Self-Confidence and Brain Injury - Fact Sheet
How we feel about ourselves can plummet after a
brain injury due to many different causes.
A brain injury can directly lead to depression and fatigue which
have a major impact on self-esteem. A group of brain injury
survivors once met to discuss and find strategies for issues such
as self-confidence. They felt that one felt confident when having a
purpose to life, feeling loved, doing well in your chosen role,
having hope for the future and being content with who you were.
Brain disorders such as traumatic brain injury were seen as
impacting on every issue discussed, with the result that
self-confidence was always a problem following a brain injury.
FACTORS INFLUENCING SELF-CONFIDENCE
The group found that the degree of understanding shown by people
close to them and the reaction of the general public made a big
difference to how they felt about themselves. Families who
understood the effects of the brain injury and were supportive
instead of critical played a major part in the brain injury
survivor feeling more confident. This issue was a difficult one
when there were no outward visible signs of a brain injury, such as
a wheelchair or facial scarring. In these cases families were more
likely to be critical of the survivor's cognitive problems.
Those who constantly compared their current situation and
Acquired Brain Injurylities with their situation before the
acquired brain injury had more trouble with self-confidence, as did
those who could not cope with negative comments from others.
Assertion was seen as critical in becoming more confident. Many
felt that they tended either to being resentful and sullen, or
became abusive and aggressive in conflict situations.
The passive approach was seen as letting others "stand on" them
and push them around. It also involves agreeing with others despite
personal feelings. This often led to resentment and levels of
distress building up over time.
The aggressive approach was viewed as people "getting their own
way" by arguing, making demands, threatening and generally stepping
on others. Although people who use this approach may get their own
way a lot of the time, others often did not want to be around
They discussed how the ideal is two-way communication where
problems are solved and the message is put across in a way that
allows people to feel good about themselves. Survivors knew that
they needed to work on communication skills so that they could see
the other person's viewpoint and know how to approach topics
The group agreed that body language was an important part of
being assertive, including: maintaining eye contact, straight body
posture and calm speech.
Sometimes it helped to practise what they had to say to someone
COMMUNICATION SKILLS FOR SELF-CONFIDENCE
Survivors often feel that they needed to relearn social skills
lost after their brain injury. As this often leads to losing
friends and having trouble making new ones, this can be a major key
to building up confidence again.
Being prepared to listen to the other
If someone is tired or in a particularly upset mood, it is
better if they calmly tell the other person that they are unable to
listen, rather than trying to listen when unable to concentrate.
The other person may appreciate the suggestion of another time that
will be more suitable.
Listening and clarifying
It was considered important that people give their full
attention when listening and ask for more information when needed,
e.g. 'I don't follow, can you explain more clearly?'.
Acknowledging the other person and listening
This was considered an important part of letting the other
person know they have been heard and understood. The best way to do
this is by acknowledging their ideas and feelings, e.g. nodding or
saying 'I realise that you must be really frustrated about this
too', or, 'I can see where you are coming from'.
PERSONAL STRATEGIES FOR SELF-CONFIDENCE
People who have survived a traumatic brain injury or
similar brain disorder have suggested the following
personal strategies for feeling better about themselves:
- Choose to spend time with positive people, not negative
- Become more self-aware and get rid of negative, unhealthy,
- Take up hobbies you will enjoy
- Set realistic goals and recognise small gains and
- Learn problem-solving skills to handle the bad times
- Help someone else
- Practise relaxation
- Write a poem or verse that has personal meaning for you
- Work on meeting new people and improving existing
- Make a plan for keeping in contact with others, and do
something social every week
- Be assertive and communicate your needs to others - not
aggressive or passive
- Persist despite setbacks
- Join a support group for survivors
- Look after your health by eating well, exercising and getting
- Use humour and see the funny side of things
- Accept personal limitations while aiming towards
- Get into positive books and movies (e.g. Power of One,
- Grasp opportunities, experience life and make the most of
Some survivors have found mantras useful. These are personal
statements or affirmations that can help you get through a tough
time. Some examples are:
- If I change my thoughts I can change my world
- If it is to be, it's up to me
- Always stop and think before you act
- Learning is an active process and I will learn by doing
- Actions speak louder than words.
Many take comfort in the centuries-old prayer:
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the