Can Personal Development Lower Your Confidence?

How many people have read a book, watched a video or attended a personal development seminar, and after the initial rush of euphoria began to feel less confident, more stressed and began judging themselves? During these seminars or within the pages of books, some of the things we are told include:

  1. Have a positive outlook on life
  2. Procrastinating can be overcome by action
  3. Believe you are confident and you will act that way
  4. Be less critical of yourself and others
  5. Love yourself first and then others will love you
  6. Forgiveness is the only way to peace

This is only the beginning of the topics that we immerse ourselves in, and while it sounds good, and something we could all aspire to…what happens when you are back home, and your reality sets in?

We can start to feel guilty that we are not doing what we should be doing. We start to judge ourselves that we are not being “positive” in times of turmoil, and worse still, we start to criticize ourselves for not being “all we can be”. This is the time to STOP, take stock of where you are in your life, and understand what it is you CAN do TODAY about your situation.

We are human, and part of being human is that we have a range of emotions that we live through everyday, some uplifting and some destructive if continuously felt and dwelt upon. I may be going against the grain of personal development thoughts here, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with feeling anger, sadness or disappointment in our lives. Shock…horror…….aren’t we always meant to be positive and happy and forgive anyone who has wronged us in order for us to lead happy, healthy lives???????

Yes……and no. Those “negative” emotions come to all of us throughout our lives. If we try to be positive when we are actually angry, if we try to be happy when we are really sad, if we try to be less critical of ourselves and others when in reality there are things to be critical of…..are we helping ourselves or hindering our Improvement Journey?

I will leave you to answer that question for yourself, and speak of my own journey. When I experience those “negative thoughts”, I accept them. It is perfectly alright for me to have moments and times of sadness……….the important words here, are moments. Not days or weeks or years! I allow myself to feel my emotions, and then after a time, look at what I can do about the situation that has bought about those emotions.

If there is something I can do about the situation – I do it. That action may not have an immediate long lasting change, but it does change my state at the time. Going for a walk, speaking with uplifting people, watching a funny movie….anything that allows me to move away from where I have been to where I want to go.

I don’t criticize myself. I give myself a break, and do what I can do. Most importantly, I am aware of what I want to be feeling and achieving, and will not allow myself to wallow endlessly about the same situation time and time again.

Remember that our biggest limitation is ourselves. So, relax, don’t take yourself so seriously and understand that you can DO something to improve your life. What you do is your decision alone……just don’t stay stuck in that range of emotions that keep you from enjoying your life…….and remember that YOU are able to make changes in your life.

Little everyday changes and actions will make a huge difference. Wake up tomorrow and do something different…it may just be the catalyst you have been searching for.

About Brenda

Read more about Brenda on the About Brenda Freeman page.
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31 Responses to Can Personal Development Lower Your Confidence?

  1. Evan says:

    Hi Brenda, like you I question the ‘negative’ label for some emotions.

    I think that, if they are strong, we probably need to find a way to express them (that is safe and respectful for ourselves, others and the furniture).

    I’m also prepared to say that those books and seminars may have a problem. They may not provide sufficient time and space for people to work through the changes they want to make – or even make a plan for how to do this, or even think of a first step. This I think is a major weakness – though whatever the person who wrote the book or organised the seminar does the customer may ignore it.

    Thanks for your post.

    • Brenda says:

      I don’t believe there is anything wrong with “negative emotions”. I know that I can experience a range of emotions, and yes I do label them “negative” or “positive” in relation to myself.

      From my own experience, actively trying to stop feeling these emotions was in itself harmful to me. I now simply accept that it is ok for me to feel these negative emotions and how I am feeling. I allow myself time to feel – the difference is I do not dwell for long periods of time on these emotions. I do what I can to change my state and move on. There is always something that can be acted on to change your situation or your thought patterns.

      This was the purpose of the article, that sometimes courses can make you feel that it is not alright to experience the range of emotions we do as human beings. I don’t mean the courses in themselves were not effective, rather that people MAY feel that there is something wrong with themselves if they weren’t always positive and happy.

  2. Val Wilcox says:

    Very refreshing outlook on your personal development journey. I understand what you’re talking about. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with “trying” to keep all the exercises and techniques going all at once. Stepping back and realizing that it will take baby steps, one at a time, repeatedly, to create your new reality.

    Love it!
    Val 😉

    • Thank you Val. This article came about from people I know who told me their feelings after attending different courses. Whilst they enjoyed the courses and got so much out of them, they began to doubt their own abilities and their confidence began to fall. The more they “tried” – the lower their confidence became.

      They felt guilty when they had anger, and also had difficulty with forgiveness and “trying” to be positive all the time. This in turn, made them doubt their own abilities to change their lives.

      Change does take baby steps….. feel confident in your ability to create your new reality. Well said.

  3. Sue Mitchell says:

    I really agree with you about this, Brenda. Emotions, “positive” or “negative,” are messages. We can listen to and learn from all of them. The trouble comes, as you say, when we get stuck in feelings that hold us back.

    I also agree about the limited usefulness of attending one-time workshops or simply reading a book or watching a video. Changing entrenched thought patterns requires practice and patience.

    The idea is to be moving more closer to acceptance and gratitude and a little further away from attachment and negativity as time goes by, not to have a complete transformation overnight.

    When I see people advertising instant transformation, I’m always very curious…is this just hype or can they really follow through on this promise? I suspect that, as you say, there is an initial sense of transformation followed by reverting to former habits. And when that happens, people tend to blame themselves. Ugh!

    Great post!

    • Thank you Sue. I have had experiences of instant transformation after attending a seminar, but I believe that I was ready for that transformation to happen. So in answer to your question…”is this hype or can they really follow through?” I believe that if the student is ready the teacher will appear! I know in a couple of occasions for myself, this was definitely the case.

      I like your thoughts on moving closer to acceptance and gratitude and further away from attachment and negativity. I have seen people though who are so disappointed (in themselves) when all their negative emotions didn’t just disappear. The purpose of this article was to highlight that as humans we don’t want to lose our ability to “feel” – but to recognize the whole range of feelings we have and be able to take step by step closer to where you want to be and away from those emotions holding us back.

  4. Ilka Flood says:

    Hi Brenda,

    Very interesting post. I agree with you, being stuck in an emotion can really keep you from enjoying life. I know some eeyores out there who constantly are negative. They are not only making their own lives miserable, but bring everyone else around them down with them. They totally miss out on life. It’s heart-breaking!

    When I get in a bad mood or something went wrong, I go for a walk, change the music to something upbeat or take a shower … and wash it all away 🙂

    Great post!


    • Ilka – going for a walk is one of my favorites too. Being out in nature is a wonderful cure for a negative mood.

      Recognizing that it is in your power to do things to change your emotions is one of the greatest steps that you can learn to improve your life.

  5. Cheryl Field says:

    Hello Brenda,

    Thanks for having the gumption to post what you very refreshing, a real person just expecting from herself real experiences. I to believe that emotions are within us and need to be addressed and experience and learnt from. Not shoved intoo the dark recesses of our phyic and covered over with faulse smiles and forced positiveness. Whilst they do play important roles in our life it is just NOT humanity possible or normal to expent oneself to be in a perpetual perfectly positive happy state. THAT is not living your truth or getting to know the essence of who you are. I reckon that looking constantly at oneself (NOT OTHERS) is how we learn the life we want to live and who we are . Don’t know if anyone else agrees or not but you know what, at the end of the day I have to be the one to judge myself and make my changes and to do that I have to know they are right for me. It can be a very individual thing and not everyone can follow the so called `motivational’ way of living totally, we are after all human…. xo thanks again for some great imput to my life I love Mind Recipes

    • Thank you so very much Cheryl, Your comments mean a great deal to me, and I am happy that in a small way Mind Recipes has had an impact on you. Can I also say that your continued support of the site and also through facebook is greatly appreciated.

      I don’t know about having gumption……I just write what I believe in from my own experiences. Whether that ruffles a few feathers or not is out of my control……after all that’s what the post was about – being able to feel your emotions 🙂

  6. Tricia Karp says:

    Brenda, thank you for being so honest and real 🙂

    I completely understand what you are saying. The journey of personal development can be littered with all sorts of “shoulds” and “should-nots” and we are all human. We all have good days and bad days, it’s all normal, and none of it’s better or worse than anything else.

    Judging ourselves and how we feel just buries our truth. There is great power in accepting what’s happening, loving and taking good care of ourselves, honouring our feelings (because sometimes the so-called “negative” feelings carry powerful messages we need to hear), and realising that when times are tough, these too shall pass.

    I’ll definitely be back for more of your words! Thanks again, Tricia.

    • Tricia, I like your thoughts on this – negative feelings carrying powerful messages we need to hear. Sometimes the thing we need to see, feel and experience is the thing we fight most.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  7. Hi Brenda, great blog you have… 🙂

    Life is too short to always be positive, and to feel forgiveness all the time… Yes, I am angry sometimes. Definitely not for a long, but I am in this state sometimes. Also, my past is not perfect. I’ve been there and done that. But I will not get anything if I regret it. I will get nothing if I criticize myself.

    We simply need to understand that we are imperfect. From this state of imperfection growth occurs.

  8. Hi, Brenda!
    I’m fallin’ in love with your blog, knowing you is an inspirational and motivated things to me!

    • Brenda says:

      Thank you so very much Arya. I am privileged to have you here on my blog and also a member of our facebook page. Keep on with your inspiration and motivation 🙂

  9. Hi Brenda,

    I found this post insightful. Good point you made about allowing the “moments,” recognizing them, and then moving on to something more positive. Learning and growing can be such a challenge sometimes but very well worth the fight!

    Roshanda Gilmore

    • Very true Roshanda. I found in my own journey that it is better to acknowledge those moments, and then moving on rather than trying to convince myself that I was positive all the time worked best for me.

      Thanks for your comments and I will look forward to hearing more from you 🙂

  10. Charles says:

    Thank you for your information. I have definitely picked up something new from this.

  11. Ivan says:

    Wonderful blog – good reading

  12. Ellie says:

    I loved reading all your posts and especially this one. I have just come across this site and loving it.

  13. Murray says:

    What a refreshing way to look at personal development. I have attended many seminars and read many books and I know I am gradually improving, but there are times I do revert back and feel guilty – not a good feeling

  14. Meagan says:

    Hello I have just come across your weblog while searching Yahoo and just wanted to say how much I loved reading several of the posts on the weblog, and will be back to take a look again as well as to remark for myself.

  15. Donna says:

    When I first read this post, I had an immediate negative reaction to it. But reading it a second time I understood what you were saying. I am one of those people who get down on myself because “I should know better”. Glad I am not the only one!

  16. Vanessa says:

    Great article – fresh perspective and I agree. No good going to seminars and reading books if you don’t intend to make the changes

  17. Terry says:

    I think any learning is good. But it must be put into practice to make it work

  18. Gerry says:

    Thought provoking article

  19. Seth says:

    Thank you -like this a lot

  20. Gilly says:

    I know what you mean. Have also attended many personal development classes and often see the same people talking about the same issues and then giving out advise to everyone else. My belief is fix your own yard up first. Thank you for your honest approach to this topic. It’s one that has annoyed me and has turned me off attending more programs

  21. Ernest says:

    “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do” ~Anonymous
    Be crazy and thanks for making me think

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