.“When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”
Peter T. Mcintyre
One of the most common questions I get via email is how to increase your confidence in yourself. It was also one of the most common problems people listed in the big survey I did at the end of the last year here on the blog.
So today I’d simply like to share a couple of things you can do to increase your self-confidence. For me, the most important one of these three things to build lasting self-confidence has been to…
Take small steps outside of your comfort zone.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
“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.”
But an important thing about stepping outside of your comfort zone is that you don’t have to go all in at once in many cases. You don’t have to take one huge leap or become paralyzed in procrastination because the leap seems too big.
Instead, think about how you can move in small steps and slowly towards what you want. Just dip your toes in at first if that feels more comfortable. The most important thing is that you start moving and that you take action, not how fast or how much action you take at first.
If you for example want to start your own business then work on that in the evening while still working at your day job or staying in school. Don’t let thinking like “I have to go all in and take huge risks” hold you back.
If you want to improve your social skills and social confidence then take small steps. Steps like first just saying hi to people. And being more involved in conversations at work or in school to exercise your conversation muscles. After a while those things will feel more comfortable. And so you can expand your comfort zone a little bit more.
If you want to try something new like eating something new, talking to or calling someone new or reading something or doing something that doesn’t feel like the same old thing you always do then tell yourself that:
Just for today I will try [insert something you want to try]!
You just have to do it today. Not ever again after today. You are not signing up for some huge commitment.
Tomorrow you may continue on that new path. Or you may not.
By not making this into a huge thing you have do but instead just a small step that you can take and get done as slowly as you like it becomes so much easier to do what is most important at first: to put yourself in motion.
Then, along the way, you can take bigger leaps if you like and speed things up. You will learn through successes and failures (and realize that you won’t die if things don’t go your way all the time). You will quit some things and continue doing other things. And you will build your self-confidence muscle, step by small step.
Add smart habits to reduce the stress and inner pressure.
If you let stress and inner pressure ramp up you become weaker, you tend to overreact more often and negative viewpoints tend to pop up more frequently in your head. And your confidence in yourself and your ability to do what you want to do decreases.
By adding a few smart and simple habits that can release that inner pressure, stress and tensions on a daily and weekly basis it once again becomes easier to keep the physical and mental energy and inner strength up, to see things from an optimistic viewpoint and to keep it cool instead of making mountains out of molehills or feel like quitting after one mistake or setback.
Try adding one of these three un-stressing habits at a time and see how they work for you:
- Just breathe. When stressed, lost in a problem or the past or future in your mind breathe with your belly for two minutes and just focus on the air going in and out. This will calm your body down and bring your mind back into the present moment again.
- Set clear boundaries for your day and week. By stopping my work at 7 o clock in the evenings at the latest and shutting off my computer then, by taking roughly 15 minutes of relaxing and recharging break time for each 45 minute period that I work and by staying away from work during the weekend and all media for at least one of those weekend days I become more relaxed and productive.
- Listen to yourself. When you become more irritable, start to feel drained, tired and creativity plummets listen to that. Do not plod on straight into the brick wall. Instead, schedule more time to take care of yourself. Don’t run off with your regular routine after school or work, take the time you have for yourself and spend much of it on yourself. Just stay in bed with a book for the evening. Or go out for quiet walk in nature. Do something you know relaxes and recharges you.
See it in your mind before you do it.
Before we are about to do something like having a meeting, a date, a regular day at work or a presentation many of us see it or some part of it in our mind. It is quite common to routinely imagine and see in your mind how things could go wrong in this upcoming situation.
Now, one often recommended thing to do instead is to close your eyes and see in your mind how well things will go. How things go great and as you planned during the presentation or meeting, how confident and enthusiastic you are during it all and then to see in your mind how the meeting is finished and done in the way you desire.
This way of visualizing has worked pretty well for me.
Another way of visualizing that I sometimes use is what could be called the “it’s no big deal” visualization. When I do this I basically see in my mind how this meeting or upcoming situation will not be a huge thing that could go wrong.
Instead I see in my mind myself acting in the situation as if it is a normal thing like so many daily or weekly things in life. I see myself as relaxed and calm, the situation may even feel a little anti-climactic and it really is not different than other meetings/situations that I have had in the past.
This may not sound as inspiring as the first visualization but I find that it is sometimes more useful because it can be easier to believe in than a overly positive image of how things will go. And because it reduces nervousness, relaxes me and it allows me to stay present and be as myself in the best way. And that is often all that is needed. Because most of the time increasing your confidence for some situation is not about adding something or boosting yourself up in some way.
It is about reducing stress and nervousness to the point where you can act and think in the same relaxed and positive manner that you do with close friends and family.