Despite the accompanying feelings of inadequacy, fear, and uncertainty, a lack of confidence is one of the better problems to have.
That’s because it’s entirely within your control.
We tend to get hung up on ‘feeling confident’ because our experience of lacking confidence is tied up with negative emotion (it feels awful when your confidence has crashed and burned).
But although confidence is experienced as a ‘feeling’, it is created and reinforced by ‘doing’: your actions, your experiences, and your interpretation of both. What you do, see, hear and think all contribute to your confidence (or lack thereof), and changing any of these factors will give you an immediate boost.
Let’s take an example: you always ‘feel confident’ when you wear a particular outfit. What goes into that ‘feeling’?
Before you found out that the outfit ‘makes you feel confident,’ you had to put it on.
The same principle applies to every potential confidence-building activity out there. You’re not sure whether you can accomplish something. You try it. You find that it’s difficult, and try harder. When you manage to do it, your confidence soars, and next time you have to do something difficult, you have a memory of success to drive you forwards.
Of course, there’s a risk that it doesn’t work, which is often what most holds us back from trying. But (as the saying goes), if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
There’s no way round it. The best way to increase your confidence is to take action.
Just Do It Tips
- Accept you’re never going to feel 100 per cent ready
- Fake it ‘til you make it: Smile, stand up straight. When people see and treat you as a confident person, it will help you become one.
- Start to see new challenges as an opportunity to build your confidence.
- Ask yourself: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What’s the worst that can happen?
- Pick one thing that scares you every day, and do it. Write it down on a piece of paper, and put it in a jar. Read all of them every month or so for an instant confidence boost.
That outfit, the one that ‘makes you feel confident’ – do you look good in it?
Even if you felt confident before you looked in the mirror, visual confirmation probably helped.
Confirmation reinforces our thoughts. It reassures us that our thoughts and the external world are part of the same reality; when you meet someone who has experience of doing or being something you want to do or be, it proves that your dreams are at least possible.
Seeing someone do what you want to do makes your brain say: ‘If she can do it, maybe I can do it too.’
Seeing is believing, and finding role models will give you confidence in the possibility of reaching your goals.
Seeing is believing tips
- Keep an active look-out for role models, those who you identify with, or who have followed similar paths.
- Don’t get stuck on finding the ‘perfect’ role model. Instead, keep an eye out for aspects of a number of different individuals’ leadership style, track record or personal characteristics – and use that to build a picture to aspire to.
- Can’t find a role-model? You’re looking for inspiration, not an exact replica of yourself. Look outside your organisation and sector.
- Remember: You can look up to someone without putting yourself down. It’s not a hierarchy, and there’s room for both of you to be successful.
If you walked around in that outfit thinking, “God, I look awful,” would you still feel confident?
Unlikely. Even if you look good, if you don’t think you do, your confidence will plummet.
On an average day, 95 per cent of our thoughts are unconscious and habitual, and 80 per cent of those thoughts are negative.
We are hard-wired to remember negative experiences so that we don’t repeat them by accident. On top of that, almost all of our thoughts are informed by messages and patterns of behaviour that we carry from childhood.
If you don’t exert conscious effort to counter negative thoughts, your brain puts the negative thoughts on auto-pilot.
While ‘I can’t do this’ is just a thought, if you tell yourself anything frequently enough, it will become your reality.
Think Confident Tips
- Try an affirmation. Confidence begins with the thought: ‘I absolutely can do this.’ Repetition of positive thoughts leads to habitual positive thinking.
- Keep a confidence journal: Before you go to bed, write down three things that you’re proud of from your work and life that day. Just beneath, set three intentions to challenge yourself for the next day, and keep your confidence growing.
- Instead of trying to stop negative thinking abruptly, try a counter-argument: “Well, I may not be the best at…but I’m fantastic at…”
That outfit, the one you always feel confident in–has anyone complimented you on it before? We’re human beings, and praise makes us feel good.
Similarly, when you’re doing something that scares you, hearing praise can reassure you of your capabilities. However, the praise should be the icing on the cake.
You’ll never be able to control the quality, quantity, or intention behind feedback. If your confidence is contingent on praise, it will come crashing down as soon as someone criticises you.
Many of us brush off praise, and store up criticism to worry about later. To build and reinforce your confidence, try seeking plenty of opportunities to listen to feedback properly, accepting that negative feedback is inevitable, and absorbing praise.
- To make sure you absorb positive feedback, write it down. Record how you felt before you took action as well, to encourage yourself to take the leap in future.
- Set yourself up for success. If you ask ‘So what did you think of that?’, you’re asking for general thoughts, and many people are naturally disposed to critique. If you ask ‘What worked for you about [my presentation, my idea]?’, you’re asking for strengths-based feedback.
- Practice accepting compliments and positive feedback gracefully. Smile, say ‘Thank you’ – then shut up! No more qualifiers or brush-offs. If someone congratulates you on your hard work, and you say ‘It was nothing’, it may sound a lot like ‘I didn’t try that hard’ or ‘Go away’.
When you realise that confidence is a skill to be developed rather than a feeling to be chased, you side-step the most common confidence saboteur: comparing yourself to others.
To be confident is to feel capable; to trust yourself and have faith in your abilities.
The only way to build lasting confidence: counter the thought, ‘I can’t do it’ with, ‘I absolutely can do it’; prove yourself right by taking action; and reinforce your confidence by seeing results and absorbing praise. Then, do it again.