Self Concept + Confidence

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

*Warning: This is a long post!

* Second Warning: There are more than 1 David Goggins quotes because he is amazing.

“Anyone who is of sound mind and body can sit down and think of twenty things in their life that could have gone differently. Where maybe they didn’t get a fair shake and where they took the path of least resistance. If you’re one of the few who acknowledge that, want to callous those wounds, and strengthen your character, it's up to you to go back through your past and make peace with yourself by facing those incidents and all of your negative influences, and accepting them as weak spots in your own character. Only when you identify and accept your weaknesses will you finally stop running from your past. Then those incidents can be used more efficiently as fuel to become better and grow stronger.” - David Goggins

Being a human being is hard. I know, I know. No one ever said it was going to be easy. We are very complex creatures, and there are so many variables that contribute to how we turn out as people. The last article I wrote was about Communication + Setting Boundaries. These are skills that I have recently learned, which is why I wanted to share them. I always knew they existed but I didn't quite know how to implement them into my own life. There are more things I always knew existed, but just in the same way, I didn't know how to implement them into my own life.

That brings me to the topic of choice today: Self Concept and Self Confidence. I have been on a self help journey for I dont even know how long. I have been trying to figure out who I am, what gets in my way, what things from the past hold me back, what my patterns are, what lights me up, what makes me uncomfortable and why, what is important to me, and what my purpose is.

I always knew I was "different". Growing up, it seemed that everyone around me knew who they were, what they were good at, and if they didn't, they didn't seem to shy away from trying new things in order to find out who they were. This made me feel uncomfortable. I didn't know who I was. I knew only what people told me about myself.

From kindergarten to high school, I went to five different schools, which sort of put me in a weird place when making friends. When I was in first grade, I had one set of friends. We were also in the same Girl Scout troop. But then I went to a different school from 2nd to 6th grade and had to make completely new friends. I had to start wearing glasses in 3rd grade, which made me feel very self conscious, and was reinforced by being picked on. You know, the old phrase "four eyes". Sounds silly now, but that hurt back then. I had trouble concentrating in school, felt pressured when we started realizing that boys and girls liked each other, and never really felt like anyone was really on my side, or was there for me to talk about these things with. I felt unspecial, ugly, dumb, misunderstood, and invisible.

Then junior high came, and I went to a different school (with the same people I went to 1st grade with). I tried to get back in with those old friends (it helped I was still in Girl Scouts with them). I was in Choir, and played volleyball, still terrible at math, excelled in English. But again, had a really hard time focusing. Never felt good enough. I constantly compared myself to my friends and others. Boys didn't like me. Still didn't have anyone to talk to about these things with. I didn't like myself. So I started to transform myself into what I thought others would like. Skateboarding, playing guitar, punk rock, emo music, hanging out with boys, paying even less attention in class, gossiping, smoking weed, and even deciding to stop wearing my glasses (this led to me almost failing 9th grade). I wasn't a good student, I couldn't focus, which led to me believing I was stupid. My brother, on the other hand, was doing the same things as I was, but was excelling at everything! This, again, just reinforced the idea I had that I was dumb. The more I felt that way about myself, the less I applied myself. I wasn't doing anything that felt good. I was doing what I thought everyone else wanted me to do. I felt invisible. I felt dumb. I felt ugly. I felt unspecial. I felt misunderstood. I felt lost. I felt very alone.

Of course, I have tried a lot of things. I did ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop. I played soccer, volleyball, did gymnastics, and I even jump roped. I've painted, thrown pottery, and other artistic things. I took voice lessons, music lessons, and been in multiple choirs. I've skateboarded, bicycled, ran, did CG, etc. But the sad part is, I quit almost all of those things after a short time. Why? I thought that I would be naturally good at something, and when I wasn't, I thought that is gave me permission to quit. However, I became really good at quitting.

Then, high school. Had to make new friends again because very few of the people I knew at my last two schools were there. If they were, they had already made their group of friends. Still didn't know who I was. Still quitting things. Still not being able to focus in class. Some things had surfaced that I A) enjoyed doing and B) was actually good at. Those were: Culinary (cooking; I was in the Culinary Magnet, which you had to apply for), and English (I loved writing and my teachers were really supportive of that). Long story short, terrible boyfriend, terrible friends (for the most part), not doing well in school (failing a lot of classes), still not having anyone to talk to about this, and just feeling so much pressure all of the time. I was depressed. I was lonely. I was lost. I kept most of these feelings to myself.

When I look back, I feel so sorry for her, for that Hannah. I wish I could go back and tell her what I know now. If I had applied myself, I would have done better in school and been accepted to better colleges. I would have felt smart. If I stopped quitting things so quickly, I might have found a lot of other things I was passionate about, and found worth giving my time to. I wish I had had adults in my life who wanted to understand me so that they could support me in the ways I needed. I dont blame them, of course. They did they best they could. I would never want anyone to tell me something that isn't true. I just wanted to be seen; acknowledged. But, I wouldn't be the person I am today if things were different. I wish I could tell that Hannah that she is beautiful, smart, funny, creative, kind, worthy of respect and love, that her opinions and thoughts matter, that she has to work at things to get better at them, that she has value, that I SEE HER.

I bet a lot of you out there have similar stories. Things didn't go the way you wanted them to. Maybe you felt alone, lacking in confidence, never knowing who you were, but instead let the world around you tell you where you were lacking. You let these experiences define you. You never questioned them. You found things that supported these ideas, or maybe you were like me, and are a bit masochistic in that you set up situations that would support your negative ideas of self. Maybe deep down you dont believe you deserve good things, or praise, love, respect, or attention. Maybe the way you learned to see yourself led to terrible relationships, ruined opportunities, lack of motivation, addiction, depression, insomnia, skin issues, and digestion issues. It's like digging a whole, getting further and further away from yourself, but not knowing it. Then you're too far down there to climb back up on your own. Plus, you've probably gotten pretty comfortable down there alone. I FEEL YOU. I am pretty good at digging by now.

I am not sharing this stuff as a way of throwing a "pity party" for myself. That is a boring, pathetic, and sad party. I am sharing this because writing about it helps me to understand and reveal things I wouldn't otherwise. I am sharing this because maybe someone out there has had a similar journey.

Sad Part Complete.

Let's move on. First off, let's get really clear on what these words mean.

Carl Rogers (Humanistic Psychologist) believed that in order for someone to "grow" or "self actualize", they need an environment that provides them with a space to feel safe to be themselves and trust to be able to share, , acceptance (unconditionally without judgement), and empathy (acknowledgement of feelings and thoughts, and being listened to). Carl Rogers defines Self Concept as: "the organized, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself."

To "self actualize" means to know who you are, what you are capable of, to feel fulfilled and what your potential is. Being self actualized will allow you to find your purpose in life, and also allow you to truly live.

Rogers breaks down Self Concept into 3 parts:

  1. Self Image: the way we physically see ourselves (our body, our health), our social roles (parent, daughter, sister, etc), and our personality traits. This part isn't always realistic. There are many variables that come into play when creating your own self image, leading to either a negative image, or a positive one.

  2. Self Esteem: the value we place on ourselves, which is usually comprised of a mix between how we compare ourselves to others, and how others respond to us.

  3. Ideal Self: this is the person we WANT to be! Often, this can be congruent with our self image. But it is also common for it to be riddles with differences between the self image, which leads to inner confusion (or cognitive dissonance).

Most of our Self Concept is created during our early childhood and adolescence time periods in our lives. Like I mentioned, there are lots of variables that affect our self image, our self esteem, and the ideal self. Being a kid, and experiencing life plays a huge role in how confident and self actualized and how strong our self concept is. If yours is lacking, you are not alone!

Last definition: Self Confidence: the trust that you have in yourself, in your skills and abilities, and everything else that you ARE.

Having self confidence allows you to be free of anxiety, fear, doubt, and negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities. Obviously, it is normal to have some. But having confidence in yourself allows you to wade through the waters of life without getting caught in kelp or weighed down by barnacles.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein

Your childhood, and what and who you are "supposed" to be and look like, or as Don Miguel Ruiz calls our "Domestication" wasn't your fault. But there are definitely ways to work on un-"domesticating" ourselves, in order to step in to our Power. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Challenge the ideas that you have about yourself. Do you have evidence to support these ideas? Never confuse memories with facts. What triggers these thoughts? Question this story that you tell yourself. REWRITE YOUR OWN STORY. Example: Story: "I am dumb". Evidence: Failed classes. Rewrite story: "I am not dumb, I just didn't apply myself as much I possibly could". Sometimes we have experiences that aren't good and they can affect how we approach new experiences. Try to understand what you are really feeling, and ask more questions.

  • Make a list of all your skills, abilities, and strengths. YOU HAVE SO MANY. Be really honest with yourself. Carry this list around with you to reference when you are struggling to find courage.

  • Accept compliments. Acknowledge them. This is validation. Take it. You deserve it. When you dont, you make that person not want to give any more.

  • STOP PLAYING SMALL.Take up space. DO BIG THINGS. Love big. Live big. Don't apologize for it. It's not arrogant or cocky, or selfish.

  • TALK TO YOURSELF IN A POSITIVE WAY. Stop listening to that voice in your head. They just want to keep you from doing things. The way you talk to yourself means everything. Be gentle. Talk to yourself like you would a child. Be kind. Be loving. Be supportive.

  • Be assertive. Stand up for what you believe. SPEAK UP. What you think is important. You deserve to be heard.

  • Challenge yourself. Do things you are afraid of. Push through your beliefs about things, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Most of the time, there is something great on the other side. Plus, you can add it to your accomplishments!

  • Practice gratitude. Write them down. Remind yourself daily. We all usually have a lot to feel thankful (our health, our homes, our bodies, our friends+family, our jobs, good food, etc).

  • Live in the present. Remove yourself from the past. Try not to worry too much about the future, mostly because it's not guaranteed.

  • Take PRIDE in your accomplishments, especially the small ones. CELEBRATE THEM. Example: Graduating from a certification program, going to a networking conference even though you have a lot of social anxiety, sticking to your goals for a day, etc.

  • STOP PLAYING VICTIM. This is your life. It is your responsibility. How it goes depends on you. Of course, there are things you can't control but you are the only one stopping you from living the life you want.

  • Be positive. What you focus on becomes your reality. But also-don't pretend everything is ok if it's not. That is called spiritual bypassing.

  • SAY NO. Practice this. Don't apologize either. Don't yes to things that dont align with you or make you uncomfortable. I am not talking about uncomfortable as in fear of failure, but in the mentally traumatic ways. This is your life. This is your energy. Be very particular about what you give your energy to, and you can control this by saying no more.

  • REALLY GET TO KNOW YOURSELF. Be honest. Do you really like the things you've been claiming you do? Take responsibility for your life. It is ok to change your mind. Love and accept yourself COMPLETELY. Ask the hard questions. Get used to being uncomfortable. Sit with your feelings. Really listen to yourself and question things that don't make sense.

  • Stop looking for external love and approval. Like the saying says, you can't love someone without loving yourself first. YOU ARE AMAZING. You have everything you need. Give your love and approval to yourself first. Of course, we all want external love and approval, but make sure you're not intentionally seeking it at the detriment of yourself.

  • STOP PUTTING THINGS OFF. I know, some things are really scary. Maybe you dont feel ready to do something? Who cares. Do it anyway. You never know if you'll get another chance. Plus, whatever mistakes you make you can learn from! Then try again!

  • Embrace mistakes! You only get better at things when you make mistakes. Don't view them as failures, because they are the opposite. It's all about perspective. YOU ARE LEARNING. HOW AMAZING IS THAT!? Use what you learn to better yourself!

  • Have real expectations. When you dont have real expectations, you are more likely to "fail". Set yourself up for success. Especially when it comes to yourself. Challenge yourself, but don't be a masochist about it.

  • Let go of what people think. It doesn't matter. If you feel good about what you're doing, the way you are living, the person you are, that's ALL that matters. This takes practice. We like people to approve. But you dont need it.

  • STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS. You aren't them. They dont have the same journey as you do. Be you. Comparison often leads to judgement, and shame. Read more about this by reading anything by Brene Brown.

  • PERFECTION isn't possible. But also: YOU ARE PERFECT THE WAY YOU ARE.

  • Stop equating being exhausted/workaholic with success. It's just not true.

  • ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED. The worst that can happen is you get a no. Know that going in, and you'll be good.

  • THE HARD ROUTE ISN'T ALWAYS THE BEST. Not everything has to be hard. Sometimes things are easy. Sometimes things are hard. Be ok with both.


  • Do things that LIGHT you up.

  • Build positive relationships. These are important. Surrounding yourself with likeminded, positive, supportive people will keep you on the path of a happy life.

  • WE all have weaknesses. We all make mistakes. Try to change your perspective on your weaknesses, and maybe ask if they are really weaknesses, or if maybe others just view it that way. QUESTION THE STATUS QUO. Example: I am a sensitive person. For my whole life, I have been told that it's a weakness. But I realize that IT'S NOT. It makes me more available to help others, to be intuitive, to feel all of the things. I'd rather feel than not feel.

  • Nothing is ever strictly GOOD or BAD, in essence. We project that onto things, feelings, people, etc. Remember that.

“No matter who you are, who your parents are or were, where you live, what you do for a living, or how much money you have, you’re probably living at about 40 percent of your true capability.” - David Goggins

I know, I know. "That was a lot, Hannah". Tell me about it! Hopefully these tips are helpful. If you want to do some more reading, here are some of my favorite books:

  • Can't Hurt Me: David Goggins

  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Brene Brown

  • Untamed: Glennon Doyle

  • The Path to Love: Deepak Chopra

  • Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul: Deepak Chopra

  • Claim your Power: Mastin Kipp

  • Self Compassion: Kristin Neff

  • Super Attractor: Gabrielle Bernstein

  • The Places that Scare you : Pema Chodron

  • The Body keeps the score: Bessel van der Kolk

  • The Four Agreements: Don Miguel Ruiz

  • Big Magic: Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Girl, Stop Apologizing (also, Girl Wash your Face): Rachel Hollis

  • Beauty Sick: Re­nee En­gel­n

  • Tell me More: Kelly Corrigan

  • Real love: the art of ­mind­ful ­con­nec­tion: Sharon Salzberg

  • How ­to change y­our ­mind: what the new ­science of psychedelic­s teach­es us about ­con­scious­ness, dy­ing, ad­dic­tion, de­pres­sion, and ­tran­scen­dence: Michael Pollan

Please, if you take anything away from this, let it be this: YOU ARE AMAZING. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE AND CAN BE ANYTHING YOU WANT. You can reach your goals. Life is hard AND beautiful. You deserve love, respect, honest, and kindness. Your past is your past. Don't let it define you. Forget what anyone told you about who they "think" you are. Only you know the truth. It is hard to relearn who you are, what you want, but I promise it is worth it. The Universe will catch you as long as you SHOW UP FOR YOURSELF. Like David Goggins says: "Stay Hard".

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