How can a person develop a renewal of the self if he didn’t “believe” in himself as a child?
Firstly we need to understand properly what the concept of self-confidence is. It doesn’t mean simply that a person “believes” and is “confident” in himself. A person has no intrinsic power of his own, without Hashem. Rather, self-confidence means that a person needs to believe that Hashem gave him certain abilities and capabilities, which he is able to actualize from their potential. From this point onward, “self-confidence” and “believing in oneself” will be described here in that context.
It is well-known that every person is created with a different nature than another. Each person has different aspects of personality and differing abilities. One’s personal avodah is to reveal his hidden potential powers, to serve the Creator. Herein is the root of the matter which we will discuss here, which we shall explain, with siyata d’shmaya.
A person came to develop a lack of self-confidence if, in the course of his life, he has consistently tried to perform above his actual energies, and therefore he wasn’t successful with his approach; or, if he didn’t act in a way that would have enabled him to actualize his potential, and therefore he doesn’t feel satisfied enough from his successes [he may seem successful on the outside, but deep down he doesn’t feel connected to what he does and he feels that he is simply not “being himself”].
Each person grows up in a certain environment, family, neighborhood, yeshiva/school, shul, etc. Each of these factors contribute to certain socially accepted norms and achievements which a person needs to do, and in order for one to become “accepted” in that environment, one needs to live in a way that corresponds with these “rules”. When one grows up in an environment where all of these “rules” are not aligned with his personality, in most instances one will still try to conform to the situation. Sometimes this is because a person doesn’t recognize himself well enough to know what is really good for him, and sometimes he does identify that certain things are not good for him yet he is prepared to do whatever he needs to, in order to become accepted in his environment. There are also things which do not depend on environment, but there is still a certain level of talent which is considered “normal” to have, and if one has any less than the “required” amount, he is in danger. In any case, when a person sees himself as being less capable than whatever is considered normal and socially acceptable, he begins to feel that he cannot be successful in the particular area, and then he despairs from even what he is capable of doing, and his energies contract, more and more. When he sees that his capabilities are not of value, he stops using them, and they contract. As a result, he stops acting according to his capabilities.
When the years pass as one keeps up this approach, the soul will perceive more and more that it is not capable of succeeding, and even if the reality is that this is only true about certain details, it can cause his soul to get a general feeling of being incapable [when one isn’t aware of what’s happening to his psyche]. This will certainly be the case when others criticize him and tell him explicitly that he isn’t successful. This is a common reason for lack of self-confidence.
Therefore, a person has to understand well that success is defined by “a person who does everything according to his natural capabilities.” Success does not have any superficial form which applies equally to all people. (There are some people who will have difficulty admitting to this, and they should begin with the next step.) One needs to begin recognizing the aspects of personality in his soul: his capabilities and his weaknesses. Then he can begin to access the unique portion which has been given to him from Hashem. The more a person acts from who he really is, and he succeeds in actualizing his potential, the more he will believe in himself and begin to feel more and more confident when he does things, that he is able to do whatever “I” can really do in this situation.
One should write down a list of everything he hasn’t been able to succeed in throughout the years as much as he would have liked to, and then make a list of things that he has seen success in. One should then clarify which of these successes were really “me”, and which of them came from the outside. Any successes and capabilities which are really “me” should be continued, and one should train himself to gradually desist from putting effort into anything that isn’t really “me”.