Can You Gain Confidence by Changing Your Thoughts?

By Martha Sigargök-Martin | Allgemein

Jun 25

Case Study: "I feel pretty"

I've been looking for films that are susceptible, not only to lift you but illustrate my point in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, I couldn't find something interesting enough that I hadn't already seen or that wasn't older than two years.

And then I saw that Amy Schumer, the American comedian, performed in a further film. In this film called "I feel pretty," she's endorsed the role of an attractivish 30-something. I say attractivish, not because those are my own thoughts, but because she's supposed to represent this character in the movie.

"I feel pretty" sounded perfectly suitable for the topic of self-love and confidence, which seems to bother millions of people around the world.
And is an issue among lots of creatives.

Confidence and Self-Love

(This paragraph contains spoilers.)

In a nutshell, "I feel pretty" is the story of a Cinderella who transforms her perception instead of her appearance.

Usually, I'm an advocate of a clear storytelling structure in movies. To begin with, because the other way around (no structured story) is overused and overrated in the indie film scene. Not having a structured story is seen as something artistic, instead of what it is in lots of cases: a lack of competency and training to tell rounded stories.

However, the whole story of "I feel pretty" is too predictable. You can order it in 3 acts and their corresponding turning points.

  1. The heroine lacks confidence and self-love
  2. Turning point: She fells on her head and wake-up feeling like a supermodel
  3. Built with this new confidence, the heroine turns her life around (she gets the job of her dreams, a boyfriend, take part in a bikini contest, etc.)
  4. Her feeling that she's maybe becoming an asshole (that's interesting, so becoming self-confident has been tied to also becoming an asshole - although she kind of become one towards the middle of the film) culminates as a guy she thought would have been out of her reach, tries to kiss her.
  5.  Filled with the guilt, she runs into the bathroom and hurts her head accidentally again. She then wakes up like "her old self." In between her friends don't talk to her anymore (no wonder) and she feels sorry for herself. But somehow find the courage...
  6. To hold an epic speech on stage about self-worth a few scenes later and turn everything around in a new direction, where she ends up happily accepting who she is.

So nothing groundbreaking in the script, but somehow, it was entertaining. Part because of Amy Schumer, part because of the dialogues.

Although, to me, it was much more interesting regarding the psychological aspect of it. It was a caricature, but it carried a message.

However, while the message, "You're okay the way you are" or "just be yourself" is terrific, it's also too simplistic.

Now, don't misinterpret the message I want to carry here. Being yourself and feeling comfortable in your skin should be a top priority in your life. If you aren't, nothing will be significant enough to make you feel better about yourself... Not to mention feeling proud and confident.

Nonetheless, telling yourself that you're good at something if you aren't, isn't the right way to tackle your self-esteem problem. Neither it is to say to yourself you're beautiful if you're not. That said, beauty is just a perception. It's subjective. What one person will find attractive, the other won't. That's a fact.

But the problem is that it's pretty hard to talk yourself into something if you aren't convinced about it and moreover if it's not true. (again, truth is also relative). And that's where positive psychology has its limits.

the problem with positive psychology

The Problem With Positive Psychology

I love positive psychology. Positive psychology has helped me through rough times, and it also has helped millions of people around the world.

Positive psychology is a domain that was officially born through the president of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman, in 1998.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (you might know his book series on "Flow"), Christopher Peterson and Barbara Fredrickson are regarded as co-initiators of this development.

Positive psychology was regarded as a reaction against psycho-analysis and behaviorism, which have focused on what's wrong, more than on what's right for the past decades.

It can help to dive into the dirty stuff to understand yourself but it certainly do not help to stay there. Especially for years. You might never get out.

However, positive psychology can also cause a tremendous backlash if you repress the dirty stuff at any price. And when it does the contrary to helping you feeling fantastic, it triggers you into feeling guilty about not being positive all the time.

And that certainly is wrong.

I'm not a therapist, but I would advice positive psychology to people who're already on their way to transforming themselves and have enough confidence to trust their own judgment.

Meaning, people who can distinguish when their negative thoughts are delusional and when it's time to dive a little deeper into them. And not to people who are in the middle of clinical depression. Still, there are exceptions, as always.

what you feel vs. what you think

Differentiate what you feel from what you think

As I wrote in a previous article, weirdly, your thoughts are subjective - you interpret life 24/7 through your thoughts - but your feelings aren't. And that's when positive psychology can become problematic.

If you feel angry, for example, getting in front of the mirror and saying 50 positive affirmations to yourself isn't enough.

It will probably help tremendously for a while, but if you never take care of the real reason, why you feel angry, it might get right back at you like a boomerang at some point. Let it be days, weeks, or months, but it will if you don't take care of it.

How is that?

Your negative emotions are a signal that something is wrong. Whether something external that has to be changed or the way you handle and see specific situations (your expectations, habits you have to handle fear or frustration, etc.). Lots of people navigate in the later, that's why they're never happy, no matter what they achieve or get without any efforts in life.

Once, they've reached a goal, they'll always want more. More recognition, more stuff, more money, more love, etc. I often navigate in that space myself. That it's inherent to human nature to desire more (more growth actually). And there's nothing wrong with that.

The question, in this case, is if another trophy or another car is going to feel that gap.

Mostly, it won't.

If you haven't found inner peace, nothing will ever be satisfying. And that's what "I feel pretty" was about. The character learned to accept herself - or see herself through a new lens - instead of changing external factors.

Can You Gain Confidence by Changing Your Thoughts?

So, Can You Gain Confidence by Changing Your Thoughts?


Yes and no.

If you feel unconfident and miserable about something, there are two possibilities:

1. You haven't put the work in and now, it's time to roll up your sleeves and stop talking.

That means also experiencing lots of setbacks and your own limits (that you'll push further for sure).

The lower your self-esteem (or bigger your ego is, which is connected), the less you'll be willing to confront yourself with uncomfortable situations. Meaning, learning something and endure the fact that you'll suck at it right away or at some point (learning plateau).

The more you'll be willing to play this game, the better you'll get at it and the more fun you'll have doing it.

It's called a growth mindset.

Overcoming this experience will boost your self-esteem.

And it's not about changing the perception you have of yourself first, but about working on your skills first.

2. If there is no possibility whatsoever to change the outcome, you'll have to change your perception.

Changing your perception can take a few minutes, days, weeks, or years, depending on what kind of psychological problem you're carrying around with you and how flexible you are.

Your perception then will often improve your results.

And that's all what "I feel pretty" is about.

I'm beautiful the way I am, I'm never enough

In Conclusion

Both methods, pursued with consistency, are powerful.

If you have trouble with confidence and self-esteem, it might be helpful to analyze what the consistent problem in your life is.

  1. Are you trying to talk yourself into the "I'm beautiful the way I am"-stuff, knowing that you don't believe it for a minute and don't even try to take actions toward changing it (whatever those might look like to you)?
  2. Or are you the"I'll never be good enough" kind of person, who chases one thing after the other, without ever being satisfied?

If you aren't one of both, mazel tov!

You're whether a psychopath - in that case, you don't care about those things at all - or you won! You've found a satisfying way for yourself to navigate life.

But if you recognize yourself in this, think about it and try something else. For once.

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About the Author

Hey! I'm Martha, and I help creative people understanding and solving mental and creative blocks through blog posts about film, series, and creativity, as well as through a creative coaching website (marthasm.com) just dedicated to this topic.