Are You Putting a Brave Face On Things?
I met a lovely lady this week who is struggling with her personal confidence. Would you know it if you met her? No, on the surface she looks to be bubbly and outgoing but in truth she’s not those things, she’s putting a brave face on life and feels great sadness inside. She is weighed down by difficult events from the past, very poor treatment during her time in education and a lack of self-belief, which has been chipped away over the years. When she talks about her family though, she lights up and smiles a fabulous smile so how can I help her feel better about herself and build her confidence? It’s important to challenge the negatives and reinforce the positives but that takes a lot of energy. Progress for anyone working on their self-development can tend to be two steps forward, one step back, three forward and two back. It can be a true test of faith in yourself and the world around you to keep going, especially if your feelings of low confidence are making you feel low on energy too.
Did They Really Say That?!
Polite society can dictate that we say things are fine when they’re not. We laugh along when people are being rude or mean because we don’t always know how to respond in the moment and assume the offensive person must be making a joke. Because they wouldn’t be being deliberately rude, would they? Quite rightly, we should not have to be on constant alert for people being offensive. But that can mean that we’re not prepared with the perfect response when something upsetting does happen or we don’t realise that someone has been offensive until after the event. And that can mean that the damage is done, without an opportunity for us to challenge it. Our psyche absorbs the negativity that has been directed towards us and we feel that it must be true, albeit sometimes temporarily.
Negatives or Nothing
Emotional abuse can take the form of negative comments and subtle digs but can also be in the form of a lack of praise or engagement. If you’re not actively being ‘put down’ by negative comments a desert of nothing-ness can be just as bad over a long period. A feeling of ‘why am I bothering?’ can develop if no one comes to say ‘well done’ or ‘thank you’ to you and just assumes that you’ll continue to do a good job or carry out responsibilities at home with no positive interaction, appreciation or benefits for your efforts. Losing confidence and putting a brave face on things can happen very slowly over time and sometimes when I work with people one to one, they will say “how did I let things get to be as bad as this?”. The key is to be more proactive in thinking about your emotional wellbeing, checking in with yourself to understand the emotions you’re experiencing and why.
How Am I Doing?
If you check in with yourself emotionally over a period of time and think ‘I’m not happy in this situation’, whether that’s about a home or work environment or being with a particular group of people it can help to give you the energy to make changes. An abuser, manipulator or negative person in your life will make you think that the problems that exist are your fault and/or that your desire for improvements is ridiculously far-fetched, which in truth is unlikely. By checking in with yourself emotionally, you are less likely to put a brave face on things when people treat you less well. When your environment is not rewarding you, you will be more aware of the negative impact it has on you. So often we’re so busy ‘doing’ that we don’t acknowledge our feelings, we just plough on through, thinking that things will be fine eventually. But they won’t be will they? Change won’t happen on its own and certainly not if you don’t do anything differently.
Building Your Confidence
Challenging the negatives is not about trying to deny the impact of difficult events from the past. It is about looking at past events and considering whether you actually were to blame for the things that were attributed to you, whether that was about your ability at school or in work, or within your relationships. Blame, guilt, shame and embarrassment can stick in our psyche like glue. By examining the part that other people played in situations or relationships we can review the individual’s part in it and hopefully direct some of that negativity and blame elsewhere.
Reinforcing the positives is important because that looks at who you are today, not the person that was criticised, blamed or embarrassed before, but the fabulous person that you are now. We all have things we can work on but now you have great qualities and attributes that you might struggle to identify yourself, so working with a supportive family member or friend, or a professional to identify those positives has a great value. Once you start to view yourself as someone with a positive contribution to make to the world, you will stop putting a brave face on things, you will call out bad behaviour with great skill and aplomb and that will reinforce your feelings of confidence and self-esteem.
When Negativity Has Become The Norm
If you’re collectively putting a brave face on a difficult situation, you will have a difficult decision to make, as to whether you allow yourself to continue in that situation or not, however normal it has been made to become. By asking yourself ‘would I want someone I love to be treated like this?’ you might be able to access the energy to facilitate change. That doesn’t necessarily have to be to take action today but it can nudge you into looking at options which can be the first step to change. Knowledge and information give you power and so even a small step, of making an appointment to discuss options for instance can give you a lift. You can feel proud of taking the first step, even if the journey you’ll take ultimately is a long one. You’re recognising the negative impact on you, refusing to accept it as the norm and are making things happen. That’s kick ass stuff!
So what of my fab lady with low confidence? Having spent a few hours with her I can see she has a beautiful soul and a spirit of generosity and kindness that is very rare. She is a very special lady and along with some very effective tools for her confidence toolbox, I will find a thousand ways to point out her kindness, warmth and generosity. By telling me about herself she’s giving me all the evidence I need to reflect her fabulous-ness back to her. It can be very hard to refute the evidence, especially when it’s just come out of your own mouth! 🙂
Take good care please, check in on your mood and emotions and have a great day.
Best wishes, Karen