Q: I have very little confidence. I am afraid to make decisions and even if I do, I am afraid to stick to them. Can you tell me why and what, if anything, I can do about this?
A: At approximately the age of eighteen months to two years, a child begins to develop independence. They begin to explore their world on their own and move small distances away from the security of the familiar. When watching children of this age play in a park, for instance, they will go off on their own but frequently return to the caregiver for reassurance. If the caregiver is not where the child expects them to be, the child will become frantic. In order for self confidence to develop the child must be able to make these small moves out in safety and with the support of the parent. If the child repeatedly returns and either, finds the caregiver indifferent to their absence or are met with disapproval and shaming, they will they will be frightened of attempting further acts of independence.
A good, loving parent will support the child’s exploration while setting safe boundaries. “Healthy parents do not have a need for the child to stay dependent and helpless or to be completely self-reliant.” Children who are not allowed this freedom and given this support, grow up frightened of life. They are not confident in their ability to manage challenges successfully and they are afraid that if they show any assertiveness, they will be rejected. They fear that, like the child in the park, if they express their own wishes or feelings, they will meet with disapproval and shame and loose the love, support and approval of the person they are with. I would suggest that, for whatever reason, this may be what happened to you.
In counselling with a qualified psychotherapist, who is aware of the developmental stages and their significance, you can repair the areas of derailment. You will have to have a therapist with whom you can establish a strong rapport, develop trust and safety. You will have to be allowed and encouraged to explore your feelings and views in a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere, which provides you with guidance, support and protection. The right psychotherapist will know how to bring you to the point where you can develop confidence in yourself and your decisions and gain fulfillment in your life.