This is a guest post from Allison Nelms
If you’re like me, you have trouble feeling confident sometimes. Slowly but surely, I’ve been learning how to gain confidence over the past few years, and I finally feel ready to write about it to help others do the same. Maybe calling these statements “truths” sounds too bold, but I have chosen to personally believe in them out of faith, simply because it helps me. All attitudes in life seem to be like that – beliefs we choose to take on can either help or hurt us. My life has greatly improved from choosing to try out new beliefs and end old habits. If you want to know how to be more confident, please consider the following statements that I’ve found to be extremely helpful in my own life.
1. You can be your own best friend or your own worst enemy.
You might’ve heard the saying, “You’re your own worst enemy.” This is often true – we tend to judge ourselves much more harshly than anyone else would. Try to give yourself a break! Instead of putting yourself down, build yourself up. You can be your own best friend by telling yourself the things that you would tell a dear friend or loved one. If someone you knew was going through a rough time, how would you support them? What would you say? Start doing these things for yourself. There’s no reason why you don’t deserve encouragement and support, so if no one is providing that for you right now, try to provide it for yourself.
Example: Talking yourself through anxious feelings before a challenging situation:
Best friend: “Okay, I want to [talk to this person/give this presentation/go to this party], but I feel pretty nervous. I guess I’m afraid of what kind of impression I’ll give… But there’s nothing serious to worry about. I’ll probably do better than I think. It’s worth a shot.”
Worst enemy: “Okay, I want to [talk to this person/give this presentation/go to this party], but I feel pretty nervous. Every time I do this, it turns out the same. I’ll look [stupid/lame/ugly/etc]. Why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say, anyway?
Photo by bingramos on flickr.
It’s pretty obvious, I think, which type of inner dialogue is going to hurt you. Trust me, I’ve engaged in plenty of negative self-talk, and I still struggle occasionally. It’s an on-going process. I know how hard it can be to break out of the habit of bashing yourself, but let me assure you that it’s absolutely possible.
If you wonder how it’s possible to be your own best friend, consider how it’s possible for you to be your own worst enemy. What are some of the negative thoughts you tell yourself? The fact of the matter is these are just beliefs you are choosing to accept based on faith, self-fulfilling prophecy, or some outside source. Fortunately you aren’t stuck with these thoughts – it is possible to let them go over time.
When you decide to start building yourself up rather than breaking yourself down, you will inevitably gain more experience that will strengthen you and build your confidence. One way to gain more experience is to consider the next new belief.
2. Failure is all about perspective.
How you identify failure and what you do with it can greatly affect your confidence. You can either see failures as failures, or you can see them as experiences that didn’t go the way you hoped or planned for. Failure can be such a harsh word. I’ve only called myself a failure once or twice in my life, and I remember I felt terrible as soon as I said it. No matter what you decide to call it, what really makes a difference is how you process the experience and what you do with it. There are various perspectives you can choose to take on failure.
Example: Using failure as a learning experience rather than a reason to discourage you from living freely.
Failure setting you back: “Well, I knew that was gonna happen. I’ll never try doing that again… why even bother? I’m a failure.”
Failure moving you forward: “Well, that sucks. I feel pretty disappointed. But maybe [this wasn’t my fault/the odds were against me/it’ll go better next time/etc]. At least I took a chance, which is better than not doing anything at all. I know what it’s like to not try, and that doesn’t ever feel good.”
Do you see how it’s more helpful to use failure as a tool for your own success? Nothing great can come from giving up and calling yourself a failure. Instead, use perceived failure to your advantage. If you try something and mess up, so what? Did the world end? You might as well take it as a learning experience and opportunity to grow. When you can accept this idea, it’ll be easier to acknowledge and act on the next new belief.
3. Confidence will come from facing your fears.
Think about it – if you were already absolutely confident about everything, you wouldn’t have a single fear! Confidence comes after you face your fears, meaning there’s no quick and easy way to total confidence. The type of confidence you can have right now, however, is the kind that propels you to taking risks and facing your fears. There has to be some part of you deep inside that believes, “I can do it.” Find this voice. You wouldn’t be reading this article right now if that courage didn’t exist within you.
During my time in therapy, I’ve come across some very powerful and inspiring quotes shared by my therapist and others that moved me forward and continue to today. I’d like to share one that I find particularly moving and relevant:
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Mary Anne Radmacher
This is a popular quote for a reason. You will be more confident after you decide to listen to that quiet voice. Have the strength to face whatever makes you feel afraid, knowing that you will survive. You could come out of the experience learning that you can handle the situation in the future.
The things we fear are often dramatized in our heads. Did you ever get through an experience you feared and thought, “That’s wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be!”? Remember that experience and use it to give you more confidence. Even if an experience turns out to be just as scary or even worse than you expected, that’s okay. You got through it, and you should acknowledge that as a success regardless.
As you face your fears more and more, the anxiety will decrease over time as long as you persist through it. If you bail on the experience early, the anxiety can come back stronger in the future. The key is to persist. It can take some time for the brain to learn that these situations are not worthy of fight-or-flight responses. (Check back soon for an article on this concept in greater detail.)
The thing about this belief is you have to act on it to gain confidence, and you will be more willing to act on it if you can believe in the next idea.
4. You can’t compare to anyone, and no one can compare to you.
This is a tough one. I would guess that this is one of the hardest concepts for people to accept, but once they do, it is life-changing. I admit that I’m still learning to live by this belief today.
Photo by pinksherbet on flickr.
You are an incredibly unique person, and your uniqueness is what makes you a valuable person. Everyone is valuable! It can be thrilling to imagine how truly unique every single person is. We all have different personalities, appearances, voices, perspectives, hopes, fears, and dreams. We come from different cultures and families. There are so many variables that make each of us unique, and that’s beautiful. So how can we compare ourselves? It’s one thing to say Bob is better at playing basketball than Bill, but it doesn’t make sense to say Bill is inferior, or Bob is a better person. And that’s exactly what we do when we compare ourselves to others and base our value on things like appearance and achievements.
When you acknowledge your uniqueness and inherent value, you can let go of the need for others’ approval to feel good about yourself. You can also let go of the pressure to meet other people’s standards. It’s difficult to do this, because it’s become a habit. Most of us have been conditioned since our childhood to seek approval and meet certain standards. Acceptance from our parents, teachers, and friends could have come from how well we did at something, for example. Then as we grow older, we learn about societal values and the importance of wealth, success, and power. We also learn that other people have expectations, and combined with whatever type of habits and beliefs we developed as children, these standards can make us feel overwhelmed.
It’s important to realize that you don’t need to meet other people’s standards or gain their approval in order to be a valuable person. You already are! Don’t get caught up in the superior/inferior mindset – remember that you are unique and not measurable.
Try out these new beliefs and see how they work for you. Chances are the beliefs you’ve been holding onto are dragging you down, one way or another. If you can start encouraging yourself, using failure to your advantage, facing your fears, and valuing yourself without comparing yourself, you will be more confident. I wish you the best with these new ways of thinking.
Do you agree or disagree with something you read here or want to comment in general? Please join in the discussion below!