Reclaim Your Confidence

Reclaim Your Confidence

By Dr. Teri McCann, PhD, CEDS

Where does confidence come from? Are we born with it? Can we create it or is it already in us? If we have it sometimes, but not all the time, why is that so?

Babies are not born with confidence, although they seem to be born with the blueprint for developing it. As you watch a baby’s first gurgles, her first shaky steps, and her first vocalizations, you can detect the child’s sheer delight at her new abilities. In this delight lies the inherent confidence that the baby claims as she masters the environment and develops a sense of self-efficacy.

In a happy, healthy home environment, caregivers strengthen the child’s inherent confidence through making connections that say “you are worthy of love.” Confidence strengthens when caregivers allow the child to explore their unique personality with all its “parts” and idiosyncrasies.

In a healthy environment, the child does not have to work to earn the caregiver’s approval, love and attention. There is no pressure for the child to take the first step or say the first word. The shy or introverted child who considers books as their best friend is welcomed with the same enthusiasm as the extroverted and engaging child. When the child begins school, the caregivers embrace unique learning styles and encourage the inherent joy of learning. A child does not have to outperform peers to have value and worth. Caregivers love the child’s own light, not simply a child that mirrors their own image.

Self-Confidence and the Self-Critic

In working with clients with eating disorders, I routinely encountered very low levels of confidence. The low self-confidence stems, at least partially, from an overwhelmingly loud self-critical voice.

Without exception, the self-critical voice begins at a very young age, leading to cycles of shame and guilt. Sadly, the child uses her gifts to please those from whom she seeks approval, only to receive messages that suggest these accomplishments were “not enough.” The confident parts become overwhelmed by the self-critical parts. Over the years, the adeptness of the self-critical voice diminishes her confidence.

The delight of accomplishment, once a source of great joy, becomes a desperate plea for acceptance. Unfulfilled, she will seek to protect herself from the inner pain, sadness and turmoil. When food becomes the source of self-efficacy, behaviors of disordered eating can present. As emotional pain increases, the self-critical voice intensifies, and the relationship with caregiver grows more distressing, the eating disorder becomes an important tool for controlling strong emotion. When the other qualities of self-energy subside, the eating disorder takes center stage and feelings of hopelessness ensue. As a result, the self-identity becomes synonymous with the eating disorder.

Recovery is Possible

This is not where the story need end. Recovery is possible! You are not your eating disorder. Your self-critical voice may have qualities of a caregiver, a coach, or a teacher because it developed as a way of meeting the expectations of others. Your self-critical voice wants your Self-Leadership. The journey toward recovery and a fully developed personality is not a quick and it is important to have a treatment team that can share their Confidence in your inherent ability to heal. The journey to reclaiming the joy in your life means re-building your relationship with those amazing qualities that are already inside you.

Confidence is your birthright. You have always had it.

Dr. Teri McCann, PhD, CEDS is the Founder and Executive Clinical Director of Fairhaven Treatment Center near Memphis, TN. Dr. McCann has over 30 years of experience in working with women and adolescents with symptoms of eating disorders of all kinds. Dr. McCann specializes in the treatment of eating disorders that are related to trauma and attachment disorder.

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