Saturday, 13 June 2015

Self Esteem, Confidence and Courage

     I have never been accused of having low self esteem, though it has occurred to me that because I share more of my inner world on this blog than people see in my daily life, I may seem to have lower self esteem than I actually do.  Not that it matters, because the reality is all that matters, but if it is my intention to be useful or helpful by sharing my own experiences then I don't want to give inaccurate or imbalanced impressions.  I wrote recently about my experiences accepting my body and I attempted to distill a lifetime (48 years) of experience, thoughts, strategies and conclusions into that one post. After, I wondered if what some people read there lead them to feel the need to tell me that my body is a good body and possibly even a better body than their own in some ways so I should not worry. 
       I can only say,  Thank you, for the kind intentions, but don't do that to yourself.  To some degree we could all do that.  In everything we will be able to find someone who we can perceive as better than we are.  And you know how that proverbial grass is always greener.  There was a time in my life when I actually wished for a bigger bust and fuller arms. I even wished for a thicker waist.   I thought I was skinny, unfeminine and badly proportioned.   I can only laugh at that insanity as I got what I wished for and have not found it to be any better.

     We may see others' features as perfect or flawless when of course they are not, or if they are close to it in one feature they will surely have one or two features they dislike.  I have never met a person, male or female who didn't have at least one feature (s)he saw as flawed or undesirable.  What matters is how much we focus on that.  The strategy I tried to present was what works for me to shut down the negative words by retraining my brain to have a different thought.  I don't try to convince myself I am beautiful or perfect but to replace "those arms are fat" with "I like those arms"

     The person who those arms belong to, the person inside this body, I like very much.  She is familiar and comfortable and I am at ease with her.  She has strengths and she has flaws and I am comfortable with all of them even if I set out to grow and improve in some way.  If asked to rate my self-esteem I would predict that it is average/adequate though not necessarily high.  I think this is just fine.  I am not convinced high self-esteem is a virtue and I know that my levels of self-esteem fluctuate in different areas.   I think I do often have an attitude of humility which gets mistaken for low confidence.  I personally think that I am pretty awesome, but I tend not to assume others think so.  This does not translate to low self esteem as much as to self sufficiency, though it also doesn't mean that I don't appreciate being appreciated.   If you are like this too, don't let others convince that you have to become some sort of cheerleader for yourself.  We all have different ways of being.

     I set the bar high in most things and am inclined to think that if I can reach the bar then it was set too low.  Again, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing.  I don't beat myself up over it, I just keep trying to get better and as a writer and artist I want to strive to improve constantly, but I don't want to get discouraged.  That means I need a balance of satisfaction with my own work along with some dissatisfaction, some sort of desire to do it better next time.  It is quite typical of me to to go back and forth feeling satisfaction in my work and then thinking no, it is crap, and then perhaps altering it a little and liking it again.  If I didn't go through that process of thinking it is crap, I would not strive to improve it, and I would not really know if it could be made better or just different or if it works best as it is already.

Confidence vs Courage:  These two look similar but are different internally, largely in how much or what type of thought goes into them. When you act with courage you have said to yourself, okay I've done this before or had some experience with this before, I know what to expect, I have some sort of plan of attack, so I can take this on.  It will probably turn out okay and if not, I can survive that.  Confidence is a bit more vague, more connected to thoughts such as, I'm awesome so I can do that.  It is a belief in oneself, a faith, and the very definition of faith is belief without evidence.  It is not a bad thing, but it may actually be more difficult to sustain.  I am inclined to think that finding your courage is more long lasting.  If you know that you have survived something before, or even thrived, you can take it on again.

One of my own personal strategies for taking on difficult things is to find a way to relate it to an experience I have already had and then using that, imagine the worst that could happen.  I then figure out how I would cope with that worst thing.  Once I have a plan or strategy in mind I can tackle the task much more easily.

     We talk of body confidence but I wonder if what we really want is the courage to accept and like our bodies.  Given that we live in a culture that tells us what the ideals are and points out to us how we don't live up to that, there is a risk that if we like ourselves anyhow, if we dare not to hide our flaws, we might be ridiculed, scorned, or disapproved of.  Body confidence is the courage to cope with that.  To learn to care less and hopefully not care at all.  It is the courage to like yourself in an environment telling you that you are not likable.  It is knowing there is no such thing as perfection and that we are all good enough and having the courage to act accordingly.  I intend to aim for the courage to like my body as well as I like my non-corporeal self.  For me, that has always been a little bit harder but I've come a long way.

                         Gratuitous cat photos: Naughty and Nice

                                    Naughty carpet scratching

                  Strategic use of cuteness to cover up for the naughtiness.



  1. You are real and authentic and for me this is a huge self esteem boost. For the rest my motto these days is do what you like and to it alot to improve. This applies to everything from attitudes I want to change or establish to skills I want to aquire.Basically, it's like focus, do and be happy about it and move to the next good think. have a great week!

    1. That's a really good strategy and it seems simple and straightforward but sometimes takes years to learn. Thanks for sharing it. xoxo

  2. Sorry I got the wrong end of the stick. Great that you are feeling self courage!
    Gorgeous naughty cat photo :-) xo Jazzy Jack

    1. Well, many years ago I had that wrong end of the stick too but wanted to share how I changed that. It's rather rude of me to be waving sticks around though. xoxo

    2. I suppose I was just saying what I admire about you without meaning to knock myself. Maybe I misread your intensity. I'm glad you aren't as sad as I thought.

    3. Hugs and many thank yous, dear friend. I just wanted to make sure I had not mistakenly given the wrong impression because that is so easy to do on the internet, is it not? I think you are an amazing courageous, talented woman with striking colouring, a slender body and a fun dramatic flair, and a sweet smile. That's what I see. Thank you for sharing with me what you see. xoxo

  3. strategic use of cuteness? that's what the cats are best know for:) they have a natural genious when it comes to strategy:)

    Once again, I really like your article. I happen to think you're pretty awesome too:)

    I think being comfortable with ourselves means exactly what you said- the courage to accept ourselves (and others) as we are....accepting natural as beautiful.

    we don't necessarily be really into how we look like, we don't need to be overly confident...a place of ease with our bodies is what we should look for.

    I agree with your conclusions about the creative work ...we shouldn't be overly critical but we should strive to achieve more, to get better. For me the most important opinion is my own. Sometimes I read something I wrote and role my eyes- it looked better in my imagination then on paper...but occassionaly I write something I really like and can even be moved by- and that is why I write.

    Have a fabulous weekend!

    1. Thanks, Ivana, I know exactly what you mean about it looking better in the imagination than on paper. I've had that experience too! Sometimes I really like something I have created and then the next day I think oh no it's awful, and then a few days later I like it again. xoxo

    2. yes, people always take about a joy of creative process, how relaxing it must be...I'm really tired of people saying how relaxing painting is...most of times for me it is all but. I mean I do all this creative things for myself but I don't always enjoy it, often I ask myself why don't I just go to sleep like a normal person:)

  4. Loved reading this post Shawna and cute photos!! xo

  5. i have to admit i´ve a hard time with all that terms in english....
    but i try.
    the first thing you learn as a designer is to know if something is "good" without liking it!!
    this helped me with myself too. depression means a lot of disliking what one is and does - but knowing abstrakt how "good" looks and is can help a lot if i can step beside to look from a kind of neutral position, like a design reviewer.
    maybe i did not made a big carrier as a designer but the education helped me to master life often.
    courage: surviving my childhood told me lot about coping with scary situations.....
    super cute cat pics!!!!

    1. You are so right! A realistic assessment of oneself is better than both a negative one or a positive one that is not based on anything concrete. I strive to know my strengths, accept my flaws and strive to improve what I can. xoxo

  6. Yes, confidence and courage... Even though I think I've arrived (in terms of having both), I still constantly keep myself in "check" by acknowledging my efforts in doing what I need to do--in order to demonstrate how far I've come. It's an ongoing and worthy effort... Hugs on your day, Shawna! T.


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