Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
How Do You Nourish Yourself Emotionally?
In my previous post on how to increase self-confidence, I discussed two ways to help you increase your feelings of self-confidence — choosing confident thoughts, and challenging yourself. Today let’s explore a few more habits that will help you feel more consistently and authentically self confident.
Last time, I gave you an assignment: to write down a thought that, if you were to believe it, would help you feel more confident.
Let's discuss: How was that for you? Did you do the assignment? If so, how did you feel as you wrote down the words? For some people, finding and reminding themselves of self-affirming beliefs feels relatively easy, and good.
However, some people struggle to do this. They feel like positive, self-affirming thoughts are a lie. Thinking supportive things about themselves feels awkward, and untrue. This is especially common for people who are going through a bad breakup or divorce, or who have been in relationships (romantic, parents, others) who have been critical and unsupportive.
If you felt an inward “squirm” as you tried to find better feeling thoughts about yourself (or if you rejected the idea of practicing this skill entirely) you may need more support to shift your inner dialogue. Please consider enrolling in my Happiness Class (where I spend like, five hours of instruction teaching you how to spot and vanquish your inner bully), or getting involved in positive, affirming counseling or life coaching.
Why? Because self-defeating thoughts can be extremely powerful, and very entrenched. You may need an ally, a partner, to help you even see them — much less talk back to them. An even longer journey may be to discover that the voice in your head that's tearing you down may not even be true at all, and never was.
But that's a journey that few can make alone. If you want a partner to help you do this work, we're always here. You do not need to continue suffering through this by yourself.
However: For others of you, finding the thought that would help you feel more confident was perhaps new, but still do-able. And when you did the assignment it likely gave your self-confidence a boost. If so you've experienced a universal truth of self confidence: You are what you believe. Let's use this success to continue moving you forward.
What's next? Your follow up assignment is to very deliberately and intentionally remind yourself of that new idea every day. You might even go-getcha some friends for that new thought. Before you know it, you'll have an empowering, supportive chorus of voices inside of you: cheering you on, celebrating your successes, and motivating you upward and onward.
But wait, there's more! Here are a few more tips to help yourself continue feeding the healthy, emotionally supportive part of you.
Effective Ways To Build Your Self Confidence
1) Make a list of things that have gone well. It’s so easy to focus on your perceived character flaws, possible catastrophic outcomes, or times when things didn’t work out the way you hoped. Something about them is just more compelling than positive memories, or thinking about your strengths. Focusing on failures, real or imagined, is a sure fire way to create gnawing self doubt and insecurity.
Try this: literally, sit down with a pen, and write out a comprehensive list of things that you accomplished, things that went well, and things that you know you can do. The act of writing it will give you appreciation for your strengths and your abilities. By willfully connecting with positive memories you will feel more confident to handle new things too. [More: How to Own Your Awesome]
2) Learn the skill of optimism. Yes, optimism is a skill. Unconfident people generally imagine that things will go badly for them, and anticipation of the pain, or consequences of their failures becomes the paralyzing force that prevents them from trying things. (Or, when in the grip of great fear triggered by negative expectations, unconfident people can sabotage their own success).
In contrast, confident people simply expect that things will go well for them, or if things don’t go well they will be able to handle the situation competently. This might sound like a tall order at first, but optimism is a skill that can be learned.
To develop your ability to think in this way, try this: Write out the best-case scenario. Your mind may be crowded by images of catastrophes, but for this exercise gently push them aside for the moment, and write out the story of what exactly would be happening if you were living out the best-case scenario. To build on this, you may write out possible problems you could encounter, but then immediately write out how you would handle them competently were they to occur. Developing this confident vision will help soothe your anxiety, and feel more competent — and more confident.
3) Populate your life with people who believe in you. If you are spending time with people who generally expect bad things to happen, and who doubt that you (or anyone) can create better outcomes, it may be affecting your confidence.
We humans learn from others, and we internalize the voices of the people we are close to. You’ve probably internalized the voices of your parents as a child, and as an adult the beliefs of those around us get absorbed into our brains too. When you spend time with people who are confident in themselves, they will be more likely to view you as competent too— and they’ll communicate that belief in a variety of ways.
Being exposed to positive expectations of your competence, your worth, and your power to improve your circumstances will make you more likely to feel confident. And, when you feel more confident you will try things that may feel challenging. When you successfully face challenges, your confidence builds.
4) Stay in the present. Things that actually do happen are rarely as scary, catastrophic and overwhelming as we think they are going to be. Our negative anticipations of failure or bad outcomes can be positively visceral, and they make us basically experience the worst possible scenario before it’s even happened. The feelings of dread, terror, and shame we have when living out the possible horrible future in our mind’s eye will paralyze us, and sustain the belief in our incompetence that prevents us from feeling confident.
Try this: Practice unhooking your mind from catastrophe by simply noticing what is happening around you right now. [More on mindfulness, here]. You may be sitting in a chair, laying in bed, or walking. Notice how your body feels, notice the colors and shapes that you see, and notice what you are hearing. That’s all that’s happening now. That is actually all that is ever happening. When you stay here, and mindfully allow the present moment to unfold, you are more likely to feel confident and certain in your ability to cope. [More on managing catastrophic thoughts here, if you're interestested].
The world needs you. We need you to be your amazing, best self and to do all the wonderful things you're capable of. [Read: Why The World Is A Better Place Because You're In It] Strengthening yourself, nourishing yourself, and investing in your confidence gives you the chance to do everything you're meant to do — for yourself, and others.
Yay for being you!