Debbie’s daughter, Carrie, is in her second year of high school, and Debbie offered to help organize the school’s annual spring fundraiser. She’s regretting her decision because one of the other mothers, Laura, is a former high school rival, and Debbie is remembering all the times she felt the need to compete with Laura for friends and recognition. Laura’s experience as a part-time event planner makes her better equipped to handle the job at hand; because of Laura’s work connections, it has been easy to book a location, find caterers, and hire entertainment. All of the other volunteers are delighted by how easily the event is coming together, but Debbie is focusing on how little she’s been able to contribute.

As Debbie compares herself to Laura, she fears she isn’t measuring up; moreover, she is certain that Laura and the others are judging her harshly. Debbie is frustrated and has decided she hates fundraising. She blames herself for volunteering in the first place, even though she did it so Carrie would feel special. Once again, she has tried so hard to be liked, in hopes that the others will say good things about her.   

Clinical Considerations
Debbie doesn’t realize how she has repeatedly put herself in these painful situations. Her hyper-awareness about how people view her—or how she thinks they view her—started in childhood, when her mother’s focus on her having the right friends and a good reputation felt like love. Her mother’s need to keep Debbie dependent on her for affirmation and validation has interfered with Debbie’s ability to develop self-confidence of her own. As a result, Debbie continues this cycle of dependence, allowing others to shape how she feels about herself. 

What Debbie doesn’t realize is that the thoughts she believes others are having about her are a reflection of her own perception. The competition, loneliness, and distance she feels are created by her certainty that others don’t value her. Breaking this pattern is a difficult shift to make. Debbie wonders how she can resolve her feelings of inadequacy and dependency in order to keep from passing them on to her daughter.

Debbie’s first step in developing self-confidence is to look inside instead of out.