By Anubhav Srivastava (Register for his Confidence Building Workshop Here)
There are many causes for a lack of confidence. The kind of environment you grow up in, the experiences you have in your family, the experiences you have in school, your experiences in the neighborhood you are living in. They play a very big role in the kind of self worth you have about yourself.
People who are encouraged, motivated and treated with respect even as a child are much likely to go on to have a self worth
People who are bullied, berated, abused verbally or physically are less likely to have a high self worth.
I want you to close your eyes and remember the events of your past. What are the events that have happened that have led you to form the kind of beliefs you have about your life.
Was there a traumatic event?
Was there bullying?
Were your parents abusive or non supportive?
Did you always get discouraged by others around you and made to feel like you were no good.
If you answered yes to any of the questions, it is likely that the seeds of the lack of self confidence lay in one of these events that ended up embedding negative beliefs deep in your brain.
I was lucky to get parents who for the most part have been extremely supportive and encourage. But I cannot say the same about my environment. When I was growing up, I received a lot of discouragement, especially at school. Up til probably class 6 I was a great student, but in class 7 I encountered a teacher who shattered my confidence for a long time.
I don’t know what her problem with me was but for some reason she always tried her best to insult me and demean me in front of the entire class. To this day I do not know the reasons behind it. Other students often made the same mistakes but it was I who had to bear the brunt of it all publicly almost always.
Once my father met her at a parent teacher meeting and asked her why she acted like that. The next day in class she narrated about how she met a father who was asking her why she insulted his useless child. Then she proceeded to name me as that child. I had never been so publicly embarrassed in my life before and that shattered my confidence.
This had another effect. The very people who claimed to be my friends also started picking on me because if the teacher thought I was so useless than that should be true!
This is where kids learn behaviors from, from elders and the moment the most authoritative elder at the time set out on a mission to berate me, all of my so called friends became the same way.
My grades deteriorated and I stopped paying attention to studies. The attitude of teachers and fellow students only got worse. From being seen as an intelligent child in my early years, suddenly I was seen as this good for nothing fellow. For the next several years i had to suffer with confidence issues and did not do well in school at all. I believe the root cause was the kind of embarrassment I went through in class 7.
So the big question is, after all that I went through, how did I manage to regain my confidence? Sharing everything step by step is beyond the scope of this article and is more suited for a book or a workshop. I will be sharing all the steps I used in my Confidence Building Workshops which you can sign up for if you are in the city where the latest one is being held. However, I will share one of the main things that helped me – Changing The Environment
The school system that I grew up in sought to discipline and subdue children. Maybe things are different for kids these days, at least in the big cities in India, but I can bet there are still thousands of schools all over that continue to rely on hitting and abuse as a disciplinary tactic.
They think they are disciplining the kid, and frankly some kids do need some disciplining. Because, if you let them have whatever they want, they grow up to be spoiled brats. So I am not encouraging that. Kids need to be taught what’s right and what’s wrong but not through physical or verbal abuse. Because if you are doing that, you yourself are wrong. Physical and verbal abuse shakes the confidence and breaks the spirit of a child.
So here is how the change happened – When I moved from India to spend one year in America. I am grateful to my parents for that. Again I did not do too well because I was still lacking confidence, but that’s really where the process of regaining my confidence began.
The teachers I interacted with there were polite and encouraging. I am not saying bad teachers don’t exist there, of course they do, but the ones I encountered only offered encouragement even when I was not doing well. It was the first time in my life that I felt strongly about my self worth ever since class 5 or 6!
It was also the first time I was interacting with girls on a regular basis. I studied in a boys only school so my interaction with the opposite sex was quite limited and so I was awkward around women. When I went to America, the environment changed. Now in India you are still conservative publicly when it comes to opposite sex interactions but the world I saw there was totally different.
Because I was very overweight and still sort of awkward I did not have much success with the opposite sex at that time ( :P) but I did gain a lot of confidence in this new environment. When I returned to India a year later, I still weighed the same but confidence and personality wise I was totally different. Even though I returned to my roots, the kind of confidence boost I experienced there was permanent.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that a mind ‘The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” I think the same was the case with me. I spoke flawless English (at least I would think so), the way I walked, the way I talked and carried myself was totally different.
After returning from America, I decided that I would continue the rest of my Bachelors Degree in India. I joined an American University in India and that’s where my new found confidence began paying off. I became became one of the best academically performing students in the university during my time there. I became very skilled at presenting and social interactions.
I regularly took part in Debates and hosted several events at my college. That was also the place where I first came up with the idea of my movie Carve Your Destiny. I NEVER experienced that kind of encouragement in my school. I can say this with absolute confidence that if I had not gone to America and then subsequently joined this college in India where the environment was healthy, I would have never regained my self confidence.
This is not to say I suddenly became the most popular guy in college. Quite frankly, a lot of people resented me. But the difference was that earlier, I was scared because of the negativity and never did anything to change my life. Now I couldn’t give a damn about the people who wanted to pull me down. During this time I also delved deep into personal development and motivational material, so all of that negativity bounced off me. I knew if I really wanted to make something happen, I could! For the first time, in a long long time I felt ready to take on the world and I did!
So in my experience, the first and perhaps the biggest CHANGE that is important for gaining Confidence is to quit the wrong environment and go to the right one.
Now obviously, it doesn’t mean you have to go to America to become more confident. That is just what worked for me because compared to the restrictive environment I had seen, I saw an incredible positive change there. That worked for me but it won’t necessarily work for you.
What you do need to do is to quit the old, abusive environment and embrace any new environment that respects you and encourages you.
As a child you don’t have a choice to pick what environment you grow up in. As an adult, things are much more under your control unless are in some war lorn country or oppressed by a dictatorial regime or limited by a lack of education. And even then, with a lot of determination and some luck, people have managed to crawl out of the hole. They have managed to change their environment and consequently change their lives.
You probably do not have to face all of that. For most adults living in an urban environment and have a relatively good education, the two main environments that are going to affect their confidence are
- Their Workplace
- Their Relationships
It is pitiful to see how the vast majority of us, especially those in corporate jobs are still slaves in a way and get little respect from their superiors despite the fact that they are hugely talented.
Now, don’t get me wrong, without a doubt, even this so called slavery is a million times superior to real slavery. However, treating people with respect never hurts.
People say that they stay in corporate jobs where they get no respect and lose their self esteem because at least they are making money there. Now, there is nothing wrong with materialistic success. In today’s world everybody needs it and they ought to. We need to bring home the bacon, right? But the question is, at the expense of what?
Will you really be pleased with what you accomplished in life if that meant being treated with contempt and losing all your dignity and confidence? For the vast majority, the answer would be no.
I chose to end up independently employed and maintain my own business since I knew I didn’t need a manager yelling down my throat. Now it is a myth that in business, you are the only boss. You are, but only to an extent. You do have clients to cater to and obviously you need to address their worries. And I am cool with that.
What is not acceptable to me is compromising my dignity and the minute somebody goes too far, I cut them off and do not work with them anymore. I am grateful that I can choose to do so.
If I were in a corporate job and had an evil boss (as most people do!) I would have no choice but to put my head down and deal with disrespect quietly. I would have to do it because I would be totally dependent on that person for my livelihood. I would slowly watch my confidence erode away.
But because I run my own business I walk with my head held high and choose to only work with respectful people. I am far happier this way. My self worth in the long run matters more to me than my net worth in the short run. Without self worth, it is anyway impossible to have a high net worth that you build yourself and actually lasts!
This often happens to people in their professional lives but I see the the same happening to people in personal relationships as well. In fact, far more! Many women as well as men choose to stay in relationships that are abusive physically or emotionally or both.
They may be demeaned, taken for granted and manipulated all the time. But still they choose to stay because they either don’t see an identity for themselves, except when they are with the other individual or they are afraid of being single or they have been brainwashed with the idea that abuse is normal
They believe that by tolerating that kind of treatment, the other person will really value their faithfulness and adore them more. Or, in the end, understand their mistakes and change. Sadly that never happens.
In actuality, the individual begins respecting them even less and that only worsens things. They feel that regardless of what happens, you are continually going to be there and quietly accept all the crap they give you. What happens then? Your confidence takes a even bigger beating! (Pun Intended)
Are you really okay with that? Start having some dignity, without pride of course. Realize that nothing is more crucial than your self respect. Do not give others the chance to keep treating you like an object they can use.
If you are continually being put down, verbally or physically by somebody who says they love you, then regardless of what they claim, the fact of the matter is in their eyes you are simply a toy over which they think they have complete force. If you are being treated with disrespect in your job all the time, then even the highest salary won’t change the fact that according to your manager, you are an object, not a human being.
Here is what you need to do. Grow a backbone and demand change in the environment you are in. And if that seems too impractical then change the environment. Leave it. Crawl out of it. You may think you don’t have a choice, but we always have a choice. The choice maybe difficult or easy according to your circumstances, but you always have a choice.
When you leave your toxic environment behind, for some time there will be uncertainty because at least you were getting something in the environment you left behind. But do you have an idea what you had to sacrifice for it? Your dignity, your self respect and your very identity
Do you truly think you can be cheerful in such sort of an existence, where your extremely presence turns into that of a thing, not a person? Have the courage to crawl out of the old, toxic hole you were living in and embrace the world outside it. You will have a much healthier self image, much happier and will have much more courage to go after all your dreams!
About the Author
Anubhav Srivastava is an author, speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields. It has been seen by over 1 Million People on Youtube. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.
For one on one consulting or a motivational workshop at your organization please email firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like to write a guest blog post on Anubhavsrivastava.com you contact me on the same email address.
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