Action: Remedy the underlying mental errors that fuel under-confidence and face stressful events with deftness and composure.
Content: We'll cover three common confidence mistakes and three practical antidotes to boost your confidence for success.
Results: Enhanced decision-making, increased resilience and better performance. Step up to the plate without thinking twice.
Use this Guided Meditation to compose yourself for stressful events.
Your self-perception profoundly influences all areas of your life.
Confidence levels dictate your readiness to embrace risks, pursue ambitious goals, and take action.
Self-belief shapes your expectations for success, driving your initiative to grasp opportunities and your ability to withstand setbacks.
Given its pivotal role in leading a fulfilling life, confidence can still seem frustratingly elusive, as if distributed by chance. While some roll through life with abundant confidence, others bump along without ever building enough confidence to forge ahead.
Many feel burdened by persistent self-doubt, a challenge they've yet to overcome, leading to a cycle of compromised aspirations and unfulfilled potential.
If this is you, let's put this right.
Can you learn to be confident?
Is confidence learnable? Absolutely. Confidence is indeed a skill that's within everyone's reach.
Some may naturally navigate uncertainty and manage emotions well, yet confidence remains a universal skill that anyone can attain, refine and enjoy.
Far from being static, confidence is more akin to a muscle that strengthens with regular exercise.
‘Yes, but that's not me,' you might think.
This doubt is a constructed emotional barrier, not an absolute truth. It's time to silence an old voice that undermines you. Until now, you simply haven't had the right tools.
Remember, the goal isn't overnight transformation but gradual progress—incremental steps that elevate your expectations and bolster your self-belief.
From this starting point, the growth potential is vast.
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 because it shapes how you perceive yourself and interact with others.
A confident demeanour is not about having an exaggerated sense of self-importance or superiority and overestimating your abilities or achievement - what we might term arrogance.
Instead, confidence 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.
What is 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 instantly 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 thrilled excitement. That's not surprising. And while the sensations we associate with fear and exhilaration are similar, how we interpret them makes a difference.
It’s good news if your response to the events mentioned evokes curiosity and excitement.
However, as much as we'd like to embrace such opportunities, many of us will feel primarily 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 missed opportunities in life is dramatic.
Putting things right
I've extensively experienced the errors and tested the antidotes we’re about to cover — on myself and with my clients. While none of us has become overnight performers, progress has always been 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, experience favourable outcomes, perhaps even better than you 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 such as, '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 evident 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 manageable 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 you choose 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 specific 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 an all-encompassing 'why?'
Asking why? isn't inherently wrong. However, self-reflective questions are usually better suited to practical problems in which you want to correct specific issues, e.g., isolating a faulty component in a car engine.
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 (and 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, your emotional goals are better supported by focusing on what you do want.
Imagine trailing in a sports match. It's halftime, and your team is getting thrashed. Heads are lowered, and motivation is dwindling. 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 are hurled around.
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 produce 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 an emboldening 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 results in bolder action. 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 wound up.
You fall prey to a devil's circle that fails to assist you in making the desired improvements. Excess introspection usually leads to a misuse of your imagination. The what ifs? are rarely constructive.
Confidence Remedy# 3: Focus on the external situation
A big part of feeling confident in any performance situation is actually to forget about yourself — at least a little bit.
Naturally, comfortable people focus less on themselves (their internal experience) and more on being part of the external situation. They effectively focus on the people 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. This places you under a severe microscope making anything you do seem awkward or uncomfortable. Even the way you clear your throat seems icky and wrong.
So instead, 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 poise.
So, to maintain a broader attitude, avoid jumping under a self-imposed spotlight and placing all the make-or-break attention on your own performance. It's less about you than you think — and that's good!
Okay, here’s a roundup of points to brand into your brain:
- 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 yourself out from the internal experience and return your attention to the external situation. Focus on the experience of others and make service to others your goal. This shift in intention can be profoundly productive for your energy flow and how you feel.
As we’ve explored, under-confidence often stems from a misdirected focus of attention. These self-defeating patterns of behaviour may have deeper emotional roots. However, you can still set renewed expectations that pave the way for a more composed and confident outlook.
Understanding what needs to be done is one thing; taking decisive action is another. That is why having a guiding hand and consistent support can significantly accelerate your journey of personal progress.
As a British-registered psychotherapist, I have the privilege of assisting individuals in navigating mental obstacles and lowering emotional barriers to unlock their potential for progress.
If you’d like to find out how I can help, contact me via the form on my counselling website: https://dominicdecker.com/