during childhood, discovering your authentic self will likely be more layered and complex, potentially warranting support from a mental health professional to find the root of your true self).
MOLLIE GEE is a licensed clinical mental health counselor, mother of two, and owner of The Nest Counseling. Follow her on Instagram @thechubbydebutante.