“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value” Carol Dweck
Confidence is essentially self -efficacy plus optimism; the degree to which you believe in your skills combined with how positive your outlook is.
In my last blog What is confidence anyway? I talked about taking action anyway even if your levels of confidence are low. Susan Jeffers famous book ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ puts it so simply. And that’s often how confidence shows up, as fear wrapped up as low confidence.
Here’s a truth bomb
You ARE going to have periods of low self-confidence.
It’s just part of the human experience. Like all other emotional states that we experience, our levels of confidence will ebb and flow, peak and trough. It’s just what happens. Just knowing that can help people be more accepting of the challenging times. This too shall pass.
But if you are someone who has not got time to sit with it is possible to develop and increase self-confidence by taking a proactive approach. Here are three things you can do to nurture and build your confidence so that you can grab your next set of goals with both hands.
Adopt a Growth Mindset
Everyone has a mind-set, you may not be aware of it and are leaving it to its own devices. A mind-set is merely the established set of attitudes or collection of beliefs that we hold, so take some time to reflect on what they are. The key ones to look out for if you want to promote self-development are what Carol Dweck calls a Growth Mind-set.
People with a Growth mind-set have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. They believe that their basic abilities are a starting point for their potential and that with persistence and practice that they can improve.
In my last article about confidence I talked about the state of confidence arising when we have mastered something. To master something, we have to put in the practice and expose ourselves to whatever it is that we want to feel confident in. I’ll repeat again, feel the fear…
Here are some of the other traits of a growth mind-set:
- basic qualities can and should be cultivated
- change is possible for everyone through application and experience
- the willingness to step outside comfort zones
- persistence, sticking with something even when it isn’t going well
- seeing ‘failure’ as an opportunity to learn
Replace the Negative Self-Talk
I could go on about the inner critic and imposter syndrome, but I will save that for another time and keep this simple.
Just stop being so bloody hard on yourself. It’s not big, and it’s not clever! And if you want to increase your levels of self-confidence, it is not (in my humble opinion) your best go-to strategy!
Here’s the science bit. When you are self-critical, you trigger emotions, and when you ‘feel’ these emotions (which let’s face it aren’t going to be the most pleasant if you are giving yourself a hard time) you trigger a set of chemical responses. The brain will literally change in structure based on how we think.
We release cortisol (stress hormone) which when elevated can actually decrease the volume of the prefrontal cortex associated with positive emotions. You don’t need to be that sharp to see where I am going here.
Talking critically to yourself on a regular basis is going to lead to a feedback loop cycle of stress and anxiety, and that is not a recipe to boost your confidence never mind the impact it has on your physical health.
So what to do instead?
Investing in positive self-talk to create positive thoughts and feelings will help you keep some sense of balance and perspective AND will impact your emotional and physical well-being. Those of you that know my work know that I don’t buy into the happy-clappy philosophy that everything is positive. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses, and it’s important to feel the stuff that is real. What I am talking about is the habits and patterns that form the relationship with yourself and tweaking the way that you talk to yourself.
Just replacing negative stuff with positive isn’t going to work because it won’t feel believable. So start with awareness of the negative, challenge whether it is actually true or not (most cases it won’t be!) and even if the facts are, how could you respond with more compassion, understanding, and encouragement?
Create some psychological distance from yourself by asking yourself questions in the first person such as “Why am I feeling so down on myself?” or ” Why am I feeling so nervous and stressed?” and get a bit more curious vs. critical.
We have all got hundreds of thousands of life experiences, and when we choose to believe that past experiences will determine the future ones, this can impact our levels of confidence going into certain situations. Clearly, there is a double edge to this because if it was a positive experience, then this can be helpful but more often than not we hang onto past experiences that were negative and allow them to stop us in our tracks.
Mindfulness is the practice of awareness and being in the present moment. It’s about noticing thoughts and feelings and responding to them in a deliberate and non-judgemental way. Watch them come in, don’t get attached and choose to stay in the present moment.
Whatever has gone before this is a new moment and you have the power to create a new experience.
Self- confidence is just like a muscle. You have to work the contributing elements to develop and grow it. You wouldn’t go to the gym once, do a few bicep curls and expect guns like Arnie. There will be areas of your life where you are really confident and areas that you are not, and it’s going to take consistent and focused attention to develop it to the next level.
Remember, confidence is not about always being right; it’s about not fearing being wrong.