Lets take a close look at the subject of Self Confidence for a while. There no need for a definition, as we all understand more or less what it is. We are also usually alert to recognizing self-confidence in those we meet. Having a healthy level of self-confidence is really critical to your overall personal development. It’s a big part of our ‘foundation’ that supports us when life throws us a curve ball and your equilibrium get knocked around.
Before we start looking at the steps we can take to build up our confidence, I want to take a moment to distinguish between genuine self-confidence and fake self-confidence. Please don’t assume that if someone you meet appears confident that they really are. There is a whole range of ‘coping mechanisms’ that people use to ‘appear’ confident when they are really emotionally insecure. People can often be loud, brash and exhibit arrogance as a way of displaying their confidence in public. This is not genuine self-confidence and you should not be taken in by it. Its there to impress the impressionable!
People with real self-confidence do not need to manipulate what others think. They take action and others can judge it for themselves. I would rather that you work on developing real self-confidence and let others keep trying the “fake it till you make it” approach.
So, here are 6 of the most important steps you can take to build real self-confidence.
1. Stand up straight, shoulders back and dress smartly.
We have to start with the basics because they are so important to the way you will feel about yourself. If you are hunched over; hair overdue for a wash and cut; how can you even start to change. This first step could also be titled “Care for Yourself”. It’s where self esteem starts. Low self-esteem will not build self-confidence. Doing the basics with your posture and grooming will strengthen your mood and make you ready for the next steps.
2. Start to listen carefully to your own thoughts.
Begin to recognize every time you find yourself having negative self-talk. If needed, you can even keep a small notebook with you and jot down the basic details, like time, date and the thought (or action) that happened. Be like the detective who is recording the facts to review later. Do you see a pattern developing? Maybe you find yourself backing away from opportunities almost as an automatic reflex. Now you know what to tackle in the third step.
3. Pick one thing that scares you, then go do it.
Every journey begins with a single step. Just pick one thing and do it. Then congratulate yourself, and the next day do another. Then repeat. Sounds simple, but that’s just how confidence is built. The task that you complete cannot continue to scare you when its faced and defeated. It took me a couple of years to get over my fear of public speaking. But, I just stated to practice with a small group of family and friends. We would all laugh and make fun of each other’s tongue-tied screw-ups. I then progressed to larger groups and soon found myself enjoying the challenge. Sure I was still anxious, but I wasn’t running for the exit either!
4. Practice gratitude and help others.
Here is a bit of counter intuitive logic for you to contemplate… When your self-confidence is low, there is a natural tendency to assume that you cannot help others when you are struggling just to help yourself. Also, there is usually a tendency to focus more on what is wrong in your life than what is right. Practicing gratitude for all the good things that you have in your life, in a very mindful and contemplative way, can be a very humbling experience. It is also a great way to counter feelings of self-pity. Now combine this with helping someone else in some way (like tutoring). When you are forced to forget about yourself and your weaknesses and faults for a while you will soon start to see your self-confidence grow in the process.
5. Build your knowledge and competence.
If you have a passion for something, or even just an interest, then you should find the time and means to grow your competence in that subject area. Start out by visualizing yourself becoming more knowledgeable. See yourself becoming the person you would be proud of. Now, find a way to study and practice as you move towards your goal. Start small if you have to, but the most important thing is to start and keep going.
A good friend of mine told me once that she kept a small card in her purse. On it was written one word “Resilience”. Why that word? Because every time she felt like giving up on her dreams, she would take out the card and read it to herself. It reminded her that she is tougher than any of the problems (temporarily) blocking her progress.
6. Change your thinking habits.
This is a BIG one so listen up. This will take time, but you must start to practice new thinking habits and give up on old habits that are not serving you well. This goes beyond stopping the negative self-talk going on in our minds. Low self-confidence will typically mean that when a new challenge appears, your thought process is focused on the ‘problem’ inherent in the challenge rather than the possibility of a ‘solution’.
So when we feel our confidence lacking, we need to be prepared with a list of probing questions for ourselves. For example; “What else could I do that would achieve the same result?” If I’m lacking some thing or skill, how can I get what I need to move forward?’ “What next steps can I take?” What I am suggesting is a very subtle change in our thinking habits; but by shifting our focus from the problem to finding solutions we can create a tremendous flow on effect in the growth of our self-confidence.
I really hope that you get some fresh inspiration from this list. Of course there are many more exercises you can use to help to build your confidence. Personal affirmation statements also have their place in this process however, in my experience, these 6 are the most useful steps for most people who want to see real progress.
If you enjoyed this article, you should also check out The Importance of Personal Development.