The way we were treated in our family of origin can affect us long after childhood. For instance, if you had a parent who constantly belittled you, compared you to others, or told you that you would never amount to anything, you likely carry those messages with you today. A parent’s struggles with mental health can also change your relationship with the world.
Genes and Temperament
Studies have shown our genetic makeup affects the amount of certain confidence-boosting chemicals our brain can access. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with happiness and oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” can both be inhibited by certain genetic variations. Somewhere between 25 to 50 percent of the personality traits linked to confidence may be inherited. Some aspects of our behaviour also stem from our temperament. If you’re naturally more hesitant and watchful, especially in unfamiliar circumstances, you may have a tendency called “behavioral inhibition.” – When you’re confronted with a situation, you stop and check to see if everything seems the way you expected it to be. If something appears awry, you’re likely to move away from the situation.
Lack of self-confidence can come from not knowing the “rules” of the confidence game. For example, if we think we have to feel confident in order to act confidently, we set ourselves up for failure. Perfectionism is another form of faulty thinking that contributes to low self-confidence. If we believe we have to have something all figured out before we take action, those thoughts can keep us from doing the things we value. Even learning and understanding what confidence is and isn’t, as you’re doing in this chapter, is a big step toward boosting it.
Physical, sexual and emotional abuse can all significantly affect our feelings of self-worth.