Have you ever had an idea that you thought would be great, only to stay silent and watch a disaster unfold? Perhaps you’ve been agreeable for so long that you feel unable to stand against something, even though it’s causing you distress. Now try this; close your eyes and think of the most successful person you know. How would they have dealt with your situation? Got that scenario clearly in your mind? Good. Now answer this without thinking; why didn’t you do that?
Why didn’t you act in the way that person is acting in your mind?
Think about how the person handles the situation, and identify what they would do that’s different from you. Chances are that you see this person as confident and self-assured, qualities that you can’t see as well in yourself.
Confidence manifests in different ways in different people, so don’t think that just because you lean towards introversion that you’re lacking in some way. In fact, as William Shakespeare wrote in act 4 of Henry V, “The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.” Sometimes, the people who make the most noise have the least say. They act boisterously to hide the parts of their personality that they don’t like or to detract from their lack of substance. A popular phrase amongst Texans illustrates this even more perfectly; “The rooster may crow, but the hens deliver the goods.”
Being confident doesn’t always mean being loud or forceful, sometimes it’s enough to just know that you’re right. Take my friend for example; she didn’t correct the men who told her “Well, actually, I think you meant to say Cro Maga, not Krav Maga.” Nope, she just smiled, secure in the knowledge that they’re out in the world making fools of themselves when they talk, incorrectly, about an Israeli self-defence system.
“Well that’s all well and good, Alexis, but how do I improve my confidence? Reading the last four paragraphs explains the concept well enough, but how do I apply that to my life?”
Well fear not, dear friend, because I’m about to drop a knowledge bomb on you below:
1. Check the Facts
If ever you catch yourself doubting your abilities or reverting to negative beliefs, look for evidence and check the facts. If your low self-esteem is telling you that you never finish anything, list all of the things that you’ve never finished. Then list all the things that you have.
They don’t need to be big things, they can be as small as “I watched all eight seasons of Game of Thrones, even after everyone said not to bother with the last one.” It could be “I entered all of my expenses into QuickBooks and filed my tax return on time.” See? You can finish things, can’t you?
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” – Michael Jordan
2. Prepare for the Worst
Got an impending task or engagement that’s filling you with dread? Why not let your imagination run riot and think up the worst possible outcomes? You can’t stop there though, you have to follow up by thinking of solutions should the worst arise. Chances are, the worst things you can conjure up have no possibility of happening, but anything that does crop up will seem minor compared to your catastrophizing, and you’ll handle them like a champ.
3. Be Your Own Cheerleader
If you feel in a slump and you want to hide on your couch, away from the world where it’s safe and familiar, try some positive affirmations. “Hosting a dinner party for ten people was really knackering, but my guests had a great night.” “I doubted that I would hit my deadline, but I actually submitted my work early.” “Coaching the kids’ football team can be so frustrating at times, but seeing their faces as they work together makes it all worth it.” List your achievements and be proud of them. Yay, you did the thing!
4. Be More Yes, but Also More No
Agree to things before you can talk yourself out of it and open yourself up to new experiences. Do things that terrify you and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. But don’t forget the power of NO.
If you don’t want to work late finishing a group assignment on your own so that your colleagues can go out on the town, tell them so. If you don’t want to sit around gossiping behind someone’s back, walk away from the conversation or ask to change the subject. Follow the example of Phoebe from Friends; “I wish I could, but I don’t want to.”
“Put all excuses aside and remember this – you are capable.” – Zig Ziglar
5. Flip the Script
The language we use about ourselves, both internally and with other people, has a significant effect on the way we see ourselves. I’m going to paraphrase something that has stuck with me from Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up comedy show Nanette to illustrate this; self-deprecation is self-humiliation, and I’m not doing it to myself anymore. There’s a bundle of nerves in our brain stem, the reticular activating system (RAS), which works to filter out unnecessary information so that we can focus on what’s important. By using negative-self talk, we unwittingly tell the RAS to look for information to back up the belief that we’re stupid/incompetent/unloved. Simple changes to the words we use have a huge impact.
Instead of:“I’m really struggling to cope at the moment.”
Try This:“I’m experiencing many challenges at the moment, but this feeling is temporary, and by getting through it, I’ll have learned skills that I will use again in the future.”
Instead of:“I’m still single and it must be because nobody finds me attractive.”
Try This:“I haven’t yet met the person who is deserving of my time and wants me for who I am. I’d rather be on my own than with somebody who makes me miserable.”