How to Regain Healthy Self-Confidence

If you're experiencing low self-confidence, know that it isn't a life sentence.

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Anyone can spot the difference between a person with high self-confidence and someone with low self-confidence. Someone with healthy levels of self-confidence trusts their skills and instincts. They believe in themselves — not in an arrogant way ("I'm better than you") but in a rational and safe way ("I'm capable of coping with that situation"). A healthy dose of confidence is necessary to collaborate and take advantage of opportunities and challenges.

Unfortunately, this is not a default state for many. Doubt and shame can strike at any time. That's troubling, since people tend to believe that what they feel is actually fact. So if they feel like they aren't good enough, they believe that's really true. But confidence is not just the perception of your abilities. It is a feeling associated with hope, positivity and an expectation of being able to manage eventual results (when your confidence is high). When your confidence is low, you might experience fear, shame or frustration.

If you're experiencing low self-confidence, know that it isn't a life sentence. But before we jump into how to enhance your self-confidence, let me highlight three suggestions, common in the mainstream media, that in my experience could be more harmful than helpful:

• Fake it till you make it: This cliché advises you to act as if you've already accomplished your goal so your brain will believe it's possible. What does that actually mean? Contradicting your own feelings? Pretending you don't experience any reactions? How sustainable is such an approach long-term? My biggest problem is with a conviction that a simple affirmation will support a person in achieving full alignment of their mindset and emotional states. Instead of faking, start with building self-awareness.

Silence your inner critic: Some people have a particularly hard time with this one since they recognize that an inner critic played a very important role in their formative years. If it served a purpose, then erasing it is like deleting the part of your own history. I usually recommend doing the opposite. Whenever you hear this voice in your head, say "Thank you. You used to be helpful, and I am grateful for that. But now we need to part ways. There are different voices in me that I want to listen to now. My courageous voice. My agile voice. My mature voice."

Build your confidence by spotless execution: This belief is the first step into the downward spiral of negative thoughts and doubt. People who set their heart on achieving the best might suffer from constant frustration and disappointment with themselves and others for not living up to those standards. Believing that there is only one way to do something — the perfect way — makes people sound self-righteous, angry and frustrated. What works well in building self-confidence is defining what "good enough" looks like. I even suggest defining the minimum and maximum success criteria and looking into the space in between. There are so many different ways to be effective.

So, what are some bulletproof ways to increase your confidence?Given that you have faith that it can grow, there are a few things you can experiment with to find your unique method.

First, concentrate on things you can control and make learning a habit. The most accessible approach is self-reflection. Create a daily habit of contemplating your gains and challenges. You might answer a question about one thing you are particularly proud of today. Many people favor gratitude journals that serve as a personal outlet and a track record they can go back to when they feel anxious.

Decoding your limiting beliefs is another powerful way to learn and grow. Think about stories you keep repeating to yourself, for example, "I am such a lousy presenter." Next, ask yourself if this is true. What evidence can you collect? If you compare your performance now to your performance from two years ago, how much have you accomplished? What helped you make such progress? Be cognizant of your habitual opinions, especially if they undervalue your competencies.

Take advantage of more traditional ways of learning. Listen to podcasts and read blogs, articles and books. There are plenty of online platforms that you can use to upgrade your skills. By learning new skills, you increase your self-assurance.

Some of my clients say that understanding their personal set of strengths is a great way to feel better about themselves and build self-confidence. You might want to try an assessment that measures your skills, then work with a coach to plan how to take advantage of them.

Because failures and mistakes have a deteriorating impact on confidence, your leverage point could be seeing them in a wider context. Most errors are far from ending your career or destroying your chance to be successful. Mistakes are the part of a feedback loop that tells you that you need to do things differently next time. If you develop a habit of reflecting on them to understand how to overcome problems in the future, it will become the source of self-confidence for your whole life.

You may have heard about research from social psychologist Amy Cuddy, who suggests that assuming certain "power poses" can improve self-assurance. While that may be true, I recommend finding what makes you, specifically, feel more confident. When one client felt less confident, he found a spot in his building with the most panoramic view. By quietly standing and observing the far horizon (or the shapes of the buildings), he gained perspective and recalibrated his emotions. Somehow the act of exploring the furthest point in the distance elevated his level of self-confidence because when he put the event into the perspective, he became capable of dealing with it.

And you can do the same. Look at the ideas above, experiment with them and find your own bulletproof method to increase your self-confidence.

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