When things are going well, and there’s lots of “evidence” that you’re doing okay, it’s easy to feel confident. You get a good review, you get flowers from your fella, people smile at you, and you feel good about yourself.

But — as you know — if you’re entirely dependent on external validation for your feelings of self-worth, you’re going to have problems. Because people aren’t always going to be nice to you, and love you, and tell you you’re doing a good job.

You need to have some inner tools to maintain your emotional equilibrium with out the mirror of the world reflecting back to you that you’re great. Without these tools, normal failures, slights, and criticisms can send you into a spiral of self-doubt, anxiety, and fear of failure.

Here is the big secret to feeling more confident, no matter what’s going on:

Choose self-confidence inspiring thoughts, and practice them.

When you are feeling the opposite of self-confident (insecure, anxious, incompetent, powerless) it’s likely that you have some core beliefs that are supporting those feelings. You may believe on some deep level that you can’t handle a situation, you’re going to fail, or that you’re not good enough.

You cannot wait for other people to defend you from these negative thoughts. You have to decide to be your own number-one fan, and start “talking back” to these self-defeating thoughts yourself.

The Cycle of Insecurity

Because here’s what happens if you don’t: Your negative thoughts create your unconfident feelings (anxiety, self doubt). Your unconfident feelings then lead you to behave in ways that express feelings of insecurity (hesitation, withdrawing).

Many times, acting from a place of insecurity will create the discouraging outcomes that you fear most. Then your insecurity and self doubt is confirmed, and the negative thoughts seem even more true.

A great example of this phenomena in action is in people who have a little social anxiety.

They feel anxious and insecure around people because their have a running commentary inside themselves about how everyone dislikes them, and then… they act a little weird in social situations. When others have a less-than-positive reaction to them their greatest fears are confirmed. That negative voice inside them gets stronger, and more insistent that they really actually do suck.

You Need to Break This Cycle

Negative beliefs about yourself may be so old and automatic that you are not even aware that you are having them. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have the power to decide to take your power back by choosing confidence-inspiring thoughts. Here are some of my favorites:

“I am strong and resourceful, and competent to handle whatever life throws my way.”
“My actions in the present moment create my future outcomes. Today I can make choices that lead me to success.”
“I am a good person. I am worthy of love and respect.”
I know that this may feel goofy, like some seventies-style “positive affirmation” practice, but this is based on decades of research showing that practicing the thoughts that support your desired mood state is really effective way of helping you achieve it.

You Are In Charge of Your Mind

Our brains are plastic. The thinking patterns we indulge literally create neural pathways in our brains. If you are feeling fearful and insecure, it’s likely that there are neural pathways of automatic thoughts carrying you into that bad-feeling place.

Deciding on, and practicing, new thoughts feels hard at first, but the practice re-organizes your mind. It establishes new automatic beliefs in your competence, power and worth that will lead you to better feeling moods.

You can’t really control your feelings: They are determined by your thoughts. But you sure can decide what you want to believe about yourself. When you decide to believe good things, you will immediately feel stronger, more capable, and more confident.

Now I have an assignment for you: Tell me what thought, if you were to believe it, would make you feel stronger, more powerful, and more confident. I’ll be reading your answers!

Then, your job is to practice that new, confidence-inspiring thought every day. It will help you feel more confident — promise!

— Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby