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Your Confidence Factors
Judith Briles, PhD

In today###s high stress, success oriented and "second shift" work/home environments, confidence and self-esteem often lose their steam. It###s easy to get out of sorts, to not feel that you are on top of the world - rather, more like out of this world. In fact, there are times that you may feel that Siskel and Ebert have given a thumbs down on your entire life! The feeling of a declining self-worth dominoes into every facet of your life-work, home, play, parenting, even fantasy. When confidence and self-esteem are lacking, it can make you sick.

Businesswoman, actress, songwriter and singer Dolly Parton said that she has more confidence than she does talent, and that of the two, confidence is the main achiever of success. Most of us don###t have the musical talents of Dolly Parton. Yet, most of us have a lot more in common with her than we ever thought. Impossible, you think. Read on...

Contrary to popular belief, confidence does not necessarily come from one###s upbringing. According to the most successful people in America, it comes from the School of Hard Knocks, Life 101---good old fashion age and experience. Ideally, everyone should have a supportive family, friends, and work environment. For many, it###s a myth - who do you know that had the perfect family - the Brady Bunch, the Huxtables, remember Ozzie and Harriet or Leave It to Beaver? Most likely, not you or your cronies. That###s pure fantasy and fairy tale for most.

If your upbringing was not ideal, the accomplished moneymakers and businesswomen in America are saying that there is hope - lots of it. That###s good news. If anything, normal means coming from a dysfunctional family! Real Life 101 demands that your neck gets stuck out, that risk is present and that reward - financial, mental, physical, and spiritual - can be yours. It###s not, though, handed to you without a few strings attached.

The Accomplished Women Speak Out

In a nationwide survey involving 6,000 men and women, the "Accomplished Women in America" said that their confidence comes from the crises that they have encountered over the years (The Confidence Factor, Master Media Ltd.). Over 90 percent of these successful women experienced crises, and failure, 50 percent more than the general public. When crises hit, they were more inclined to turn to themselves first to begin the healing/rebuilding process. They were also inclined to say that when a crisis hit, there were times that they felt so weak that they felt it was impossible to survive. Yet, in the end, the crisis created strengthening factors.

Self-esteem is defined as the value, appreciation and regard you have for yourself. A one word summary - reputation. The reputation that you have with yourself. Confidence is different. It is defined as the ability to create that value, appreciation and regard for self. As a woman, when the chips are down, your confidence factors come actively into play. Fast!

The most confident people at some time have had a bad day, week, month, even year. Even a series of "bad luck years" can pay an unwelcome visit. The "Accomplished Women" found that one of the keys to understanding, surviving and growing from any failure or crisis was to get it in perspective. Measure it. Evaluate it. Live it. And finally, leave it.

Where Confidence Comes From

Six key areas surfaced from the study: Upbringing, Work, Relationships, Crises, Appearance, and Listening. The general public thought that confidence came from upbringing while Accomplished Women said "No, it was age and maturity." The "Accomplished Women" reported that being independent financially was important and that work expanded on who they were - whether it was work for pay or work for the community.

Relationships stirred up several gender issues. Men reported that it was important for them to be in a long term relationship, whether long term or through marriage, to a woman - they were able to work better, build their confidence and make more money. Women from both the Accomplished Women group and the general public reported that being in a relationship was nice, but not the key factor to building their confidence. What built their confidence? Someone to sit down and listen to them; really listen to them, not nodding the head or pretending they were listening. They said that when someone listened, it said, "I care for you and for what you have to say. I value you." In turn, their confidence was enhanced.

And, when it came to being there for emotional support, the men reported that their partners were definitely there for them. The women said, "Are you kidding? We depend on ourselves firsts for support." Crisis was definitely a key factor for building confidence, as in how you reacted to a crisis. Moving on. Assessing it. Growing from it. The number one crisis on a personal side was going through a divorce; from work, being fired or laid off. If you haven###t done one or all three, you know someone who has!

Finally, appearance and taking care of yourself - physically and medically - were critical factors for confidence building. Even when the chips were down, the Accomplished Women felt strongly that how you looked - the colors you wear, hair styling, make-up, clothing styles and exercising - were all important elements. They also said that even if you felt miserable inside, that on the outside, you may have to fake it, temporarily.

Success One Day, Broke the Next

Entrepreneur Jean Kelly owned her own personnel agency. When the recession hit Tulsa, Oklahoma in the early eighties, she saw her personal annual income drop from $120,000 to $25,000 overnight. She moved from a suite of high rise offices to a broom closet; her staff was reduced from eight to two, which included herself.

Many of her friends thought that $25,000 was a lot of money - her problem was that she had expenses that matched the $120,000 she earned in previous years. Kelley took her business loss as a personal failure. It was her fault. Forget the fact that there was a major recession /depression in oil dependent Oklahoma.

She couldn###t sleep at night; she couldn###t think straight; and she caught every virus and bug that passed through Oklahoma. Times were not good. For the first time, she had to bite the bullet and mortgage her home to the max. "Most of the pain I felt was silent, most of the people I knew didn###t know I was hurting so much. Philosophically, I had ingrained in me that you didn###t show other people your pain. They don###t care, after all, they had their own pain to deal with," she shared.

Jean Kelley learned that the solution was within her. She turned to herself to rebuild her strategies for a customer base that was oil driven and drowning. Like her.

The Ten Commandments of Confidence

The Accomplished Women offered a series of hard earned tips, including The Ten Commandments of Confidence. Each said that they reviewed their personal commandments when the going got rough - many of them used favorite phrases, including Eleanor Roosevelt###s words, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission."

1. To Your Own Self, Be True

Listen to your inner voice, practice positive self-talk and don###t let others derail you with their agenda. March to your own tunes, not the tunes that someone else is orchestrating.

2.Create Positive Thinking; Create a Positive Environment

Look who you work with, play with, surround yourself with - ask, Are these people energy chargers. . .or energy suckers? Negative people, things, or work drag you down. In the end, they will make you sick. Eliminate them.

If family members are negative forces in your life, it is critical that you open communications with them, and possibly a therapist NOW. Rarely will it get better without help; worse is usually the rule.

If you hate your work, move on. Don###t get stuck with rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

3. Know That You Are Not Alone

You may feel that the pain you are presently feeling is exclusive. Guess again. Thousands, sometimes millions, have walked in your footsteps before you, and will after you. Problems aren###t territorial, they are everywhere.

America is amazing when it comes to self-help groups. Everything from fill-in-the-blank recovery to psychics who can###t get in t