In 1931, Francis “Two-Gun” Crowley was trapped in an apartment and surrounded by a plethora of policemen. During his hour of demise, Crowley wrote a single letter, where he stated, “Under my coat is a weary hear, but a kind one”. This was, at the time, one of America’s most notorious gangsters. And yet, until the end, he believed he was a good person. Everyone craves praise and dreads condemnation. In fact, this theme of self-affirmation can also be noticed in others such as Muhammad Ali, who repeated to himself “I am the greatest” in his most fearful of times.
Self-confidence in all of us is frequently under siege by external setbacks, such as bad grades that threaten our intelligence or if others constantly remind us of past mistakes. However, the most potent attacks on self-confidence are internal. It’s easy to have your motivation crushed when self-doubt enters the mind. Hence, self-affirmation is a common recommendation to support your self-confidence. The method requires constant reciting to yourself to be fearless, as well as repetition of the target skill in terms of the 10,000-hour rule. The rule, as formulated by Malcolm Gladwell, contains that 10,000 hours of practice is required to be world-class in any skill. Essentially, the more practice you get, the more your confidence is established in that specific skill. Self-affirmation on the other hand acts as a constant reminder of what is truly important and, therefore, keeps the negative energy and self-doubt out of your mind.
This suggestion is supported by science, particularly by influential psychologist B.F. Skinner. He discusses a theory called operant conditioning. Skinner explains how this theory works in two different ways. On one hand, punishment and reinforcement are crucial to achieving a goal and the more you reward someone for a certain behaviour, the more it’s reinforced. However, in other cases, punishment or any negative stimulus weakens the associated response in the individual’s psychology. Overall, repetition in terms of self-affirmation and practice is widely believed to be one of the significant pillars of self-confidence.
To understand the psychology of self-confidence, it is important to observe its effects on the mind. Some of its most common symptoms are depression, anxiety, and a withdrawal from novel activities or challenges. However, science may point to an even deeper and pervading effect of low self-esteem. Psychology states that by having a pessimistic perspective, we mostly tend to notice negative or discouraging events. For instance, a pessimist that wins silver in a marathon would still be unhappy for not achieving gold. Therefore, even in the most rewarding of times, pessimists find some reason to be discouraged. Not to mention that having low self-confidence is contagious—you can turn into an energy vampire and suck motivation out of the people around you.
Dr. Ivan Joseph from Ryerson University states that when he first asked his wife on a date, she shot him down by saying she wouldn’t date him even if he were the last man on earth. Even if there was a little chance of saving mankind by dating him, she would not do it. Dr. Joseph’s response to this was “So you’re saying there’s still a chance?” In fact, as a renowned athletics coach, this is the type of mindset Dr. Joseph recommends to everyone to sustain your self-esteem and to never give up on yourself.