Cultivate Confidence: Understanding Emotions
There are so many people who struggle with a lack of self-esteem, who have little confidence in their abilities and who tend to be overly critical when it comes to their own weaknesses. In some instances, so much so, that they lose control over their lives and gradually sink into the depths of depression.
Thankfully, though, in the majority of cases, all that is needed is some understanding and some guidance. Most people with low self-esteem can start the process of restoring their self-confidence and regaining control of their life, with some very simple steps.
The first step is gaining a better understanding of yourself. Are you ready?
The First Key To Confidence: Understanding Yourself
Most people are unable to or do not want to recognize their negative emotions.
Perhaps they have never learned positive ways to manage them.
As a result, they´re forced to try and cope with these feelings as best they can…
Some people try to deny them or push them in the background by using cigarettes, alcohol or binging – even shopping.
Overeating or binge eating and dieting are both closely tied to low self-esteem as well. Often a chronic or yo-yo dieter cannot even see how her behavior is covering up the bigger, underlying issues that she is struggling with.
Other people act on their emotions almost spontaneously, saying or doing things that they wind up later regretting.
None of these reactions ever leads to a positive outcome.
The first thing you have to realize is that while you cannot always control what happens to you, you can certainly control your response to the situation.
You can learn to stay calm and manage your feelings.
Many times your response is based on your perception of an event and that perception can be very different depending on whether you are feeling positive and self-confident or down on yourself in the moment.
That´s why it´s so important to be aware of and manage the thoughts that any event might trigger as well as possible conclusions that you may draw about that specific event – especially if it is related to your sense of self-worth.
Remember – emotions help us deal with different situations.
When you experience any kind of emotional reaction, you need to be able to respond to it positively. The only way you can do this is if you know what situations trigger which kind of emotional responses in you, and to what degree.
Then you can decide how you would like to be prepared to handle them.
The four core emotions that affect everyone are anger, sadness, fear and joy.
If you understand what your reactions are and work on moderating them as well as managing them, you will feel more in control of yourself and more confident about handling various situations.
First, let’s look at what each emotion is, how it helps us and how they might cause us harm.
When we´re angry, we´re often motivated enough to enact a change or correct something in our life that is not working for us.
However, many times, we may actually be feeling hurt or sad or lonely, and covering it up with anger.
If we do not get to the root of what is making us angry, we may even begin feeling resentful or hostile toward those we feel do not understand us. Depression could also become a problem.
When we are sad we tend to reflect more and dwell on the significance of things that have not turned out as we wanted them to.
Or perhaps we´ve lost something or someone.
It is only natural to seek solitude when we´re sad.
Spending time alone is good because it allows us the space we need to work out the significance or, at times, the insignificance of our loss. We do not have to force ourselves to pretend to be anything else when we are obviously still hurting.
Then, when we´re better and stronger, we can speak to friends or family.
That said it is important not to allow yourself to be carried away by the pain. If you notice your feelings of sadness growing stronger over time you may need to seek out professional help. In an instance like this, being alone is not necessarily the answer.
While many consider fear a sign of weakness, it´s actually there to protect us from taking unsafe risks.
Having a fear of something not only forces us to be cautious, it ensures we take all necessary precautions.
Fear is not unusual when we find ourselves in unfamiliar situations. This certainly does not mean that we are incapable of doing or achieving what we set out to do.
A moderate amount of fear is normal and may help ensure that we do what´s needed to prepare for unfamiliar situations.
For example, let´s say you were due to present a marketing report to your top executives for the first time. Your fear of doing a bad job will lead you to put more time and effort into making sure your presentation is the best it can be.
Chances are, your added effort will improve your expected results and the fear that drove you will have helped you achieve something very positive.
On the other hand, unrealistic fears – in situations where there is no or very little risk at all – can cause great mental stress. These fears are often quite common in people suffering from anxiety and low self-esteem.
This is a very important emotion because it is a collection of all the positive feelings that we experience when things are going well.
It is important to understand what gives us maximum joy because in various circumstances, it helps us to recall thoughts and situations where we can feel the same emotions of contentment, happiness and joy.
Emotional Grab Bag
Every day we each go through one or more of these emotions – or a combination of them – in varying degrees.
Of course, there are other emotions that may affect you like love, excitement, horror, guilt, etc.
The main problem arises when you do not state specifically what is bothering you or do so only through your body language or facial expressions and your actions.
When something is troubling you, just stating that you are ‘upset’, does not clearly convey what is bothering you and can lead to quite a lot of confusion.
After all, “being upset” can cover many different emotions at different levels of intensity.
Learn To Express Your Emotions
The best place to start when it comes to managing your emotions is to find ways of communicating clearly and unambiguously what you are feeling at any point in time.
If you do not find ways of expressing your feelings in words they will still come through in your actions; actions like rolling your eyes or banging the door which can result in even more unresolved emotions, and cause further conflict.
This ends up confusing even those closest to you and you may begin feeling like no one understands you.
Using words to clearly express what you feel and what you need, will help you
- relieve pent-up emotion,
- crystallize what is important to you and what is not,
- understand what works in different situations, and
- sort out what it is you can live with as well as what you can do without.
Most importantly, you will be able to communicate better with others, leaving less room for misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Understand What´s Going On
In order to understand what the right responses to your emotions or feelings should be, here are some things you really should know:
- Emotions can have both a positive and negative impact on you. They are essentially messages that convey information and how you interpret them and act on them will decide how you move forward in your life.
- Listening to and understanding your feelings can be empowering because it allows you to begin trusting your emotions more and more rather than being afraid of them.
- Understanding your emotions will enable you to make the right decisions when it comes to making new friends, deciding what career options to choose or where you would like to move.
- Your emotions will warn you of upcoming risks and also prepare you for many exciting opportunities.
Gaining control over your emotions is an important first step in the process of healing your self-esteem. When you learn to do this, you open the door to regaining confidence in yourself on a new and deeper level.
Let´s take a look at the key stages of the process:
Start Listening To Your Emotions
- There is no right or wrong emotion. They are just a reflection of how you truly feel about something.
External events and happenings often have an impact on us and it is difficult to stay unaffected. However, what we can do is try to understand why we are feeling what we are feeling.
If you are able to clearly identify and name the emotion that you are going through and allow yourself to feel it, it will help you to make better decisions the next time around. It will also help you realize which situations are important to you and which are not, so you are better prepared to deal with them.
- It is very important to remember that the responsibility of how you feel lies solely with you. Other people are not blame for how you feel.
You may often hear people say ’You irritate me when you do that’ but the fact is you are never really responsible for how another person feels. You are responsible for how you feel and for your actions. Period.
- It never helps to deny the emotions that you are going through. Doing so only leads to more suppressed resentment, a confused state-of-mind and even physical distress.
However intense and uncomfortable the emotions may be, it is always better to acknowledge them without anyone criticizing you for feeling the way you do. When you are able to experience uncomfortable feelings without the pressure of blame being attached to them, you will also experience more peace and joy.
Understand The Intensity of the Emotions
- Any given situation can create emotions ranging from very mild to very strong feelings. When you start experiencing a surge of emotion, take a minute to understand what level of emotion you are experiencing.
Are you just mildly annoyed or completely ticked off? How would your friend or partner react in such a situation?
Because not everyone has the same kind of reaction or emotional response, being aware of how you react to a particular situation can be very helpful.
It can especially help you come to terms with the strong reaction of others in a situation when you are experiencing very different emotions.
Keep in mind, too, that taking the time to truly feel an emotion can often help it to diminish and fade away.
When you find yourself experiencing a particularly strong emotion, try to become aware of the specific circumstances that triggered it. For example, waking up late in the morning or being unable to finish up some work can cause anger.
Identifying the trigger and labeling the emotion can help you avoid those situations in the future or move past a negative emotion more quickly when it occurs.
- Learning to quickly recognize those times when you are feeling particularly positive and energetic makes it easier to put that positive energy to good use so you can accomplish things you may have been putting off for a while.
Similarly, if you are able to tune into any negative emotion early on, you can control it or manage it before it spins out of control.
Let Out The Strong Feelings
- Detecting a strong negative emotion is usually not that difficult – knots in your stomach, sweaty palms, dry mouth and a pounding heartbeat are hard to overlook.
And when it comes to blowing off steam, lashing out, smashing things or shrugging off your emotional turmoil with a passing “Oh, I was just upset” are never the best answers. When anger strikes, it is always best to have a few tricks up your sleeve for calming your emotions quickly, if you can.
Understand The Meaning Of The Emotions
Once you have calmed down sufficiently, give some thought to the emotion and what the intensity you are feeling might mean.
If you are sad, try to understand what exactly it is that you are sad or disappoint about.
If you have been unsuccessful or lost something, how much does that something really mean to you? How will you comfort yourself in such situations? Is there anyone you can turn to for comfort and support?
If it is anger that you are feeling, what it is that is making you so angry? Is there anything that you can change or fix so that the situation doesn´t repeat itself? If it´s a situation outside of your control, what can you do to keep yourself from getting caught up in it again and again?
- When you are happy about something, enjoy yourself! But also ask what exactly about that situation makes you happy. The better you understand that, the easier it will be for you to bring back those happy memories and re-create more of those kinds of situations in your life, when you are feeling down.
- If you are feeling afraid, it is best to understand what it is you are afraid of – a person or a consequence. Will a little more planning help ease your fears?
By taking a look at the possible consequences of a situation, you may come to see that even the worst-case scenarios are not as bad as you originally thought they might be.
And remember, shifting your focus from the problem to finding solutions combined with talking positively to yourself and your friends about a situation can go a long way towards helping you feel much less stressed about what lies ahead.
Work Out Your Emotions
- It is always best to work through your emotions.
When you feel joy, you laugh; when you are sad, you cry. All these are emotional releases and help you to calm down quickly. Other things that might help you find emotional release include music, sports, poetry, talking to close friends or relatives, and anything else that helps you control and balance your emotions.
Understanding your emotions and talking with others about how they can help you manage them will not only help boost your feelings of self-confidence but can lead to you gaining their respect as well.
When you find yourself in the throes of an emotional outburst, here are some practical techniques to help you relax and regain your balance:
- When you start feeling agitated, take deep breaths. The old adage of counting up to 10 still works – breathing deeply every time. This will help you calm down or, at the very least distract you, reducing the intensity of your emotion.
- Indulge in some kind of physical activity – walking, jogging, and even dancing. Physical activity automatically triggers the stress response of the body, which reacts by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers and mood elevators and will immediately result in you feeling better about yourself and more in charge of your emotions
- Tap into your sense of humor. While not every situation can be dealt with light-heartedly, try to look at things through a lens of humor. Humor is another way of releasing endorphins into your body.
- Use relaxation techniques to calm down – music, candles, yoga, tai chi, visualization methods, etc.
- Start a new hobby or if you already have one, make time for it. This will not only give you a sense of fulfillment, it will also help distract you from negative thoughts.
- Keep a journal where you can write down and explore your thoughts.
- Read an inspirational book or listening to a soothing tape.
- Treat yourself nicely by taking a nice, long bubble bath or simply putting your feet up with a lovely cup of tea.
- Set aside for some much needed peace and reflection.
- Let your inner child out for a while. Do something you used to love doing when you were younger. Blow bubbles, go barefoot, stop at the playground and hit the swings, or spend some time tossing a ball for your pet.
- Indulge in a heart-to-heart. If you have a friend or a close family member who is a good listener, it may help to talk things over with that person. This will not only help you vent your anger, fear or frustration, it will also help you get another perspective on the situation. In fact, looking back, you may find that things weren’t so bad after all.
Always try and plan ahead – it is best to be prepared for any situation as even simple things like hunger or tiredness can increase the stress you feel.
Each of these calming strategies is designed to give you the time you need to come to terms with what your feeling, sort through your emotions and, ultimately, release them.
This, of course, does not mean that following any one of the above methods will solve your problems completely or prevent a similar emotional situation from recurring. These techniques provide you with ways to clear your mind so that you can be in better control of your emotions and make sounder decisions based on solid facts rather than a flood of feelings.
As a result you can feel good about yourself and start feeling that much more confident about your decision-making abilities.