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Self-Confidence Despite Our Weaknesses and Vulnerabilities

Confidence can be learned and, when necessary, repaired.

Key points

  • Feeling good about yourself, including weaknesses, creates a confident persona that draws others in.
  • The quality of interactions with parents or caregivers shapes your self-perception and confidence.
  • Recognizing your flaws and their effects is crucial for self-healing.
 Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Confident people like themselves, and liking ourselves messages others of our likeability and draws them to us. Since I clearly like myself, you probably will too.

Self-Confidence Spawns Other Acceptance

Ideally expressed, self-confidence modestly but unmistakably proclaims to others our fondness for ourselves, a quietly celebrated self-pride for our positive, easily esteemed behaviors and character traits. But a critical component of self-confidence must also include an embracing acceptance of our lesser qualities—our weakest, most questionable actions, traits, needs, and feelings. Bona fide self-confidence thus evinces an encompassing awareness of and acceptance of these weaker aspects of our personalities.

This "global" acceptance of ourselves—the good and the bad—can then distinguish between the facade of pseudo-self-confidence, which is often designed to conceal weakness, and authentic self-confidence. Ironically, if I show both a keen awareness and an acceptance of these lesser-developed aspects of myself, it strongly hints that others can "live" with them as well.

Moreover, showing acceptance of our weaker features can even make us more attractive because it insinuates that our weaknesses can be managed and even corrected. Further, conveying an acceptance of our weaker characteristics can sometimes level the interpersonal playing field, making others feel more at home with us; accepting my faults suggests that I can accept yours as well. After all, we all occupy the same "lifeboat," and it's brimming with our shared, imperfect humanity.

Plying Our Weaker Parts

Some of us are even skillful at cleverly managing our faux pas, foibles, and imperfections such that they become "tools" for making ourselves more appealing to others and ourselves. For example, acknowledging one's social missteps, blunders, gaffes, and embarrassing moments by offering a sincere "my bad," or its equivalent, can be very attractive as it suggests humility, thoughtful regret, and the assumption of responsibility. Simultaneously, it further suggests that we have retained an unspoken self-approbation that recognizes our complete self as comprised of more than just the sum of its weaker parts. I'm sure most of us find this quality attractive.

And when the moment seems appropriate or "ripe for the picking," laughing at oneself for a fumbling miscalculation can soften any injury, assault, or blow to a potential "victim" or the larger social surroundings. It may even evoke laughter in others, making the "offender" more acceptable and attractive while potentially cementing group cohesiveness, as laughter often does, thus further fortifying whatever purposes the social gathering may have.

The Birthplace of Self-Confidence

So, where does self-confidence come from? How is it acquired? Is it genetic, the mere predetermined unfolding or expression of our genes? To date, no specific genes for determining self-confidence have been identified, nor does it seem likely they will be.

However, within the brain, the psychoneurological substrate of self-confidence exists, but how does it develop, and what conditions favor its optimal development? Many theorists have convincingly argued that our nascent self-confidence is birthed within a people context, most often with our parents, and is an "interpersonal artifact," the likely by-product of the quality of our early, formative relationships.

Nobel Prize-winning developmental psychiatrist Eric Kandel stated, "Gene expression is a function of early learning and experience." Notwithstanding our innate predispositions or "temperamental styles" present at birth, it was how our parents, or those charged with the responsibilities of parenting us, first related to us that was fundamentally most formative. Therefore, this "early learning and experience" plays a significant role in how we now relate to ourselves.

What is your relationship with yourself like? How do you "speak" to yourself, and how might it reflect how you were once spoken to? If we were fortunate to have had "good enough" parenting, chances are our positive self-regard got off to a good start. We learned that our emerging needs and the feelings they generate enjoy an inviolable and fundamental legitimacy.

Still, how we learn to manage our needs and feelings remains difficult; the task is to effectively identify, legitimize, and represent our needs and feelings. In short, to become to ourselves the ideal parent we may not have fully had.

If you accept the premise that all needs in their most elemental, irreducible form are legitimate, then it follows that the feelings orbiting our needs are equally legitimate. In tune with this premise, the mistakes we make in the interpersonal arena can be framed as poor personal need management.

However, the underlying needs themselves and their associated feelings remain valid. Now, a solid foundation of good self-relations and good self-talk is created, including self-confidence.

A Simple, Personal Example

Recently, my wife and I got into a squabble. It was largely, if not totally, my fault. At the time of our argument, I had something very important I wanted to tell her, and I mistakenly thought I had had my wife's attention despite the fact that she was folding clothes in an adjacent room of our home. After raising my voice to be heard as I made what I thought was a very passionate, inditing argument against a controversial political figure and while using the best reasoning I could summon despite the higher-brain-robbing fervor of my intense emotions, she nevertheless said flatly, as though nothing I'd just said had registered, "What are you talking about?"

With that, I lost it, regrettably. With a tone untethered of any restraint, I yelled back reflexively, "You mean you heard nothing I just said?"

With no prior knowledge of how important the topic was to me, my wife was stunned yet still managed to peel off a fragile and mostly unnecessary "I'm sorry."

Now, touched by her hurt-filled apology and momentarily swollen with remorse, my higher-order reasoning humbly seeped back in, and with it, my apology for snapping at her. I apologized for not respectfully requesting a moment of her time before I launched into my rant. Hindsight, in its usual way, had restored my better judgment.

Repairing Self-Confidence

Personally, I'm disidentified with any form of violence. So, in the self-disappointing aftermath of violating my personal standards, I had lost a chunk of my self-confidence, the pitiful consequence of my overheated retort to my wife. Fortunately, though, it was only for a short time.

What repaired the self-inflicted wound to my self-esteem was a deliberate effort to re-inform myself of the basic legitimacy of my need for my wife's sensitive, respectful understanding of my thoughts and feelings, no matter their nature. In other words, my needs were valid, but I had managed them poorly.

What also helped was humbly returning to my wife after the emotional tsunami had receded to calmly explain how much her attention and understanding meant to me.

Re-doing this personal mini-tragedy worked, and my self-confidence was repaired. I like myself again.


Tolstedt, B.E. & Stokes, J.P. (1984). Self-disclosure, intimacy, and the depenetration process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(1), 84-90.

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