It can often feel like everyone else has mastered the art of self-confidence, and being sure of themselves, and yet you feel like you’re the only one who hasn’t. But you’re not. It turns out we all have doubts from time to time. And whilst this is normal, low self-esteem can really hold you back, leaving you feeling insecure and unmotivated.
I know this because this past year has been a constant confidence battle for me. I went from being super confident to then waking up with facial paralysis after brain surgery. Navigating my ‘new normal’ has been rockier than I imagined. I thought I’d ride it out and just accept that I’d be confident again when my face was back to normal. But this ‘when, then’ game is a dangerous one to play and can keep you from living in the moment and accepting right now.
And that’s exactly what lack of self-confidence can cause. It holds you back from pursuing your dreams and living your potential. By raising your self-esteem, and keeping it high, you’ll have a positive world view and feel deserving of good things in life. Not only will you be able to overcome your fears, you’ll also feel more encouraged and motivated to go after more.
The good news is that there are things you can do to increase your self-confidence. You can become someone worthy of respect and love. You can become someone who goes after what they want regardless of what others say. And you can become someone that doesn’t rely on the validation of others.
The way to do this is by taking control of your life and adopting a few of the steps below to increase self-confidence. They’ve helped coax me back out of my post-surgery shell and I hope they’ll be as effective for you.
1. WRITE YOUR OWN STORY.
Decide how you want it to be told and how it will end. Accept your current situation but know that you can also change the narrative and remove any limiting beliefs. Repeat positive affirmations and write down as many positive things as you can about yourself. Acknowledge that whilst you might have limited control over what happens to you in life, you can still control your reactions.
2. QUIETEN YOUR INNER CRITIC.
We all have one – that negative, nagging voice telling us we’re not enough; not tall enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not attractive enough. Notice how you speak to yourself, become aware of when you’re hard on yourself and stop the criticism in it’s tracks. Replace the little voice with more positive, helpful and constructive thoughts.
3. AVOID THE COMPARISON TRAP.
Remember that we all go at our own paces and life really isn’t a race. Scrolling social media doesn’t help and the comparison to others can lead to anxiety, stress and depression. But people usually only share the best part of their lives and what you see isn’t always the reality. There will always be someone that will seem to have more than you or be better at something than you. So instead, focus on how far you’ve come. Compare yourself to yourself and of how you can, and have, improved at something.
4. DRESS FOR SUCCESS.
There’s such a thing as ‘enclothed cognition.’ It’s a concept that explains how the clothes we wear affect what we think about ourselves, how we engage with others and how we perform certain tasks. This doesn’t mean you need to break the bank on a complete new wardrobe. But simply wear things that make you feel good. Chances are your self-confidence will increase, as will your ability to handle tasks at work, the gym or in new social situations when you feel good about yourself and appearance.
5. CELEBRATE THE SMALL WINS.
Know that 1% of progress everyday really does add up. Start celebrating the small wins and focus on your strengths and achievements whenever you start to doubt your greatness and feel as though you’re failing. You don’t need to aim high straight away. Instead, set small achievable goals and let yourself feel good for accomplishing them. With each achievement, your self-confidence will grow even more as you realise you are capable and can do something.
6. GET BETTER AT SOMETHING.
This follows on from celebrating the small wins. Increase your capabilities even by setting aside just 15 mins a day to improve on something. If there is something you’ve always wanted to get better at – for example writing or public speaking – then take small steps each day towards practicing it. The gradual improvement will boost your self-confidence massively.
7. MOVE YOUR BODY.
Not only is moving your body amazing for mental health, it’ll also help you think positively, feel better about the future and more encouraged about life by enhancing your mood. Regular exercise is also likely to strengthen and tone your body which will improve self-confidence. As you start to see the physical results, you’ll begin to feel better about how you look.
8. BE KIND.
Volunteering and helping others within your community will provide a natural sense of pride and achievement. Signing up to volunteer can take you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to face your fears like social interaction. Doing something good will also provide a major boost to self-esteem by placing less focus on your own issues.
9. SLOW YOUR SPEECH.
One of the first signs of a lack in self-confidence is fast speech. It screams that you don’t feel as though what you have to say is worth listening to. Even if you don’t feel confident right away, slow your speech down and notice how it makes you feel instantly.
10. THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS.
I know first-hand that this can sometimes be easier said than done. Yet it’s true that replacing negative thoughts with positive ones really can lead us towards greatness. Instead of thinking of all the ways in which something can go wrong, start focusing on what’s going right. Change your internal language and practice positivity until it becomes a natural thought process.
11. PICTURE THE OUTCOME.
It’s normal to feel fearful as soon as we put ourselves in a situation that is unpredictable and uncertain. But we’re prone to instantly think of all the ways this can go wrong. Instead, picture the situation going well and actually feel the way you hope to afterwards. Act ‘as-if’ the outcome you want has already been achieved. This self-assurance prepares the brain for success and you’re far more likely to feel confident when going into the situation.
12. REALLY GET TO KNOW YOURSELF.
Keep a journal and embark on expressive writing. Write without pause about how you’re feeling and spend time reflecting on who you are. Understand why you perceive yourself the way you do and keep an eye on your thoughts. Listen to how you really think about yourself then incorporate different coping mechanisms, such as positive thinking, to be completely authentic and honest with yourself, and others too.
13. ACCEPT YOUR IMPERFECTIONS.
Know that we aren’t born perfect. Embrace your flaws, learn to live with them and focus your attention on what you love about yourself. Write a list of your strengths and focus on them when you start to doubt your greatness.
14. STRAIGHTEN UP.
Pull your shoulders back. Stand tall. Open your chest and lift your head up. Take a few deep breaths and notice instantly how much this “confidence posture” can make you feel more equipped and ready to handle a situation.
15. LOOK FOR THE SOLUTIONS.
See the opportunity in every situation and seek to find a solution to every problem you have. If your problem is that you ‘feel fat’ or that you’re not motivated, or you’re not very good at something, ask yourself: how can I change that? If a new problem or ‘but’ arises, continue to ask “well how do I change that?” See that you have choices and can always choose to find the solution.