How to Build Confidence: Three Mistakes & Vital RemediesMay 05, 2023
Your level of general confidence has a profound impact across all areas of your life. To a large extent, your confidence level will determine your expectations for success, whether you put yourself forward for opportunities and how you manage disappointments when they inevitably arise.
And yet, for such a critical attribute, it can seem as though a confident attitude and demeanour are part of life's mystical pot-luck.
Some people have it. Many people don’t. And confidence, or the belief that you can rely on yourself, plays a significant role in shaping our lives.
It’s as if we’re pushed out into the world, lugging a trait of under-confidence we weren't taught to unpack. As a result, we spend the rest of our lives living the less-than-thrilling consequences as we settle for less than we desire.
It affects how much we're prepared to take calculated risks, set ambitious goals and act on them.
Can you learn to be confident?
While some people are naturally more confident due to their ability to tolerate uncertainty and regulate emotions, confidence is a set of skills anyone can develop. This article will give you a solid understanding of common confidence mistakes and how to correct them.
How can I be so sure? Because I’ve helped hundreds of people successfully implement the skills we will cover. To ensure we’re on the same page, let’s start with ‘What is confidence?’
Broadly, confidence is a belief in oneself and one's abilities. It is a feeling of self-assurance and trust in your capacity to handle different situations, make decisions, and successfully achieve your goals. Confidence is essential to mental and emotional well-being, as it influences how you perceive yourself and interact with others.
It’s not about having an exaggerated sense of self-importance or superiority and overestimating your abilities or achievement- what we might term arrogant. Instead, it is about having a balanced and realistic understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and trusting in your ability to face life's challenges and grow from them.
Where’s your current level of confidence?
Here's a quick, non-scientific assessment. Imagine the following scenarios and focus on your gut response – the sensations that arise:
- You have an interview tomorrow morning for a job you've set your heart on.
- You need to give a talk next week to a room full of people.
- There's an exam coming up that will determine your prospects.
- Your boss has asked to speak with you about your performance.
- Lunch is confirmed with someone you fancy; it must go well!"
Typical reactions will land somewhere between utter dread and excitement. That's not surprising. And while the sensations we associate with fear and exhilaration are similar, how we interpret them makes a difference.
Excellent if your response to the events mentioned evokes curiosity and excitement. Because many of us - as much as we'd like to embrace such opportunities - will confront a sense of threat. A fear of humiliation, loss, failure … all those disabling feelings that stop us from putting our best foot forward. Consequently, we might avoid these types of situations, and over time, the impact of reduced chances and life’s missed opportunities is dramatic.
Toxic Twins: The Relationship Between Low Self-Esteem and Low Confidence
People with low self-confidence may subconsciously undermine their success at work. This makes them less likely to ask for or get promotions, raises and even jobs.
A person with low self-confidence often struggles with low self-esteem, which refers to how much you value and appreciate yourself.
Low self-esteem often abandons us when we need it most and, when combined with low confidence, can result in limited opportunities, lower earnings, and reduced creativity or entrepreneurial spirit. It's disheartening.
There's a belief that low self-esteem goes hand in hand with incompetence and apathy. Worse, people tend to smell the unhealth of low self-esteem almost instantly. It's conspicuous. Regrettably, coworkers, bosses, customers and clients make negative assumptions about people who exhibit behaviours of low self-esteem.
So, a pretty rubbish combination for those concerned, then. Plus an unnecessary one. Because each of us can take practical steps towards a more reassuring and confident position for ourselves.
So let's begin putting things right — especially for your confidence before stressful events. And if you're a confident person, stay with me — you'll be interested in defining what you're likely already doing to ensure you do more of it.
I've extensively experienced the errors and tested antidotes we’re about to cover — on myself and with my clients. While none of us has become overnight performers, progress is steady and observable.
We'll highlight the typical confidence errors and then identify the antidotes.
Confidence Mistake #1 — Forgetting that confidence is situational
People with low confidence tend to think in sweeping and generalising terms about their abilities. In other words, you might forget that your confidence is situational.
You'll have situations in life in which you were and are successful. You give yourself time to prepare and, as a result, receive favourable outcomes. Perhaps even better than expected.
When this happens, you likely have a subtle sense of pride because you prove capable of assuring results. What's more, successes you minimise or take for granted — like attending a job interview or making a tricky phone call — say much about who you are and what you can do.
But when anxious, you forget or tend to downplay your previous successes. Instead, you likely think things like, 'I'm just not a capable person,' or, 'I'll never be able to deal with this situation.' In other words, you identify as inadequate or defective despite your wins. And as you absorb this message, these inaccurate statements begin to feel real — even though they aren't true.
Confidence Remedy 1 — Be specific about the context of feeling under-confident
If you are nervous before an event, you want to be as clear and straightforward as possible about your feelings. In other words, you want to isolate and compartmentalise the experience into its appropriate box.
You might begin with something like, 'It's true that in this situation, I feel less confident than I would like to, yet there are other situations in which I am confident.'
Maintaining this bigger picture is essential because there's always a broader, more accurate context than the emotion-driven story your lower-confidence self is likely buying into. In other words, there are many situations in which you are confident and competent, so — as easy as it is to forget in the moment — you mustn't disregard this vital dimension of who you are.
Ultimately, the stories you tell yourself matter. So the tale best be kind and truthful, offering you the power to act.
Once you've injected some balance, i.e. reminded yourself that confidence is situational and narrowed down your feelings to the event at hand, it's time to identify what needs to happen for the event to go well.
Confidence Mistake #2: Misplaced focus of attention
The second confidence mistake concerns a misdirected focus. You likely emphasise what you don't want to be like in an upcoming situation rather than what you do want. First, you may think, 'I don't want to look like a fool.' Then you may tumble towards 'Why do I never feel good about myself?' or 'Why do I always land in these difficult situations?'
In other words, focusing on what you don't want or are afraid of will lead you on a hunt for 'why?'
Asking why? isn't inherently wrong. But self-reflective questions are usually better suited to practical problems in which you want to correct specific issues. They are often less helpful for emotional problems because they lead you down distracting rabbit holes.
You end up jack-knifed on memory lane, bumping into negative (often unreliable) recollections and scrutinising past failures in the rearview mirror. This amplifies a helpless impression of yourself — the last thing you need when you want to increase your sense of ability.
Confidence Remedy 2: Focus on precisely what you DO want to be like in the situation.
Rather than concentrating on what you don't want, emotional goals are better supported by focusing on what you do want.
Imagine trailing in a sports match. It's halftime, and your team are getting thrashed. Heads lowered and huddled together. You try to lift your spirits for the next phase of the game. But your coach only criticises your mistakes and underperformance. Fireballs of blame and admonishment.
In the circumstances, would it help to be belittled — just when you need to gather your focus to improve? Attacks on your shortcomings will be disheartening and destroy your motivation to recover.
Instead, you need to give the back part of your mind — the unconscious part — a strong and positive message about what responses you DO need from it.
This is because you want to create a clear and detailed picture of your success in the situation. For this reason, it's vital to focus your attention correctly. You can start your preparation with crucial questions:
- What will confidence feel like?
- What will I look like from the outside?
- What will people notice about me when I feel calm and assured?
- How will I feel afterwards when it's all gone well?
Gaining this clarity will inform a detailed mental scenario for your success. Plus, it's a much more compelling prospect for your brain to consider.
Now that you've isolated the setting for under-confidence and focused on creating a compelling mental image for what you want, it's time to externalise your attention.
Confidence Mistake #3: Excessive introspection
Similar to the second mistake, the third error is focusing excessively on yourself to find a solution. We tend to assume that self-scrutiny equals better people. But overthinking will trap you in a never-ending cycle. And there's nothing good about that.
The more under-confident you feel, the more you zero in on yourself to determine what's wrong. So now you feel even less confident — with the focus on your perceived weakness or inadequacy dialled up. It's a devil's circle and fails to assist the improvements you want. Excess introspection usually leads to a misuse of your imagination. The what ifs? — and these are rarely constructive.
Confidence Remedy# 3 — Focus on the external situation
A big part of feeling confident in any performance situation is to forget about yourself — at least a little bit.
Naturally, comfortable people focus less on themselves (being the experience) and more on being part of the experience. They effectively focus on the external situation and the world around them.
But you might do the opposite. And if you focus too much on yourself to figure out what you should do better, you'll stifle your natural potential. Because placing yourself under a severe microscope makes anything you do seem awkward or uncomfortable. Even the way you clear your throat seems icky and wrong.
So you want to direct your attention to the world 'out there' rather than the one 'in here'.
Happy and confident people handle events gracefully because they take themselves lightly. They make for easy and assured company because they aren't overly precious about themselves. This attitude allows them to flow and adapt to situations, to be in the moment with grace and light.
So avoid jumping under a self-imposed spotlight and placing all the make-or-break attention on your performance. It's less about you than you think — and that's good!
That may be a lot to remember. Here's a roundup:
- Confidence is situational. If you feel under-confident before a situation, keep the experience in its place with a defined and context-specific explanation. Avoid sweeping assumptions or self-judgements.
- Focus on what you do want instead of what you don't want. Build a clear, detailed and compelling mental image of what success will look and feel like. Your brain will thank you for it.
- Avoid excess introspection. Snap out from the internal experience and return your attention to the external situation. Focus on the occasion of others and make service to others your goal. This shift in intention can be profound for your energy flow and how you feel.
If you'd like to improve your professional performance or there are personal events you’d like help to confront, I may be able to help. Contact me through this page, and I’ll get back in touch.
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