As women we are products of the time and place in which we are born and raised. For instance, the Downton Abbey TV series presents a fascinating insight into how people were expected to dress and behave a hundred years ago. It made me think: are today’s women, freed of those restrictive social codes, happier and more confident than those of an earlier era? We have the vote, have largely achieved equal pay for equal work, and almost every career is open to us, in Western countries anyway. I had to conclude that in a superficial, comparative society which prizes youth, beauty and wealth above intrinsic personal values, we are probably neither happier nor more confident than our earlier sisters unless we stop, consider, and do something about it!
There is a school of thought that if we look the part – confident and happy – our hearts and minds will follow. Certainly, being well dressed and groomed helps us to feel great. Time and money invested in studying, reading widely and mastering techniques such as speaking in public also give us confidence to cope with new challenges.
But I am talking about inner self-confidence and inner happiness which don’t depend on mere presentation. Psychologists tell us that whether we are naturally self-confident, happy and have self-worth, or not, finds its roots in that important formative period from birth to five years. What we learn, experience and are told then by significant adults like parents and teachers goes straight into our subconscious because we are simply too young to filter out destructive or untrue inputs from life affirming ones. Without realising it we enter childhood, our teenage years and adulthood owning negative beliefs that we have absorbed about our abilities, our looks, even our worth as a person, and we carry an inner critic forward into our lives.
Fortunately it is possible to “re-programme” ourselves. We learned those beliefs and behaviours, so it is possible for us to learn new ones. We can examine what we believe about ourselves and other people, and if they are not in line with what we want to be, do and become, we can set out to learn new ones. A key technique is making positive affirmations about what we want our reality to be. When that nagging inner voice says: “You can’t, you won’t, you don’t deserve…” we can silence and replace it with positive affirmations like “That is the old me talking, I am not like that anymore. I enjoy being kind/ beautiful/worthy/capable/creative … the next time I intend to feel and behave…”
Affirmations empower us to take action, take responsibility and own our feelings for the better. Self-confidence and happiness may need a bit of work, but it starts with a simple decision: “I am going to live the rest of my life happy and confident”. Then take it from there…