What is confidence and why do some people seem to be more confident? Confidence is a combination of genetic make up but also your attitude and how youor brain processes information around you. The good news os that you can train your brain to promote greater confidence within you.
This may seem counter intuitive but in order to feel supremely confident, it takes courage to be yourself. When we try to be something we are not, we send ourselves messages that we don’t feel good enough as we are. Even the simple art of wearing make up or dressing in designer clothing can send our brains a subconscious message that we need additions in order to feel acceptable. Be aware of these subtle messages.
When you are brave enough to present yourself, warts and all to the world around you, you reality test your views about yourself. You find that, sure there might be some rejection, but that you cope with it and you still get ahead. The more we stay true to ourselves, the greater our confidence grows – it’s as simple a that. We are social creatures and we want to be accepted but it works against us when we try too hard to be accepted and detroy our essential self and our true identity in the process
Rule number one – always be yourself
Stop trying to be something else. Stop people pleasing and learn to say no. Yep, it’s scary but the freedom you will fee by doing this will be immense. The people that stick around will be genuine and will love you for who you are not who you pretend to be. When we pretend we diminish our confidence. In fact we make it almost impossible to be truly confident and at home in our own skin. Authenticity, at its core, is the quality of being fully yourself.
Rule number two – you are enough
Remind yourself that you are enough. Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s a waste of time and we are all so different. When we compare ourselves to others we are always making an inaccurate comparison. We know ourselves, inside and our – we know about that wart on our bum and that fact that we peed ourselves when we were ten in the school yard. We don’t know the nitty gritty of others. We may think they have it all together but how do we know for sure? We compare what we know about ourselves (all the gory details) to the image that others project (all their best bits of course). How can that be useful? All it does is undermine our confidence.Don’t do it – instead compare your own progress. Are you happy with how you are progressing in your own life? Compare where you were, say 2 years ago, to where you are now – far more productive. Let others get on with their stuff, you stay focused on yours.
Rule number three – believe in yourself
Self belief goes hand in hand with confidence. The more you put yourself out there, the more you will fail but the more your self belief will ultimately grow. I know that doesn’t make sense…let me explain.
The more you experiment and try new things, the more likely you are to experience failure, rejection etc BUT you will also realise that you cope with rejection and failure. You don’t die. You still stay alive, lick your wounds and carry on. This actually increases self belief that you can cope with whatever comes your way. It reinforces your competencies as long as you focus on how you have coped instead of focusing on the failures (which pessimists tend to do and who incidentally often have lower levels of self belief and confidence).
Generalised confidence that sticks with you irrespective of who you are with or where you are comes from the above three rules. Liking yourself, being ready to try anything and liking yourself as you are. It can take a but of time to really like yourself. If like me, you had a lot of negative programming as a child, you kind of start on the back foot. It is however still possible to really like yourself and become your number one fan. I get days when self loathing hits me in the face but I can get myself out of that mindset quicker than ever before. I use positive affirmations to help me.
Rule number four – positive affirmations
I use positive self talk more than ever before and I am a lot better at ignoring the inner bully that tells me I am useless. We all have an inner bully but we don’t have to listen to it. Whatever it says gets dismissed as it’s not helpful but my inner bully is ever present. Blah blah it goes and I imagine this sound proof window rising up between me and the bully until the window reaches the ceiling. I can see see my inner bully shouting and gesticulating but can’t hear a word…ahhhh very pleasant. Instead I tell myself I am competent and capable. I tell myself that I can handle whatever comes my way. I also use the statement “I will cross that bridge when I get to it” so that I don’t overthink the future and things that I have no control over. This all helps me feel stronger mentally and confident.
Working on yourself as opposed to a specific skill that you have leads you to having a broader sense of confidence. Focus on your qualities and charactertistic instead of what you DO. What is it about you that is great and unique? Sure, your skills are part of the picture but you will get far more out of yourself confidence-wise if you fous on your innate goodness rather than associating your strengths with achievements.
In an increasingly competitive worldm where we can often just feel like a number, it is even more important to protect ourselves. You can do this by nurturing your self belief and your self confidence. This effectively creates a barrier between you and the harsh world and allows you to keep your self esteem in tact. When you are able to give yourself confidence and self validation without needing it solely from an external source, you are ahead of the pack. If you want an edge, you need to be confident.
Rule number 5 – you unwittingly teach others how to treat you
Unwittingly we teach others how to treat us even when we don’t realise it. When we act in a passive way or lack confidence, others make a note of this. Learning to say no, have clear boundaries and be assertive is a key part of confidence. When we are confident, people buy into that too. It’s contagious. They want to be around you, they think you must obviously be worth something.
If you take a moment to think back, you can probably remember a time you were taken advantage of in a moment of low confidence. That wasn’t an accident. It was your degree of confidence at the time that exposed you to that situation, and it was your relationship to your confidence that determined how well you handled it.
So how do I become more confident?
Body language shows how confident you are. Stand with your shoulders back, make eye contact and this already ‘primes’ your brain to help you feel more confident.
And because these cues are nonverbal—bypassing the more intellectual language centers in our brains—other people pick up on them viscerally and quickly. They receive a vivid snapshot of our inner confidence the moment we walk into a room.
If we enter a room standing up straight with our shoulders back, chins up and eyes engaged, then others will viscerally perceive us as confident. If we enter with our shoulders hunched, brows furrowed, and eyes shifty or staring at the floor, then they’ll viscerally perceive us as unconfident (if they notice us at all). And they make this judgment in microseconds—just as we do of them.
To do that, I recommend the doorway drill, a simple technique that will force you to check your body language whenever you walk through a door. The exercise is simple: Every time you approach a doorway, take a moment to stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, uncross your arms, and look up and ahead. These are the signals of positive body language, and they both reflect and reinforce confidence.
Speak slowly, take slow breaths – this is part of helping you to think ahead and be measured in your responses. Try to use less ‘fillers when you speak. Words such as “aah”, “um”, “you know”, “to be honest” etc can all have a negative impact upon how you come across.
Being authentic will help, as mentioned earlier (rule number one). As a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, I am quite open with my clients and show my human side. Not all clients appreciate this but to me, this is authenticity. Sure, I could put on a show of being supremely organised and act as if my life is 100% together, but to me that shows that I am not genuine. Being honest and open shows that I am 100% at ease with myself and still a very good therapist at that. I am more wary of therapists who need to portray themselves as ‘non-human’. Honesty and openness are the raw stuff of true confidence.
By allowing people to see who we really are, we stop offering a proxy version of ourselves to hide the aspects of our personalities we’d rather not show. And by embracing who we really are, we also relinquish control over how other people might perceive us—which, if you think about it, is a classic hallmark of insecurity.
It took me years to realize that we don’t need to always feel confident to be confident. And we don’t need to act confident to appear confident. All we need to do is respond authentically to our experiences, and share those experiences—in the appropriate amounts, in appropriate ways, in appropriate contexts—even (and, ironically enough, especially!) when they reveal our lack of confidence. Despite what we’ve been told, vulnerability isn’t weakness—it’s true strength.
Confidence changes from day to day. It’s a dynamic process and there are times when our confidence takes a hit. There are times when we need to be kind and compassionate with ourselves and allow the confidence to creep back in it’s own time. Setbacks can affect confidence. We are human, we are imperfect. It’s okay to feel vulnerable and not good enouogh. In fact, I would say 95% of my client profess to not feeling good enough at times. What is important and what helps self confidence is to be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you are having a confidence dip like every other person on this planet does. It’ isn’t possible to be confident 100% of the time.
Really like yourself, focus on your strengths and dismiss the inner bully. Don’t compare yourself to others and speak to yourself in a positive manner. Above all, be yourself. It takes courage but it’s worth it.