I’m guessing you’d like to improve your self-confidence?
Yes? I mean, we can all do with a little improvement, a few tweaks here and there, right? Okay, in my previous post we looked at Why self-confidence is important and explored the impact and some causes of low self-confidence. We also looked at the benefits and what happens when we possess confidence. So moving on, let’s see How you can maintain and improve your self-confidence.
Ah! Enough of the negative self-talk already! If you want to improve your self-confidence, you can — if you’re willing to take action. And not just one action — done a few times. You need repeated actions — until you feel and portray that confidence. Even ‘fake it til you make it’ needs practice until you actually do feel it and ‘make it’. Moreover, just sitting around thinking about improving our self-confidence, isn’t enough. We also need the motivation to start.
So I need motivation too?
Hmm, but how do we get motivated, you ask! By Action! Action is the catalyst for motivation, and we’ll cover these topics in more depth in another post. But in the meantime, let’s remember that action is the precursor to motivation.
Lots of people seeking motivation will wait for someone or something to motivate them, but that’s not always going to happen. We need to get up, off our backsides, and take action to motivate ourselves.
“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of feeling than to feel yourself into a new way of acting.”Harry Stack Sullivan
Now, read that quote again — slowly this time. What Mr Sullivan is saying is:
- we need to STOP saying: “I must get motivated to take action” and
- START saying: “I will take action to get motivated“
So, just to be clear, Action comes first, motivation comes after.
A bit of psychology, and action!
Did you know that we’re shaped by our thoughts, we become what we think? And again, this isn’t that ‘fake it til you make it’ bullsh*t. Our thoughts really can change the way we behave, the decisions we make, and the feelings we experience. In short, they have a lot of influence over us, even more so than we think.
So, knowing all of this, now what to do?
Think action! And actually move — now! Go on. Stand and stretch your arms and hands up towards the sky, and hold. Exhale out through your mouth until you can’t do any more, then breathe in slowly through your nose and slowly out through your mouth. Stretch those arms up higher, like you’re punching the air. Think to yourself “Whoohoo! I’ve got some action going on here”, or some other positive mantra. And, relax.
Action and motivation
Having done the above exercise, I wonder how you feel? Believe it or not — and in the name of research — I actually did this when I woke up. And, it worked! It got me so motivated, I’ve helped clean my flat today. OKay, I’m exhausted and achy, but let me tell you, it’s worth it. Everything looks so shiny and each room smells divine.
Has that improved my self-confidence? No, not really. But that wasn’t my intention. I actually have heaps of self-confidence — now. I just wanted to test the action leads to motivation theory. I’m satisfied that it worked.
Because the moment I got moving — I started taking action — I started to feel motivated, which led to more motivation. I’m now motivated to start helping to empty a few cupboards. This will, in turn, lead to even more action — next week when I do the cupboards. And the cycle will continue, as long as I continue to take action.
Remember: Action leads to motivation, and not the other way around. Any action is better than no action at all. Stop waiting for motivation, and start motivating yourself.
Action, motivation and self-confidence
We know that action leads to motivation, we’ve done the above exercise and now we’re motivated to do something about improving our self-confidence.
Self-confidence can be observed in lots of ways, for example:
- in your body language; not slouching down, sit or stand upright, head up, eye contact and smiling
- how you behave; easily engaging with others, positively greeting people, putting yourself forward for tasks, whether it’s at work or in your local community offering to run the tombola stall at the summer fete, and
- in what you say and how you say it; offering positive suggestions at work or college, speaking confidently and clearly without mumbling or umming and ahhing
Displaying a positive image to others can help us to improve our self-confidence. If we act confidently, others are more likely to respond well, and this positive feedback will help us to believe in ourselves.
How to improve your self-confidence
Whether you lack confidence in one specific area or you struggle to feel confident about anything, these strategies can help.
- Be honest with yourself. And don’t try to hide all the bits of you from others. When you meet someone and they ask about your job or your hobbies for instance. You chew your lips, desperately thinking of something interesting to say. If this is an issue; work on it.
- If you’re embarrassed about your job, work on that. Think about the positive sides, like what skills you’ve gained that will help in your next job. You can then tell people that “Okay, it’s not the greatest job in the world but I’ve learned………” Obviously you don’t want to tell people everything about you but you can choose who you tell what too. Like train-spotting – tell it to your geeky friends.
- In social or work situations, ask others about themselves – many people love talking about themselves. Ask questions. Ask about their hobbies, work, children, travels, and if you can’t think of a witty or cool response, say “Tell me more…..”
- Walk in with a great big smile, a good strong handshake, and a firm and positive greeting, whether it’s an interview or a social gathering. Trust me, this is great in social circumstances. Everyone sees you smiling confidently, and want to know you, want to talk to you. They’re thinking “I want to be like her/him”, “She must be fun/interesting” or “He looks like he knows everyone, I’ll go over and say hi.”
- Be around confident people — remember, anxiety feeds anxiety so try to stay away from people who are always anxious and lack self-confidence. Being around them will just feed your own insecurities. Just as anxiety is contagious, so too is confidence and being with confident, secure people will cultivate your inner confidence.
- Because my sons were terrific athletes, swimmers, and medalists in Karate, their peers and cousins realised the boys’ confidence and felt confident with them and being around them.
- Make others feel confident — confidence generates confidence. Where others feel confident, it helps you feel the same. Imagine you’re in a small boat with a friend and you lose one oar (yes, this happened to me). You tell your friend how good they are at solving problems, and they puff out their chest and manage to head towards safety. You’ve made them feel confident, and because they’re leading you towards safety, you feel confident in return.
- Offer help or support to others. If you have skills and knowledge or experience in particular areas, offer your help to others. You might be able to help your neighbour who’s struggling to start her car. At work, a new colleague doesn’t know how to work the fancy printer.
- In any situation, listen out for the “Oh my word, I could never bake a cake like that.” If you can bake, you might offer suggestions. “Crikey, I’m no good at maths.” or “I wish I knew how to……….” If you can help, support, or guide someone, give it a go. It will do wonders for your self-confidence, and you might make a new friend.
- Peer support, mentors and supportive friends is also an important factor in gaining confidence. They can support you if you feel like your struggling — honestly, people love to share their knowledge and skills when asked.
- Wearing appropriate clothing for the occasion; there’s nothing worse than feeling under or overdressed. Ask about the dress code if you have to. Make sure you’re comfortable so you’re not constantly pulling at your dress or having to keep pulling your trousers up.
- If you can afford it, try a new look altogether or just have your hair styled and cut or coloured. Right, now you’re dressed and made up, take a good look in the mirror and breathe………. now, smile at yourself, a big smile and, breathe.
- Dr. Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, found that participants in a study who wore a white lab coat exhibited more focused attention. In other words, when people dressed like a doctor, they behaved more like a doctor, or at least how they thought a doctor might behave. If you want to feel more confident, dress the way a confident version of yourself would.
- Try things outside your comfort zone. Yes, you will feel uncomfortable but only for a little while. Charlie Houpert says “Confidence is ultimately about being comfortable in a wide variety of situations that would make most people feel uncomfortable.” So if you stretch your comfort zone every day, very quickly you’ll have a large comfort zone and be able to feel more comfortable even when outside of it.”
- Mr Houpert goes on to say “This can involve more daunting changes, like taking a new job or confronting someone you usually avoid. However, it can also take smaller forms, like striking up a conversation with someone new if you’re normally shy, or trying a new food. It’s more important that you regularly expand your comfort zone rather than occasionally throwing yourself into the deep end.”
Last minute thoughts
The list could go on, but I think that might be enough to be getting on with? I do hope you’ll try some of the tips. Like Mr Houbert said, take small steps. Look at an area where you feel uncomfortable i.e. you’re shy, and would definitely like to change this — tackle that one first.
You could start by holding your head up high, smiling and talking to the man in your local newsagent. What about the young girl on the market stall where you buy your Romanesco broccoli each week? Tell she looks cold or say you love her sweater, is it handmade? You get my drift!
Over to you
As you can see, I’ve always plenty to say. What about you? Do you feel comfortable and confident in talking to new people? I’m really interested in whether you try any of these tips and to find out if they worked for you. Do you have tips that might help others? I’m really happy for you to critique any of my posts, please do. And, as always, I look forward to your comments and questions.