Introduction

Self-confidence is often perceived as an inherent trait, something you either have or you don’t. However, self-confidence is not a static attribute; it can be developed and nurtured over time.

One of the foundational pillars of building self-confidence is learning to feel and process your emotions effectively. This blog post explores why embracing your emotions is critical to developing self-confidence, drawing from insights in positive psychology and practical experience.

The Misconception about Emotions

Many people, especially men, are socialised to believe that feeling and processing emotions is a sign of weakness. People in some technical profession (e.g. engineering) or leadership position may have internalised that emotions somewhat “get in the way of rational thinking” and should be “overcome”, “mastered” or “ignored”.

This cultural narrative suggests that emotions are “soft” and that strong, confident individuals should suppress or ignore them. However, this perception couldn’t be further from the truth. Emotions are not a liability; they are a profound aspect of our human experience and actually, they are a crucial component of self-confidence.

Emotions and Integrity with Yourself

Self-confidence begins with integrity—knowing that you can trust yourself to handle any situation. This integrity is deeply intertwined with your emotional resilience. When you are willing to experience any emotion and trust that you can process it, you build a solid foundation for self-confidence. This understanding shifts the focus from external achievements to internal stability. The worst thing that could ever happen is an emotion you create in your own mind, and if you can handle that, you can handle anything.

Evidence from Positive Psychology

Positive psychology emphasises the importance of emotional intelligence—recognising, understanding, and managing our own emotions, as well as recognising, understanding, and influencing the emotions of others. Research has shown that emotional intelligence is a strong predictor of success in various life domains, including personal relationships, career advancement, and overall well-being.

Overcoming the Fear of Emotions

Fear of emotions often stems from the fear of failure, rejection, or other negative outcomes. This fear can prevent us from pursuing new opportunities or taking risks, thereby stunting personal growth. When we avoid emotions, we limit ourselves to activities we are already comfortable with, which hinders the development of self-confidence. True self-confidence comes from knowing that you can face any emotional outcome, no matter how uncomfortable.

Practical Example

Consider the scenario where someone lacks confidence in their ability to lose weight, make more money, or find a partner. Often, this lack of confidence is rooted in past failures or the absence of previous success in these areas. Relying solely on past successes for confidence means you’ll rarely take on new challenges. Growth happens when you step outside your comfort zone, which involves experiencing failure, rejection, confusion, and insecurity.

Embracing Emotions to Foster Self-Confidence

To build self-confidence, it’s essential to embrace and process all emotions, not just the positive ones. This means being willing to experience fear, frustration, rejection, and other challenging emotions. When you avoid these emotions, you hinder your growth and development. Conversely, when you face these emotions head-on, you develop resilience and a stronger sense of self.

Steps to Embrace Emotions

  1. Acknowledge Your Emotions: Recognise and name the emotions you are feeling. This helps in understanding and processing them.
  2. Accept Your Emotions: Accept that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling. Emotions are not right or wrong; they are simply part of your experience.
  3. Reflect on Your Emotions: Take time to understand why you are feeling a certain way. Reflecting on your emotions can provide insights into your fears and desires.
  4. Express Your Emotions: Find healthy ways to express your emotions, whether through talking to a friend, journaling, or engaging in a creative activity.
  5. Learn from Your Emotions: Use your emotional experiences as learning opportunities. What can they teach you about yourself and your responses to different situations?

Psychological Insights

Psychologist Susan David, in her book Emotional Agility, discusses the importance of being open to all emotions, both positive and negative. She emphasises that avoiding difficult emotions leads to rigidity and hampers growth. By contrast, embracing all emotions fosters agility and resilience, essential traits for building self-confidence (David, 2016).

Developing Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and adapt to challenging situations. It is a key component of self-confidence. When you know that you can handle any emotional outcome, you are more likely to take risks and pursue your goals. This resilience is built through repeated experiences of facing and processing difficult emotions.

Real-Life Applications

  1. Career Growth: Professionals who are willing to take on challenging projects and handle the associated stress are more likely to advance in their careers.
  2. Personal Relationships: Being open to experiencing and expressing emotions can lead to deeper and more meaningful relationships.
  3. Personal Development: Pursuing personal goals, such as learning a new skill or hobby, often involves facing fears and uncertainties. Emotional resilience helps in overcoming these challenges.

And now over to you…

Think about the worst emotion you could feel. How confident are you in your ability to experience that emotion without avoiding it or feeling overwhelmed?

Reflecting on this question can provide insights into your current level of self-confidence and highlight areas for growth.

Conclusion

Building self-confidence is an ongoing process that involves embracing and processing your emotions. By developing emotional resilience, you create a foundation of integrity and trust in yourself, enabling you to face any challenge that comes your way. Remember, the worst thing that can happen is an emotion you create in your own mind, and if you can handle that, you can handle anything.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sophie

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Inspired by:

David, S. (2016). Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Avery.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.218

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Bantam Books.

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