Confidence. Whether you have a lot or a little, it’s always a hot topic of debate – at work, in your personal life, in your sex life, as a parent.
If you feel like you lack confidence in one or more aspects of your life, let me offer some solace: you’re not alone. A 2019 study carried out by YouGov showed that around 1 in 3 Britons does not feel confident in him or herself, and that women tend to feel more insecure than men about their personality, relationship with friends and family, self-image, work ability.
You can feel better no matter what.
Knowing where your lack of confidence comes from is not necessary to improve on it. And that’s amazing, because it means you don’t have to sit and sift through your past trauma to make a change. You can start today, and here’s how:
1) Think yourself confident.
Ever heard of the expression ‘fake it till you make it’? Good, because it works! By “faking it”, you trick your mind into showcasing the best version of you, and people respond to that, and you respond to their response, and opportunities open up for you, fuelling a positive circle. The other bonus is that by thinking you got it, you have no time to think you don’t got it, and fuel the circle of insecurity and low self-esteem.
Try it this technique: Next time you’re feeling your confidence falter, pull your shoulders back, stand straight, and channel someone whose confidence you really admire, and who would surely know what to do in this moment. How would Ariana Huffington answer this question? How would Barack Obama write an email? What would Lizzo say when talking about herself?
2) Silence ‘The Editor’
The Editor, also known as your Inner Critic, or the Impostor, is that nagging little voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough, you can’t succeed, everyone is secretly laughing at you. The Editor will take a tiny failure or misunderstanding and blow it out of proportion. Interestingly, The Editor never celebrates your tiny successes or wins into big achievements.
Try this technique: Next time the Editor tells you you’re not good enough, take a piece of paper and write down three constructive and positive facts about you that you know to be true. For example: you don’t feel good enough at work. Write about a past project you did well in. Write about your ability to work with others. Write about your ability to learn new topics. When you surround yourself with empirical proof you don’t suck, the Editor tends to be silenced.
3) Reframe your weaknesses
Unless you’re Cher, you probably have some imperfections, weaknesses, or things you just don’t love about yourself. And that’s OK. Super old-school psychology was big in repressing these feelings down, more recent trends pushed you to accept them and love them, but now, in 2020, we just … let them be, and think of them differently. Reframing is huge in NLP, allowing you to see the same situation with different eyes.
Try this technique: What if instead of feeling insecure about a work presentation, you felt curious about it, and you thought of cool ways to entertain a room? What if instead of feeling negatively about your body, you felt gratitude for its strength and ability to withstand pain? What if instead of not having succeeded, you simply haven not succeeded yet?
4) Take stock of your strengths, and celebrate!
OK, so you are objectively not very good with Excel. Maybe you’re not a patient baker. Maybe you’re not the most engaging speaker.
But what are you good at? Concentrate on that. Celebrate that. Make it a habit to reward yourself for your successes with words of praise or things that make you feel good. Then read it over and over again to remind yourself on days your confidence falters.
Try this technique:
Buy a journal, and keep stock of all the times you are proud, you feel empowered, successful, you ace meetings, you feel loved and accepted by your group or your family. Aim at writing once a week at least, then challenge yourself to write something positive about yourself every day.
5) Stay away from confidence-suckers
We all know someone who thinks his/her well-being is acquired by bashing others. This person might be someone who sees your life as a bit of a disaster no matter what, who doesn’t accept your choices or views, who only has a kind word for themselves. And you don’t need that.
The same is true of tasks, clothes, sports, or jobs.
Stay away from trying to squeeze in a size 2 dress that used to fit when you were prepubescent. If it doesn’t fit you anymore, donate it and take your new-size-self to the shops. All it’s going to do is make you think your body has somehow failed to maintain its shape.
If you’re in an environment that praises mathematical ability, but your passion and penchant is the English language, all that’s going to do is make you think you’re not intelligent.
Try this technique: Unsure if a person or thing is sucking your confidence? Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and place your hands on your tummy (or when you usually feel anxiety or stress). Think of the person or thing you’re unsure about, and listen to how your body responds. Your tummy is a great indicator of those feelings you are yet to make sense of, but that your instinct knows are bad for you.
In knots when thinking of your current job? Ask yourself why.
6) Care less about what others think of you
People’s (negative) opinions about you have nothing to do with you. Your confidence will come from knowing you have done right by you, not by someone else. Trying to please others takes time away from trying to please yourself. Equally, we often assume we know what others think and feel about us, and that’s quite unfair. Imagine if someone else decided your thoughts for you. Would you like that?
Try this technique: When you find yourself plagued by other’s opinions, put yourself in their shoes and flip the situation. Are they plagued by your opinion of them? And if they still don’t like you or care for you, can your life still continue?
7) Be direct
Want something done by a certain time? Ask for it.
Unhappy with someone’s behaviour? Speak up.
Need to write an important email? Do so without writing sorry, perhaps or could I possibly every three words.
Asking for what you need, or saying what you want in the most straightforward way will not only make you more efficient and confident, it will waste less of yours (and everyone else’s) time.
Try this technique: Next time you write an email, double-check for sentences that make you sound dubious or insecure. Remove any apology that doesn’t need to be there.
Next time you want something, challenge yourself to ask it in 15 words or less (this is great in relationships and sex too; if you want something different from your lover or in bed, say it straight)
8) Don’t compare yourself to others
They say ‘comparison is the thief of joy’, and whether you think you might be better or worse than someone else, it’s a pretty pointless exercise to do. Comparing yourself to someone whose journey or abilities are not like yours is an unfair test – it would be like racing against Usain Bolt, and then being upset that he was a little better.
Try this technique: If you want to challenge yourself and need stimulation or accountability, be your own motivation. Today you can do better than yesterday. Tomorrow better than today. It’s always and only You VS You.
This might seem like a given, but if you don’t like your appearance, don’t think your presentation skills are up to scratch, or think that your socialising could use a refresher, then do so! There is absolutely no shame in realising you’re not good at something and you need to improve it.
Try this technique: Pick out the one thing you’re not feeling confident about. What do you need to improve it? Where can you find the resources? Who could you ask for help? How much money would it cost?
A more confident and empowered you is hiding somewhere underneath your insecurities. It’s time to go unearth your best self out! And remember – practice makes perfect!