Confidence. The topic of many articles, seminars and the subject of analysis for “professionals” and “ordinary” people. There are numerous training courses and lectures to equip you with the precious skill yet there are still so many looking through the materials, doing their research and trying different techniques ... Didn’t we learn already?
I have personally spent years exploring my own confidence levels. With an inconsistent consistency I was trying out pieces of the puzzle, seemingly getting closer to confidence and then suddenly going back to zero. Confidence was popping up in almost every other area I was working on and it seemed to be the holy grail of solutions for anything. From “How to thrive in the corporate world” to “How to get a date” it all came down to this simple word with mysteriously gigantic importance.
And here I am, after approximately 5 years, 3 months and 12 days of personal journey and an on and off affair with the literature and practice I am finally confident… to write this article and to promise you that you will find the answers to what confidence is really made of and how to really become confident...in a sustainable way.
True confidence is the feeling of comfort with oneself. Period! It doesn’t depend on your skills, knowledge or looks. It doesn’t depend on social status, personal belongings or money. It also doesn’t depend on what others are saying or thinking of you. The only person who can give or take away your confidence is you! Take a moment, just process that! We all know the woman/man that has a confident air around them without seemingly being anything special. They carry themselves with ease, winning the battles of their lives gracefully. That's your proof - your opinion of them and your logical reasoning never had and never will have the power to shake their confidence.
So, how can YOU become confident?
One of the most popular approaches at the moment I call “confidence my as*” :o) Yeah, that's right. I personally was loving it. It makes perfect sense for a starter and when I tried it, it actually produced results. It says that “confidence” is too broad of a term and it is impossible to obtain because we have different levels of confidence in different areas of our lives. EVRICA! If you are aware of an area where you lacked confidence, all you need to do is define what confidence means for that particular area and address it. As simple as that. I also worked with clients using the concept and it worked for them too. We all improved in some aspects for some time.
But “lack of confidence” is a sneaky little fellow in my experience. It jumps from one area to another and catches us off guard. You become confident at work, but struggle in social situations, then you become confident in social situations but feel uncomfortable speaking to a sales person in a shop, then you become confident speaking to a sales person and suddenly you have confidence issue at work again…an endless loop. What's more, lack of confidence creeps into relationships of all sorts - with friends, family or lovers. It can manifest as fear, anger, jealousy, neediness or loneliness. It creates the feeling of “not being enough” in different ways and in different situations. I saw this in my clients as well as in myself. As if we were all under a spell. Weather the fear of "not being good enough" or the "lack of confidence" came first is a question much like "the egg or the chicken" but here I wouldn't bother to discuss that... what matters is that one day I finally had to face it...
... lack of confidence was coming from a lack of 'self-love' and 'self-acceptance'.
Those phrases are so uncomfortable for many that we almost prefer to continue struggling with the consequences of low confidence than to say them out loud, let alone associate ourselves with such language. I know I am stretching your attention span here. “This article wasn’t for me after all; self-love, really? But if you are ready to face it - confidence is being comfortable with who you are and love yourself truly. On a deep heart-felt level, which is very different from logic and reason.
So to put the theory into practice below is the list of the 9 best practices to build your confidence now! When you decide to apply them on a daily basis I guarantee you will build sustainable confidence i.e. one that doesn’t go away in the next scary, challenging moment.
1. Immediately stop all self criticism!
Refuse to criticize yourself. Accept yourself exactly as you are. Everybody changes. When you criticize yourself, your changes are negative. When you approve of yourself, your changes are always positive. (Louise Hay)
I cannot stress this enough! From now on you should be 100% aware that criticizing yourself has no positive outcome. It doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t make you better, it doesn’t make you more humble, likable, stronger or cooler. It doesn’t bring you closer to your God (if you are religious) either. There is just no point and you are causing yourself (and, remember, others too) pain. How? Commit to 7 days of negativity detox. Whenever you catch yourself going into a spiral of criticizing thoughts, stop yourself immediately, substitute those thoughts with something positive such as "you are so wonderful, you should be calm". I used "just stop it. This is not helpful or true in any way."
2. Focus on who you want to become.
Everyday is a chance to get it right. Know who you want to be and always keep that image in your mind. Just by doing this you are already ahead. Accept that you are what you chose to be and the way you act everyday defines you. This means that if tomorrow you decide to be a better person and act as one – then you already are. For every new person that you meet and enters your life you will be only your current self, the better self! (Tony Robbins). That nicely leads to the next point…
3. The past is in the past.
You cannot change it and if there is anything there you don’t like – it is there to teach you a lesson. I believe in this. Take it for what it is – a free, useful lecture and make the most of it. If you need to spend time to find the things that you learn from the most difficult situations. Write them down. Appreciate them.
4. Take and keep taking action!
It is easier to take action than not to. I swear and "I give full refund if you are not happy with the idea I am selling". I guarantee that from personal experience. However, the fear of taking action never goes away. The pleasure of finding out that it was easier done than said is almost always there. Doing can transform you. (Ina Dolmova)
5. Substitute “I have to” with “I chose to” ...
"I have to go to work"; "I have to eat healthier"; "I have to pay the bills"… change it to “I chose to go to work, because it gives me the money I need at the moment”, “I chose to eat healthier because I really love my body”. There is so much negativity in “I have to” and it is not even true. You are the master of your life even if you don't like the responsibility that this brings. You chose and by just changing vocabulary you automatically acknowledge your own power. (Most self-help literature)
6. Be loving to your negatives... But How?
Just acknowledge that you created them to fulfill a need. Our so called negatives are the result of experiences. They are a product and a manifestation of something. They don't need to define you because you actually can chose what to do with them. What's more the negatives were not always negative as they had a purpose. Now you are finding new, positive ways to fulfill your needs. You chose new means to live and be.
7. Unless others want to be a bit more like you they won’t judge you (as much as you think). Take uninvited judgement for what it is - a compliment! (Ina Dolmova). People generally don't spend time looking judging others unless they are comparing themselves or they found something interesting, something that they want ...
.... And for the brave ones among you ....
8. Meditate (some useful links added below)
We’ve made meditation sound like a mystical practice only for the religious, spiritual or frankly - crazy people. The reality is that meditation is the oldest practice of just sitting still and allowing yourself to relax, to be present. You don’t need to stop thinking, as a lot of people, are convinced they should. (and beat themselves down of course with “I can’t do it, I can’t stop thinking, it’s not working for me”). You just need to notice the thoughts that are coming into your head but for a change don’t follow them. Allow yourself the time to just let thoughts pass through without obsessing about them.
Try either “guided meditation” – i.e. you are listening to someone who talks to you or “non guided meditation” – i.e. you are simply with yourself (and some music if you want) and you focus on one meaningful word or a phrase which you repeatedly say to yourself. For example: “love”, “all is well”, “letting go”, “release”, etc. There is no hard rule as to what you are saying as long as it is positive and meaningful to you.
9. Do mirror work
How often you look in the mirror and see the negatives more than the positives? We've been programmed from an early age to notice problems more than anything else and we need to change that. Start by looking in the mirror and saying "Your Name I really really love you". That's all. Even if it feels awkward at the beginning and it doesn't sound true to you - just do it. Say nice things to you and appreciate what you have. It will change the world for you... (Louise Hay)
Be brave. Be you! It won't hurt more than it does now - I promise.