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Do You Make These 3 Common Mistakes When Trying to Improve Your Self Confidence?

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/helgabj/ / CC BY 2.0

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.”
Helen Keller

One of the most common wishes people have seems to be to improve their self confidence. This can be a tricky thing and it is easy to start fooling yourself and making mistakes that keeps you stuck in place of low self confidence.

So today I’d like to share 3 mistakes I have made in the past and what I have done to move past them and to actually increase my self confidence.

I hope you find something helpful here.

1. You sit around and hope that you can solve it in your mind somehow.

Yes, a helpful component of raising your self confidence can be to for example positively visualize future events or using affirmations or afformations. But the most important part is what Eleanor Roosevelt said a long time ago:

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

There is no way of getting around that.

You have to be willing to take action, to move out of your comfort zone and to face fear to increase your self confidence in a way that stays with you (not like when you pump it up temporarily by using different exercises or music for example). You have to be willing to take the punch and risk some emotional pain for a while.

And I won’t lie to you. Sometimes it will suck. You will go to bed and feel sick to your stomach and just hope the day will end. But many times you will feel great as you just move over that invisible barrier and face your fear. You may not even get the result you wanted but still feel great about yourself because you just dared to face that fear or take some action.

But what about the times you felt sick to your stomach and went to bed feeling not so good at all? Well, the next day you will wake up. And you realize that you are still here. You are intact and the earth keeps spinning and you get up for a new day. Life continues. But now you know deep down that you can handle things at least a little bit better because you could handle what happened yesterday. You have raised your confidence in yourself and become stronger.

And another thing is this: when you do things you don’t just build confidence in your ability to handle different situations. You also experience progressive desensitization. What that means is that situations – like for example public speaking or maybe just showing your latest blogpost to an audience out there – that made you feel all shaky become more and more normal in your life. It is not longer something you psyche yourself up to do. It just becomes normal. Like tying your shoes, hanging out with your friends or taking a shower.

It may seem scary now. But after having done whatever you fear a few to a dozen times or so you may think: “Is that it?”. You almost feel disappointed about how anticlimactic it has become. You may even get a bit angry with yourself and wonder why you avoided doing it for so long.

2. You focus on the wrong things.

If you focus on the wrong things then it will be a lot more difficult to gain the experiences that I wrote about in the section above. You may never get started at all. Or you see the world through a lens that won’t help you that much even if you gain some experiences that could help you.

So what do you do?

You learn to change how you view things. Here are three common problems and how to reinterpret them or change your focus from them altogether to help yourself out.

Stuck in fear.

When you are stuck in fear then it will be hard to start moving. But if you on the other hand shift to being curious your perceptions go SWOOSH! and the world just opens up. Curiosity is filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. It opens you up. And when you are open and enthusiastic then you have more fun things to think about than focusing on your fear.

How do you become more curious? One way is to remember how life has become more fun in the past thanks to your curiosity and to remember all the cool things it helped you to discover and experience.

Negative expectations and disaster scenarios in your mind.

One way to move past this vague fear of very improbable scenarios or that the sky might fall is to ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen?

When you really ask yourself what the worst thing that could happen is you get a clearer picture, a bit of fear vanishes and you discover that the potential consequences are seldom as frightening as you first thought. By doing this you define the potential consequences and also discover that whatever might happen you can manage and recover from it.

Fear of failure.

Fear of failure can hold you back. But failure isn’t all that bad really. It can be very helpful if you choose to see it that way.
The thing is to reframe failure from being something that makes your legs shake to something useful and important for the growth of your self confidence and your overall growth as a human being.

Here are four ways that failure can help you out:

  • You learn. Instead of seeing failure as something horrible you can start to view it more as a learning experience. When standing in the middle of a failure, you can ask yourself questions like: What’s awesome about this situation? What can I learn from this situation?
  • You gain experiences you could not get any other way. Ideally, you probably want to learn from other people’s mistakes and failures. That’s not always easy to do though. Sometimes you just have to fail on your own to learn a lesson and to gain an experience no one can relate to you in mere words.
  • You become stronger. Every time you fail you become more accustomed to it. You realize more and more that it’s not the end of the world. And, again, you get desensitized. You can handle things that would have been very hard to handle a few years back.
  • Your chances of succeeding increases. Every time you fail you can learn and increase your inner strength. So over time you become more and more likely to succeed.

3. You don’t prepare.

Preparing yourself and educating yourself can be a big help to gain confidence. By for example rehearsing and rewriting your speech over and over you can pretty much learn it by heart. By doing research you can find breathing techniques that can quickly make you calmer and present. Or simple visualization techniques that make you feel more confident and positive as you step out on the stage.

This is obviously more work than not doing anything about the speech at all before you start giving it. But it can make a big difference in your confidence levels if you take the time to prepare yourself. And of course, the speech and the delivery of it will most likely be a lot better too.

So prepare and you will feel more comfortable and confident. Just don’t make the mistake of getting stuck in the preparation phase and using it as a way to avoid taking action and to avoid the possible pain that it may result in.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I think self-confidence can be attained by taking action, and not just any action but the right action.

    Thanks for the tips; these are helpful.

  • The trick is finding a balance between your first point and your last point.: being well prepared yet not getting stuck in planning so that you boldly take action.

  • Insightful post Henrik, and I also agree with the commenter who pointed out how important fear of success is in holding back self-confidence.

    I see this time and time again with clients – they know they want to play a bigger game or build something that matters, but they’re scared that they might lose it. They might get close and see it slip away, they might succeed and then have to maintain that “success” somehow, or they might get there and realise it wasn’t what they wanted. There are myriad reasons for fearing success, but like the other points you mention – it isn’t *real*.

    Confidence is trust – if you trust yourself to deal with whatever life throws at you, then there’s really nothing that can stop you.

  • Thank you for the insightful post.

  • thnks wery wery post…

  • really interestin subject and nice community

  • thnks post..!
    nice a very very beatiful page

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