Dear Dr. Faizal,

I struggle with self-esteem issues. People think I’m very confident because I’m a bit of an extrovert but I have huge abandonment issues. I struggle with body image, confidence, self-worth, etc. I wish I was as confident as people think but I feel very misunderstood. What do I do?

– Faking Confidence

Dear Faking Confidence,

You need to slow down. If you were a client of mine and expressed yourself in this manner during a session, I’d ask you to first take a few deep breaths with me and then, when you were more relaxed, we’d explore the various issues that are creating discomfort for you at this time of your life.

As far as I can tell, you have addressed two key issues here: that you feel misunderstood by others (and perhaps even by yourself?) and that you would like to become more confident within yourself. People typically feel misunderstood by others because they are pretending to be who they are not. Let me ask you this: do you sometimes go to parties even though you may be tired and would prefer to stay at home? Do you try to be the hit of the party when you would like to just chill in a corner and watch others? Do you sometimes say and do things to please others when you really don’t want to? If any of these resonates with you, the incongruent behaviour you exhibit may stem from your fears of letting people see you for who you really are.

Putting on this ‘act’ for others must be quite painful for you. Trying to show people who you are or aren’t, essentially means that you don’t understand or love yourself. This, in my opinion, is the deeper issue you’re dealing with.

To develop an appreciation for self-love, you need to be authentic to yourself, you need to accept yourself as you are at this time in your life. It needs to be unconditional. You see, everyone struggles at some point in his or her lives with body image issues, self-esteem concerns, lack of confidence, etc. This is natural. What is not natural, and, in fact, damaging to your sense of self, is you beating yourself over your limitations.

Instead, I’d like you to fall in love with yourself! What a concept, eh? Please, read on. There are two exercises I’d like you to begin immediately (and continue with for as long as you’d like). For the first one, I’d like you to email (or text) a message to yourself every night, completing this sentence: “I appreciate ____ about myself.” In the blank, write anything that you really liked about yourself during the day. Just acknowledging how much you appreciate yourself before going to sleep would probably result in a comfortable sleep – and can you imagine starting the next day reading this message from yourself – the most important person in your life?

Most of us write love letters or poems to those we care about and love, the ones who make our heart skip a beat, right? The second exercise is where you make your heart race for yourself on a weekly basis. Write yourself a love letter or poem, try to seduce yourself with all the ways you are the ideal lover or what you love about yourself (it can be sexual, but the point here is that you see the real beauty within you). Do this the old-fashion way with ink on paper and mail it to yourself. Just imagine coming home after a hard day at work or school and being greeted by this message in the mailbox.

Once you fall in love with yourself, others will see this and be attracted to you – the real you!

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