Whether you’ve just lost a job, are trying something new, received a poor grade, or experienced some sort of rejection or loss, we’ve all had moments of waning confidence in our selves and our abilities.
I’ve recently had several interactions with both clients and friends on the topic of confidence. I went on a camping trip with a friend and we got into talking about our childhoods. She asked me, “what were you like in middle school? Have you always been so confident?” I had never been asked this question before, so it brought about a lot of thoughts that might help those of you, like all of us at one time or another, who are looking to “gain or build confidence.”
Make It More Concrete and Specific
The term “confidence” is so broad and generic. I’ve often found that people talk about a lack of confidence as a characteristic trait – “I’m just not a confident person.” However, whenever I dig a little deeper with them, what we find is that almost everyone can name at least one thing about themselves or in their life in which they do feel confident. The labels we give ourselves can be so powerful in shaping how we act. Instead of using a blanket confidence statement about yourself, try making a list of things that you do feel confident in and then the areas that you would like to improve. We all have both.
Focus On the Wins
As humans, we naturally latch on to the negatives of life more strongly than we do the positives. How often do you or those around you say things like, “I’m a terrible cook, mother, student, employee, significant other, disciple – you name it?” As a former athlete, I would often spend hours after a game replaying over and over in my mind the mistakes I had made. I learned (not quickly enough) that this wasn’t getting me anywhere except further from being able to fall asleep.
Then, when I would talk to a teammate or coach, they would point out the moments that I excelled, which had conveniently escaped my attention. Rather than letting the couple of things that could have gone better drive the narrative of yourself or your experience, try to get a more complete and realistic picture of the situation. Are you maybe over-exaggerating the mistakes or mislabeling them as the rule instead of the exception?
Similarly, some of you may have already heard of the term “positive affirmations”. These are positive things that we can say to ourselves to help us focus on the good things we contribute rather than the negatives. Need an example? Here, learn from Jessica:
This may feel weird at first, but like all things we believe about ourselves, we internalize the messages that we tell ourselves or are told to us repeatedly. Though it’s not the best to solely rely on the affirmations of others, a body of sociology research also shows that having others express their beliefs in your abilities to do or be a certain thing or believe that you have already have achieved that goal, increases the likelihood of that achievement. Find and keep those cheerleaders in your life.
I love doing this with clients – after hearing all of the harsh things they have to say about themselves, I repeat it back to them. I ask them to pretend that I am someone that they really care about. Then I ask them to respond to me. It’s incredible the difference in what they say to me in contrast to what they’re constantly saying to themselves. Why do we often treat ourselves so much harsher than we do others? Many will say that it’s what we need in order to change. We worry that if we are not kicking ourselves in the rear, that we will become complacent or lazy.
But does that critical voice motivate you to be your best self and feel more confident or does it leave you feeling worse than when you started? When you recognize yourself engaging in critical self-talk, try responding to yourself as you would to a loved one, or as that loved one would respond to you. Then notice which gets you closer to your eventual goals.
Of course there are times when we really do need to improve in certain areas of our life. But by first being specific about what those areas are, creating a realistic picture of how we’re doing, and then being kind and wise to ourselves, we are in the best place to then DO what it is we need to improve.
I feel pretty confident in your ability to see your greatness, acknowledge your efforts, and grow.