Tag Archives: Self-development

On self-confidence and the sense of entitlement

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ce173d37d4057a8aa12a36c2cafc18c9Today I have challenged myself to write about self-confidence, and I say challenge because this is a subject that has been living with me since I can remember, with increased awareness of the impact it has in my advancement as a woman and a human being.

I find it useful to start by understanding the meaning of self-confidence. Neel Burton, in a blog called Psychology Today, describes self-confidence and self-esteem in a simple and understandable way: self-confidence is about trust in our hability to successfully or adequately interact with the world, it is about capacities. Self-esteem is about the cognitive and emotional appraisal of our own value, it is about self-love, and is as important as to determine our interaction with ourselves, others and the world. Burton also makes an interesting reference to courage as complementar to self-confidence: while the second is useful in the realm of the known, the first is what enables us to move in the realm of the unknown, uncertainty and fear. As Scott Peck puts it, courage is the effort to overcome fear, it enables action that expands the self and/or the other, it is an act of self-love.

This being said, I would like to explore some of the factors related to self-confidence. From a psychological perspective self-confidence requires important ingredients during the development process and socialization of a child, namely:

  • Sense of being loved and feeling a person of worth
  • Havig our self-expression -opinions, ideas and creations- appreciated and valued
  • Being recognized for our individual and special capacities and talents
  • Being seen and recognized by meaningful people in our life
  • Having our sense of dignity protected

All this happen in the familiar milieu, but is also shaped by other external experiences that may be brought home, shared and reflected together with parents or other reference figures. I am not sure whether all these factors were always present in my life when I was a child, but I clearly remember to be humiliated by a close family member, which I admired and appreciated, who dared (probably driven by ignorance) to diminish my appearance and my intelectual capacity. This happened in an age when I was unable to understand that this person had no right to act that way, that this person was wrong in his words, and it deeply affected me throughout life.

Yet, to fully understand self-confidence (and the lack of it) I believe it is important to look at it from a gender perspective. The situation above described is a good starting point as it was clearly shaped by patriarcal thinking. It is clear to me that dominance and power determined the interaction between my young self and the referred male.

How many of these interactions does a child (all genders) goes through in their life?  And in which ways does this influences people’s lives as grown ups? I am convinced that this type of situation deeply affects self-confidence as it creates that feeling of being not good enough, not skilled or smart enough, not beautiful enough. And considering that our women’s lives are permeated by thousands of images that portray this same message, I feel it is quite “normal” to be lacking self-confidence.

Unfortunately is not easy to find literature that enlightens our spirit on the gendered dimension of self-confidence. Consequently and out of self-love and pure desire to develop myself spiritually I have been reflecting on my own experience, observing other women and men around me, to grasp and comprehend what else is at stake when we talk about self-confidence. The first observation, well know to most of us, is that men in general show a strong self-confidence in their words and actions, despite the fact that very often they don’t feel it, they just fake it, or it just comes easy to them because they are used to be listened to and to have their words acknowledged by others. I have also come to realize that some women that seem to be self-confident, deep inside are not, they fake it as men do, mimicking their behavior, their words and sometimes even their aggressiveness.

I have also come across young women who talk and behave in a very confident way, and that is authentic, they really feel that entitlement… And this word, this feeling of entitlement was an AHA! moment to me. That word stayed within me. I carried it for days and weeks until I could finally realize what was actually blocking my self-confidence, that ungraspable part of the complex set of factors. This inability to give things a name is the hardest part. It is there, present, influencing you, but until you name it you can’t fully understand it, and thus you can’t fight it and change it.

I have finally come to realise that I have always been waiting for other people to recognize me and to allow/support me to do things. I mean, I have always done things, the things I love, but always feeling inner concern and fear of not being good enough, of doing a mistake. Still I was doing them, but not as good as I know I can. I have always received this external recognition, I have a bunch of friends and colleagues telling me how good I am in what I do, but I have not been able to tell it to myself so far. And I could not realise why until now.

The truth is that, until we recognize our strengths and capacities, until we tell ourselves how great we are, and therefore entitle us to accept a promotion, to do what we love, to express our thoughts and ideas, things will not change, self-confidence will be lacking to a certain extent. Because there is no one better than another, as human beings we are all entitled to self-expression and to do things and to decide. And as we do, as we decide, we will realise our potential and our greatness and have our self-confidence reinforced.

I strongly believe in the influence exerted by patriarcal system on this need for an external person to recognise and entitle us. In a system based on strong hierarchies, power chains, a binary framework of opposites which assume positive (male, rational, strong,…) and negative (female, emotional, vulnerable, …) values it is easy to fall in the misunderstanding so well put by Roman Krznaric’s:

A lack of confidence is at heart a misunderstanding of the way the world works. It’s an internalized feudalism, which imagines that only certain people — but not oneself — have the right, preordained, to get certain things.

In this world where women and minority groups are not named, and therefore not seen, it is easy to fall in the trap of giving to other people the power of entitlement, that is also a power over our lives.

To reclaim this power is crucial to increased self-confidence and to live joyfully, and it is key to women’s advancement and thus to the advancement of the World.

 

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On Sisterhood and how to overcome difficult times

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women-friendsWho have not gone through a difficult period in life? All of us I would say. And each one of us has probably developed strategies to overcome these moments, altogether with the emotions and feelings that accompany them, moving forward in the path of life stronger and brighter. Some of us are specialists in this amazing capacity that is resilience:

The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.*

Today I would like to honour one of the most important factors that make resilience possible for many of us: Love and Connection. My subjective life experience has always taught me that Love and Connection (in all its shapes and sources) is the most important factor that needs to be present in my life to make it possible for me to feel happiness, gratitude and to overcome life challenges. Research on resilience also confirms that Love is actually the most essencial factor in shaping a person’s resilience:

A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.*

And my life experience has also taught me that amongst Loving relationships, friends, and mostly women friends, have a special role to play. And why is that? Why do I strongly invite all women to develop and nurture authentic relationships with other women?

What I have experienced is that true sisterhood works as a strong source of awareness against male domination and can provide the tools to fight it and overcome potential damaging relations.

Very often women get trapped in romantic relationships with dominant men (or women), or violent or unloving relationships, that hinder their development. In a society that so obviously value and encourage couplehood people tend to believe that this kind of bond should be the source of all joy and fulfilment. Therefore it is difficult to realise that fulfilment and love can and should come from different people and types of relationships. On the other hand it is hard to accept when a relationship is not working and act upon this realisation, either to improve the situation or to break up and move forward.

In this context, to nurture loving relationships with other women friends functions as a protective factor against unhealthy relations with men (or women). Real care and respect for each other wellbeing and self-development is the key to make it work, as certainly no one who feel true love for another person would let her (him) be trapped in dysfunctional (violent, unloving, destructive) relationships without at least trying to raise her (his) awareness about it.**

In professional contexts women are very frequently affected by sexism, in a direct or indirect way. For instance they may be misunderstood and their skills seen as lack of confidence, they may feel insecure to address certain discussions or even to apply to a promotion, or even be used in a tokenistic way. In this scenario, I am convinced it is relevant that our women friends have a certain degree of gender awareness and tools of analysis of reality from a gender perspective, as it is not immediately obvious what the dynamics are under the surface.

Despite all I am convinced that Love is the main and primary ingredient that needs to be present. Under these conditions close spiritual alliances between women can be much more empowering and supportive than other types of relations and therefore work as real loving bonds that enhance self-development and, ultimately, happiness.

* Definition from American Psychological Association

** The definition of Love I make reference to is the one from M. Scott Peck (The Less Travelled Road): The will to expand the self with the goal to nurture its own and other’s spiritual development.

On the way to personal leadership

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hand-eye-coordination

I have been looking forward to (re)start to write this blog since several weeks now. Despite that I could not find the motivation, or better, the time and availability to reconnect to what matters the most to me: women’s empowerment, spiritual and self-development, and education.

It seem though that the time as come, and as usually the energy has been unlocked by doing the things I love, meeting wonderful people-belonging to a community of authentic people, feeling connected and accepted, and sharing a higher purpose in life with other people. These are, in my experience, four main ingredients that create and give the necessary energy to live the life we envision for ourselves.

I am realising that to live the life I envision/desire for myself I have first of all to know how it looks like, what is part of it, who, when… Seems quite obvious I know, but very often we don’t take the time to discover and design the life we dream for ourselves, other times we are blocked by fear or lack of confidence, or by other circumstances. Taking responsibility, disciplining ourselves, postponing gratification and, above all, loving ourselves*, are essential ingredients that may help us in this process of personal leadership towards our purpose.

At the same time, bearing in mind some of the advices of Tara Mohr can also be useful. She calls our attention for the obstacles women put to ourselves in the way to self-fulfilment in personal and professional life. Never good enough, never yet prepared, never confident enough… Why?! Yes, we know why, we know we still live in a society that in subtle (or less subtle) ways undervalue women and what it means in our cultural context to be feminine. It is up to us to recognise our own value, to be proud of our own ways of doing things and living, our values and strengths, so that we can take real leadership in transforming our lives and the world!

* M. Scott Peck (1978). The Road Less Travelled.

Travelling around…and return!

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monte circeo1The magic of travelling…

What is in between two flights that carry a body from one landscape to another and back? What happens in that space-time that has a meaningful impact in the life of this person, in his or her soul? What is now filling in the backpack before full of expectations, desires and concerns?

Italy received me with arms wide open, full of warmness, not to mention the fantastic food! I recall now with joy the various places I have been to, all the new friends I have made and the old friends I have met. I feel enriched with the conversations I had, the parts of me I have shared and all the new discoveries about myself, people and life. Read the rest of this entry

On the importance of self-development

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pegadaWith Education to Freedom, my social enterprise, I am developing a workshop on professional development through personal development.

Often people have asked me whether it is about professional or personal development. And my answer is always the same, that they are inter-related. It is not possible to consider professional growth and fulfilment dissociated from increased self-awareness and self-knowledge. Likewise for all other spheres of life.
Read the rest of this entry