Welcome to the final blog in this three-part ‘self’ series. In the first post, we looked at self-worth. I talked about the importance of accepting yourself as you are in the moment, how childhood issues can affect your sense of value as an adult, and suggested various techniques (such as mindfulness, practicing gratitude and journaling) to help with this. In the second part last week, we looked at self-image and how you can learn to like and even love the person who looks back at you from the mirror. Today, we’ll focus on the final brick in the wall – self-confidence.
So, what is self-confidence, and how does it relate to self worth and self-esteem? Well, they’re obviously all inextricably linked, but it can help to think about self-worth and self-esteem as being about what we believe and how we feel about ourselves. Self-confidence is the icing on the cake – how you turn those feelings into action and then project this behaviour to the outside world.
Let’s look at how this could work with a practical example – wanting to get a new job.
The first steps might involve challenging beliefs that you are able to get or deserve the job of your dreams. You might work on blessing your current position with love and being grateful for where it’s got you so far. You might also choose to try to stay as ‘present’ as possible and notice how your skills and abilities help you in your current position.
You write down all your thoughts and fears in your journal and get a sense of the unique, flawed, and yet totally acceptable person that you are, and the kind of position where you would feel comfortable, using your unique talents and abilities. You also focus on looking after your body, eating and doing exercise that you enjoy and that makes you feel energetic, plus think about how someone doing your dream job would dress.
The next step is putting yourself out there and selling yourself confidently through job applications, networking events, presentations and job interviews. This is where self-confidence comes in. Here are some tips I’ve shared with my clients that have helped them build on the foundations of self-worth and self-esteem and create a life they enjoy living.
My self-confidence tips
- Try not to worry about approval seeking and attempts to “make an impression”. You may think that the way to make friends and influence people is to make them like you by making jokes or talking about a particular subject you know they care about. By all means share your humour or talk about a shared interest if it comes naturally, but the key is not to force things. When it comes to first impressions, less is more, and if someone likes you it’s often in spite of your efforts to impress them and not because of them. It can be quite off-putting when someone approaches you with what looks like a big neon sign flashing ‘validate me’. If you’ve been on the receiving end of this, you know what I’m talking about. Keep your own counsel. Be cool. You’re good enough as you are.
- Use affirmations. Always say them in the present tense and use them often. Say them aloud. Write them in your journal. I’ve talked about affirmations before and they tend to totally divide people – some love them, others hate them. But before dismissing them, give them a proper chance. In the example of getting your dream job, affirm – “a wonderful new job that uses my abilities and talents and is well-rewarded now comes to me easily and effortlessly.” Repeat it often. You’ve been affirming negative things about yourself your whole life without realising it, in all likelihood. It’s time to consciously change the record.
- Fake it til you make it. This doesn’t contradict my advice in the first point about making an impression – it’s about identifying the character traits you want to possess (such as an ability to be calm under pressure, patience, or good humouredness) and acting as if you already have them. It’s tempting to wait until we feel differently about a situation to change the behaviour, but sometimes we’ll wait a long time for that to happen and you need to knock yourself out of your habitual ways of thinking and responding. How would someone who was quietly confident of their abilities act in a job interview? If you felt confident in yourself, how would you act?
- Hang out with people who support you. Although it’s important to have friends who listen to and empathise with you, you don’t want to get too stuck in the same groove of complaining about your lot, or having someone listen to your excuses about why you’re still doing the same thing you’re unhappy about. Surround yourself with people who will stretch and inspire you. People who are genuinely happy with their lives are an inspiration to be around, and don’t brag about their achievements (that’s something that people who are insecure do).
- Keep on keeping on. Self-confidence involves learning from your mistakes and not giving up at the first sign of things not going your way. If an approach you’re taking isn’t working, don’t assume it’s not meant to be. Try something else. Take what learning you can from what didn’t go right and adapt accordingly. And don’t equate ‘failure’ of an approach, idea or plan as evidence that you are somehow faulty as a person. Be persistent, be creative.
- My final piece of advice – which may seem ironic for an article about the self – is don’t make everything about you. Look outwards and spend a bit of time finding out about the world. Take up a new hobby. Volunteer. Connect with a new set of people. Good things come to people who interact with others and extend themselves beyond their comfort zones. Your self-confidence will increase automatically with each new situation you encounter.
That’s the end of this self-series. I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and have found some of the suggestions useful. I’d love to hear what you think – plus any requests you have for future blog series.