Self-confidence is based on a belief that your abilities will allow you to realize a goal and protect yourself against the consequences of failure and negative evaluation by others. As long as your clients have a firm belief in their competency, they are protected from the sabotage of uncertainty, self-questioning, and concern about failure.
However, regarding the context of the experience, their belief in competence declines in front of a group. Technically, we can say that the self-confidence frame of reference or cognitive map is replaced by a vulnerability frame of reference.
♦ Vulnerability Mode in Private vs. Public
The change in context from private to public is responsible for changing your client's frame of reference, the individual's belief in his or her own competence. This change in content also affects the quality of their performance. The vulnerability mode may have some merit in protecting the immature child lacking in social skills from exposing himself to ridicule, but its persistence after the person has acquired competence, is generally counterproductive. So how do you get your client to recognize and change from their vulnerability mode?
♦ Experience and Vulnerability
The notion of self-confidence and competence can be further clarified if we examine the difference between a veteran soldier and a fresh recruit. Those of you who have treated past clients can relate to the following. The "green" soldier exposed to combat may well be swamped by a sense of vulnerability. He loses his mental focus due to the danger aspects of combat and focuses on his deficiencies. He finds it difficult to concentrate on the details of his assignment -- for example, a scouting mission. Moreover, when confronted with an unexpected danger, his available life-preservative mechanisms are limited to the primal responses: flee, freeze, collapse, which he must overcome if he is to function at all.
The experienced soldier, in contrast, has a confident task-oriented frame of reference or cognitive map. She is concerned with maximizing the probabilities of surviving, mastering the challenge, and utilizing her skills. When confronted with an unexpected danger, she is already programmed to respond appropriately, presumably because previous exposure and practice in adaptive responses have forestalled the activation of a debilitating anxiety response. Moreover, her confidence precludes activation of the vulnerability map or frame of reference, which would predispose the client to the anxiety response.
Why is the experienced professional or veteran able to respond to his or her specialized emergencies without the activation of the vulnerability frame of reference and resulting anxiety behavior? The reason is that their cognitive map, or frame of reference, in situations that other people would regard as threatening, is essentially directed toward problem solving rather than toward anxiety. His or her "reflexes" are not hindered by anxiety.
Think of a past client you have treated; if not a soldier, it might be an abused child, rape victim, or battered wife. How does their frame of reference or cognitive map operate? Is it one of vulnerability or confidence and task-orientedness?
♦ Shifting from Vulnerable to Confident
How do you shift your vulnerable client to confident?
The problem of retaining confidence is related to several factors:
1. The strength of the belief in one's own confidence counteracts vulnerability.
2. The change in context from non-evaluative to evaluative may increase the sense of vulnerability.
3. The introduction of questions regarding the consequences of failure will change the client's frame of reference from being one of danger-oriented to one of problem-oriented.
As you know, adopting a confident attitude involves focusing on the positives in a situation, minimizing the negatives, and often assuming that one has greater control than one actually has. This mind set usually maximizes the probability of success and neutralizes an attitude of vulnerability.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Chandler, A. B., & Lawrence, E. (2021). Covariations among attachment, attributions, self-esteem, and psychological aggression in early marriage. Journal of Family Psychology.
Mahadevan, N., Gregg, A. P., & Sedikides, C. (2021). Self-esteem as a hierometer: Sociometric status is a more potent and proximate predictor of self-esteem than socioeconomic status. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Rentzsch, K., Erz, E., & Schütz, A. (2021). Development of short and ultra-short forms of the Multidimensional Self-Esteem Scale: Relations to the Big Five, narcissism, and academic achievement in adults and adolescents. European Journal of Psychological Assessment.
Rudolph, A., Schröder-Abé, M., Riketta, M., & Schütz, A. (2010). Easier when done than said!: Implicit self-esteem predicts observed or spontaneous behavior, but not self-reported or controlled behavior. Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 218(1), 12–19.
Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 213–240.
Weinberg, M., Besser, A., Zeigler-Hill, V., & Neria, Y. (2015). Dispositional optimism and self–esteem as competing predictors of acute symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders and dissociative experiences among civilians exposed to war trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 7(1), 34–42.
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