Article updated January 24, 2020
Self-regard is an important aspect of our lives. Your level of self-regard can make a difference in what type of work you chose to pursue ("Do I apply for that promotion or not?"), how kind you are to yourself (and others), how well you exercise your voice (assertiveness) and many other important aspects of life. It is a reflection of how you feel and the degree of objectivity you apply to your own internal self-image. Whether you think you are “doing well”, are a “work in progress” or an “abject failure” has a lot to do with how you show up in life. Call it self-confidence, self-regard or poise, our ability to count on it to be there for us in a positive way is key to how we handle many situations in life.
"...you are highly functioning and contributive member of society who is there for yourself and others..."
The DNA of self-regard is in our “beliefs, values, experiences, attitudes and expectations” (page 38 Emotional Intelligence in Action, 2nd edition, M. Hughes and J.B. Terrell). These things inform how we see and perceive both the world around us, and our interaction within it. Looking at it from a practical perspective, you may have feelings of self-regard that serve you well; you are highly functioning and contributive member of society who is there for yourself and others when needed. However, self-regard can be fleeting, which is a frustration to many of us. Self-regard enables many things, it helps us to effectively solve problems and to be assertive when needed, but only when your self-confidence is present; so what should you do when your sense of confidence deserts you?
"Naming your emotions lets you work with them, instead of letting them take over (response rather than reaction). "
If your boss sends you a cryptic e-mail asking you to meet with them as soon as possible without stating why, you will most likely feel anxiety. No matter how well things are going, or how well you know yourself, life happens and occasionally you experience a confidence gap. Can you detect when you feel that gap and what it's impact is on your ability to conduct yourself? What emotion(s) are your experiencing? How does this make you feel physically? Being able to be yourself in a stressful exchange is a key interpersonal skill, especially when you are practicing it under pressure and potentially during a physical response that may include an elevated heart rate, sweating, mild shaking, etc. Naming your emotions lets you work with them, instead of letting them take over (response rather than reaction). Showing up for what may be a difficult conversation aware of what you are feeling and what you need, is a great step.
"...the fact that you strive to improve as you go is a key confidence builder."
This requires you to be able to practice objectivity; a practice that begins before you even enter a conversation like the one outlined above. Your boss may want to check on some specific fact of importance in their work with you (rather than point out an issue with you). Remembering that not everything is about something negative as you head into these types of situations is key to remaining calm and feeling your self-confidence has got your back. You are good at what you do and how you are present for others - center yourself in this knowledge. Being able to express yourself (and feeling like you can rely on your abilities to express yourself even in trying circumstances) is also key to hanging on to your self-confidence consistently and is core to being assertive. We all know those people who have faced a “firing squad” in a meeting and handled it with grace. They too were likely experiencing an elevated heart rate, etc. but they didn’t allow that to interfere in their ability to remain objective and assertively (versus aggressively) conduct a conversation that lead to a positive outcome. Practice makes perfect, no one does this right the first few times; the fact that you strive to improve as you go is a key confidence builder, one that will serve you well no matter what life throws at you.