10 Mar Some ramblings on the topic of confidence
This is a much more personal subject than I'm used to writing on this blog, so please bear with me. I was originally going to hold off writing this post until I had some real concrete things to talk about. But I figure now is as good a time as any to reflect on what I've learned so far. Please take everything you read below with a pretty large grain of salt, as I will not be linking to most references. I am writing what I have internalized from multiple sources over the past few years. Confidence is, it seems, something that some people are just naturally born with. We all know that someone in our life that knows how to handle just about any situation. They gracefully resolve conflict, speak with gentle authority, and have an emotional capacity like no other. Over the past 2-3 years, I've been doing a lot of casual research in the field of confidence. Confidence, or the lack of it, can manifest in so many various ways in life. It can affect our relationships. It can affect our work. It can affect our hobbies. It can affect how we deal with every-day situations. [Imposter syndrome](https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome) is the persistent fear that one is a "fraud", despite objective evidence to the contrary. 70% of the population have experienced imposter syndrome at one point or another. In her book _The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women_, Dr Valerie Young writes that we should **QTIP**, or, **Q**uit **T**aking **I**t **P**ersonally. She notes that the 30% of the population who have not experienced imposter syndrome are not so different from the rest of us. The primary distinction is in the story they tell themselves. While "imposters" feel they are the only one in a room that doesn't understand something, "non-imposters" think it's _alright_ and _okay_ that they don't understand it. They are aware of their strengths and know that not knowing something is not a reflection on their value as a person. Their [inner critic](https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/inner-critic) is not so quick to judge themselves, if at all. [Attachment](https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_in_children) was originally used to describe the relationship that a young child forms with their primary caregiver. It is said that the emotional availability (among other factors such as the quality and consistency of engagement and communication) of the caregiver can lead to the development of one of four main [attachment patterns](https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_in_children#Attachment_patterns). The [Strange Situation](https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Strange_situation) experiment observes a young child's behavior when exploring a new room with a primary caregiver. The caregiver is then asked to leave the room. Upon reunion with the caregiver, the child's reaction might be explained with an attachment style. **Secure children** feel confident that their caregiver is available, even when not physically present. They may be upset when the caregiver leaves, but is ultimately happy to see them return. **Anxious children** become fixated on the abandonment portion of the experiment. As with secure children, anxious children become upset when the caregiver leaves. However, reunion behavior is vastly different. Anxious children tend to take longer to feel soothed again. They may later also be hostile towards the caregiver—a display of [protest](http://the-love-compass.com/2014/02/22/understanding-the-needs-of-the-anxiouspreoccupied-attachment-style/#:~:text=A%20protest%20behaviour%20is%20any,can%20be%20calmed%20very%20quickly.) in response to being abandoned. **Avoidant children** do not have much visible distress towards the caregiver's absence. In fact, even upon reunion, avoidant children may not display any emotion at all. They will avoid or ignore the caregiver. This stoic display does not tell the whole story though. It was observed that avoidant children showed similar levels of stress when the abandonment occurred. Attachment also happens with our romantic partners. Though it was theorized that childhood attachment affects adult attachment styles, that link is weak at best. What really affects attachment in adult relationships includes genetic factors (as a survival instinct), and possibly more importantly, previous romantic relationships. **Secure individuals** are skilled communicators. They have a large capacity to love and care for their partners. They believe that they are responsible for the well-being and happiness of their partner, and will do anything to make that happen. They are not easily upset, as they have the emotional skill to forgive and understand. They don't play games with their partner, but instead resolve conflict with love and patience. **Anxious individuals** deeply fear abandonment. They notice every subtle sign that their partner will leave them, even when they know it is irrational. They often act out in anger or coldness, a distancing strategy I explained above as protest behaviors. They have been conditioned to observe that acting out brings them the attention they need from their partner, even when it is the wrong kind of attention. But even then, in that moment, that attention is better than the perceived abandonment. **Avoidant individuals** value their independence, and see dependency as a sign of weakness. They emotionally distance themselves from their partner, focusing on themselves and their priorities, and showing disdain at their partner for being "needy" or "childish". Avoidants do in fact need emotional closeness, though they try their best to hide it. When talking about imposter syndrome, the inner critic is an important subject. Most of the story that imposters tell themselves manifest from the critic. This critic is often mean, speaking to us in ways that we wouldn't imagine talking to others. Sadly, our inner critic develops unconsciously and automatically over time, and it shapes our identity and sense of self. We are less compassionate to ourselves than we should be. We treat ourselves worse than we treat others. In the process of learning about confidence, I decided to develop an [internal parent](https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/users/3881-maxine-harley/posts/17933-how-to-heal-and-re-parent-your-inner-child) as well, in an effort to silence the critic. This compassionate witness sees our troubles and does not judge. They care for us as a loving parent cares for a child. If we take the time to shape this internal part, we tell ourselves a better story each time a tough situation happens. It's interesting that anxious attachment is also a manifestation of an internal part; that is, our inner child. Deeply rooted fears of abandonment trigger anxious individuals to protest. They naturally reach out to others, often their romantic partner, in these cases when triggered. It is the absence of an internal parent that commonly leads to this outward demand from the child. And though it seems almost crazy, intentionally developed internal selves are just as valid as those critical parts that are developed automatically. The compassion and affirmation that we can give ourselves is just as real as the critical internal abuse we already know too well. After all, it's all just internal dialogue between different parts. I think taking deliberate steps towards inner compassion is crucial to building confidence. Are the inner child and inner critic the same part? It's unclear for now, at least to me. I recently started bouldering. When I first went to the climbing gym, I noticed that when people were resting, they sat around the walls watching others climb. This made me extremely uneasy. The imposter in me was saying, "What if they find out you're stupid and don't know how to find a path up?" The compassionate parent said, "It's okay to not know a way up. They're called boulder _problems_ for a reason. And even if everyone else could find a way up, it doesn't mean anything about you if you can't." I am unashamedly an anxiously attached individual. The child in me is deeply fearful of abandonment. I no longer think that it is embarrassing to admit this. Every person has their own needs in a relationship. When those needs are not fulfilled, it is so natural to feel insecure. But when those needs _are_ fulfilled, secure attachment can also follow naturally. The negative feedback loop I often put myself in is not a reflection of my ability to be loved. It is merely the result of a chronically triggered attachment system. Unfortunately, protest behaviors make it hard to decipher the underlying insecurity. And when the avoidant partner creates distance in response to this "neediness", the cycle goes on. So, is it possible to change attachment styles? Regrettably, I have no concrete evidence myself. I've been in and out of relationships for 12 years and see no end to anxious attachment in sight. In the popular book [_Attached_](https://www.amazon.com/Attached-Science-Adult-Attachment-YouFind/dp/1585429139), it is said that being with a securely attached partner is the most surefire way to resolve anxious attachment. Apparently the secure partner, with their immense love and patience for you, just _knows_ how to soothe your fears. They understand you, and prioritize your well-being. Most importantly, they see right through the protest behaviors and have just the right words and actions to soothe each irrational fear. Secure individuals come from all walks of life. There's no "thing" about them that makes them stand out immediately. Ask yourself, "Is my partner trying to connect with me and be more emotionally close?" If yes, they are likely secure, or at least not avoidant. Please treasure them. Confidence plays a crucial role in life. Whether you are an "imposter", anxious, or really an imposter, remember that it is okay. Some people are good at some things. Some people are even good at many things. You may never be good at any of those things, and that doesn't matter. You have your own value, and that's what makes you, you! Be kinder to yourself. When you feel anxious and abandoned and then feel stupid for feeling that way, don't be. There's nothing _wrong_ with you. There's [nothing wrong with dependency](https://www.luvze.com/the-dependency-paradox/). I may be hopelessly anxious, and that's okay with me.