Six Steps to Increase Self-Confidence
I thought I’d share a few ideas that I use regularly with my clients for improving self-confidence. Whether you’d like to feel more confident in general, or in relation to a specific situation – like going for a job interview – these steps could help to boost your self-confidence.
When we worry about something happening we are, in effect, mentally rehearsing what we don’t want to happen – and often it’s the worst case scenario. Instead, imagine yourself coping well and confidently in potentially challenging situations – what would that look like, feel like, sound like and what thoughts would you be having then? Practice immersing yourself in this ideal scenario on a regular daily basis – make it as vivid as you can in your imagination – particularly focusing on the feelings this experience evokes. Your brain and nervous system responds in the same way to a vividly imagined scenario as to a real event – so practice this often enough and it will become your reality. Get your imagination to work for you instead of against you…everything starts with the imagination – so start mentally rehearsing your ideal outcome today to increase your self-confidence.
Acting ‘as if’ to increase self-confidence
Spend some time observing confident people. Notice what they do and how they do it. Notice their posture, gestures, facial expressions and how they dress. What do they say and how do they say it? Notice the tone, pitch and pace of their voice. Now start to act as if you are confident yourself using what you’ve observed in others as a guide. It may not be instantaneous but your self-confidence will increase with time – and you’ll notice other people responding to you differently too.
Make a list of ten things you like about yourself, such as personal qualities or things you do well. You may include looks as well, though that’s not the main purpose of this exercise. If you really struggle with this ask your friends and family what qualities they appreciate in you. Then read this list out to yourself as you look at yourself in the mirror saying “I love your……..” This may be challenging at first, but it’s worth persisting. Another useful mirror exercise is to look at yourself in the mirror as you say to yourself “I am worthy of love, I am worthy of success/ respect, etc.” You want to be saying this to yourself with real passion and enthusiasm – say it as if you really mean it.
Overcoming your inner critic
Be aware of how your thoughts and associated feelings can quickly sabotage your self-confidence. When we lack confidence or we make a mistake, instead of lifting ourselves up with self-compassion, we often make ourselves feel worse by beating ourselves up about it… “I really messed that up”, “that just proves I’m a failure” etc… This inner critic is often such a permanent feature of our inner world that we don’t even think of questioning it or answering back, despite the fact we’d never tolerate being spoken to in this way by anyone else!
So becoming more aware of when your inner critic kicks in is crucial
Once you’re aware you can take steps to overcome it
Here’s just one idea of how to do that:
Place two chairs facing each other.
Sit in one and imagine that another version of you is sitting in the other chair. Speak your critical or worrying thoughts aloud, expressing your feelings fully. How does that other you look on hearing those words…what impact does it have on you? Now stand up, walk around, think of something completely different, breathe deeply and get in touch with the compassionate part of yourself. Think of the facial expression and tone of voice you’d use to support a friend who you really cared about. Now sit in the other chair – this is your compassionate chair. From this place of compassion reply to your critical, worried self – what words of advice would you give a friend in a similar position? Validate the feelings expressed in a sensitive, caring and observant manner, e.g. “It’s understandable you’ve been feeling so anxious/rejected/sad/frustrated because……” It’s important to recognise that your feelings are natural and that many people feel this way – it doesn’t mean there’s anything ‘wrong’ with you or that you’re inadequate in any way – it’s simply part of being human and experiencing life. Aim to be non-judgmental, sensitive, gentle, kind, caring and understanding in your responses.
Swap back and forth between the two chairs – aiming to spend more time in the compassionate chair. Focus on providing gentle, caring advice on how best to cope, mentioning previous experiences of coping well, occasions you’ve been confident and what you’ve found helpful in the past. Kindly and gently suggest small, immediate steps that can be taken. Focus on gently encouraging and supporting yourself – avoid using words such as should, need to or have to.
Be aware of your thoughts
Am I confusing a thought with a fact?
Is this reality itself or just one possible perspective on things?
What evidence is there for and against my belief?
Am I placing unrealistic rules and demands on myself? How helpful is that?
Taking a step back and viewing your situation as if from a distance (a 3rd position) can also be very helpful in weighing up alternatives.
Be mindful of whether you use words such as never, every and always – for example, “this always happens to me,” or “I’m never going to be good enough.” If your performance falls short of perfect, do you see yourself as a total failure? If you tend to think in terms of good or bad, success or failure, take some time to consider the middle ground.
Notice if you have a tendency to see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of negativity and defeat – for example getting rejected following an interview or a date, an indication that you’ll never find a job or a partner. What might be a more helpful and supportive way of looking at this?
Ask yourself if you’re assuming what other people are thinking about you? For example, perhaps you feel awkward in social situations and assume others think you’re boring, or are judging you in some other way? Other peoples’ thoughts are to do with them – their beliefs, preconceptions and projections. How else might the situation be interpreted? How would someone else see this?
Finally instead of criticising yourself and beating yourself up, at the end of each day do a quick review and praise yourself for things you’ve achieved, that you’ve done well or that you’re proud of that day. However small, take the time to notice your achievements and give yourself a pat on the back. Make a commitment to do this for yourself on a daily basis to give your self-confidence a boost.