By Annie Lawler.
The issue of self-confidence is one of the keys to being able to fulfil your dreams and ambitions, and to leading a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. Our beliefs about ourselves affect everything we do, including how successful we are in making friends, in our careers, with relationships and just about every aspect of life. Many of these beliefs tend to be created very early on in life and are often subconscious until they are explored in more detail. Even apparently outwardly confident people can have underlying beliefs about themselves that hold them back from being all that they might be and doing all that they would like to do. Once we are aware of the beliefs, we have the power to decide which serve us and which we would be better to let go of and replace with something that works more in our favour.
It can be difficult to like ourselves when we know ourselves inside out – our weaknesses as well as our strengths; our failures as well as our successes. We don’t know anyone else on this planet as well as we know ourselves. And if we’re going to ‘like and respect’ ourselves, we need to learn to accept and acknowledge the traits we are less proud of as well as celebrating our successes. The key word is ‘unconditional’ and if we can accept ourselves without condition, it is much easier to enjoy being exactly who we are. This helps us in every aspect of life and reduces a lot of stress.
If you are self-critical and lacking in confidence, you’re not alone. It is estimated that around 85% of us suffer some form of lack of self-esteem during our lives, no matter what our social or financial status. But the good news is that only you are in control of your life and your levels of self-esteem, so you can definitely do something about it!
We often have a tendency to look for things outside ourselves as holding the answers to how we feel about ourselves and, to an extent, we’re right. Things happen which are outside our control – experiences and traumatic incidents which we may not have the emotional maturity or learning to cope with at the time they happen in our lives. These events can be very hurtful, stressful and sometimes it appears there is nothing we can physically do to make things any different. To make matters worse, when we are lacking in confidence, we tend to believe it’s weak to ask for help and therefore don’t get the help and learning we need, meaning we can find ourselves repeating the same mistakes without understanding what’s going on.
What we always have control over however, is how we react to situations when they arise and how we allow them to affect us long term.
Here are three confidence-boosting techniques to work with, which will help strengthen your self-esteem, change your thinking and change your life!
1. Avoid Self-Critical Thoughts & Talk
How often do you look in the mirror and criticize your appearance, noticing only those things about yourself that you not happy with?
When you speak about yourself do you constantly apologise for yourself and put yourself down? You know, when you start saying things like, ‘I know this may sound stupid but…’ or ‘I know this is a silly idea but …’ or ‘I always get that wrong’ or ‘I’m hopeless at that’. Listen to what you say about yourself and what that is telling others about your self-esteem. Could that affect the way they respond to you on some level?
Whenever you find yourself thinking or saying negative things about yourself, think to yourself, ‘Stop’. Cancel that thought. How can I express that more positively?’.
For example, try the following:
• Instead of ‘I know this may sound stupid but…’ try ‘I’ve got a suggestion to kick around…’ or ‘Have you considered…’.
• Rather than ‘I’m useless at…’, try ‘I’d really like to learn more about…’.
• Try ‘I was doing my best but I’d do things differently next time’ rather than ‘I’m so stupid to have messed things up like that!’
Notice how different and more positive the alternative statements sound.
Find a really attractively bound notebook and keep a diary or journal and see if you notice the kind of things you are thinking and saying about yourself. Then explore ways in which you can express feelings about yourself more clearly and in a more positive way and write those down. You only need to make bullet point notes, so it needn’t take long, but it’s helpful to look back on and notice any emerging patterns.
It takes practice to get used to, but eventually this negative habit of thinking about yourself will soon be replaced by a more positive and self-affirming one. You’ll start to notice not only how you express yourself differently, but also how this affects how you feel.
2.Practice Being Confident
It has been proven time after time that repeated messages eventually sink into the subconscious and affect our behaviour. That’s why so many millions are spent on marketing, advertising & political campaigns for example. This stuff works! If you’ve been used to being self-critical, that is what has seeped into your psyche, but it can be changed.
In the same way, if you start to ‘feed’ yourself positive statements about yourself as often as possible every day, your beliefs about yourself will eventually change. Instead of berating yourself and talking yourself down, you can teach yourself ways of thinking about
yourself with love and respect. That’s when your whole world starts to change and here’s how. We ALL make mistakes, we ALL are great at some things, we can ALL learn to do something better. So let’s ditch the self-critical stuff and start supporting your emotional wellbeing.
You can do this whenever and wherever you think about it, so it couldn’t be simpler. Here are some examples which you can use as a basis if they feel appropriate. Then start to make your own statements up which support you and acknowledge your place in the world as a genuine human being with faults and talents.
My favourite comes from John Demartini and it is this:
Whatever I have done and whatever I have not done, I am worthy of love.
Then there are a host of others from different sources, including:
I am perfect in my imperfection and accept myself just the way I am.
I am a unique human being. There never has been, isn’t now and never will be anyone else exactly like me, with my experience of life and with my individual talents and capabilities.
I am safe, comfortable and self-assured in all situations.
I look great, I feel great and I am great.
I am a likeable, loveable person exactly as I am today.
You may find that you experience an emotional reaction to some of these statements, but that’s normal and fine. You’re simply releasing old blocks and tensions and that is a beneficial thing.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe these or not to begin with, but you do need to write them as if you already feel them, repeat them daily and as often as possible, especially if you find yourself feeling nervous, afraid or lacking in confidence. Build your own list of self affirming statements by working out how you want to feel and then telling yourself you already feel that way.
3. Make Your Own Rules
Remember I referred in the last point to the way concepts and thoughts get into our subconscious through repetition? Well sometimes these concepts and ideas are hugely supportive and sometimes they are less helpful.
We’re faced daily with an endless variety of messages which purport to show to us the ‘perfect’ life, the ‘perfect’ person and so on. So much so, that we can find ourselves feeling less than satisfied with ourselves.
There are several things we need to remember about these images of ‘perfect’ people and society’s current obsession with ‘celebrity’ and these are:
• Most of the images you see in magazines and films are either retouched or there’s a body double (sometimes several!!). Therefore they are not true representations and the images they portray don’t actually exist.
• The people portrayed in the media as being super-successful probably have a veritable raft of full-time staff who do a lot of the hard work and a lot of the beautifying
• They also have a lot of money and can afford to take easy options in terms of travel and so on and I doubt many of them do the cooking or the housework
• A lot of them are so ‘successful’, their houses are targeted by burglars, they don’t always know who their friends are and if they do know, they can’t just pop out and have a coffee with them because they’ll be chased by a bunch of paparazzi, details of their personal lives (either true or untrue) are constantly plastered over the front pages etc. Does that sound like the kind of life you want?
• Many make themselves ill through lack of food or too many drugs in order to stay thin.
• More often than not, celebrities don’t have to pay for a lot of the clothes they wear and the goods they endorse (despite the fact they’re probably amongst the few people who can actually afford them!), because they are given them by manufacturers who want to make the link between their product and the celebrity as it helps them sell more.
If this is the kind of life that suits you and that makes you feel good, go for it 100%, but go for it with your eyes wide open and understand the pitfalls as well as the advantages. There is a lot of manipulation that goes on to get us hooked on products and status – some of which can be of huge benefit to us and some that can leave us feeling very inadequate and dissatisfied.
As most of what we’re being sold as an ‘image’ is not true or at best, somewhat enhanced, you needn’t feel inadequate or less than perfect if you don’t measure up to the high standards of these male and female ‘icons’. Be aware of the influence these images have, understand the reality behind them. Understand they have nothing to do with real life and therefore you do not have to conform to this distorted sense of perfection.
You are perfect exactly as you are today, without any opinion from anyone else and it’s often our unusual features and talents that make us stand out and make us who we are.
What’s more, very soon your misshapen, less than white teeth will soon make you the one that’s ‘special’ and ‘different’ so hang on to them!.
Most of us go through crises of confidence at some point in our lives and some of us constantly undervalue ourselves. You have the power to change that and to empower yourself and you don’t need anyone else’s approval to be who you are. In fact, it’s often our ‘errors’, ‘faults’ and ‘imperfections’ that make us stand out from the crowd.
About the Author:
Annie Lawler is founder of Breathing Space. Annie empowers clients to get back in the driving seat & to restore calm, clarity & confidence to their lives.