As part of my private practice, I asked peeps on my Instagram what I should write about next. The response was overwhelmingly in favour of a post on building confidence. I love this topic because I am also have an awakening of sorts when it comes to being confident.
When I tried to research strategies to build self confidence, I realized that self-esteem and self-confidence were being used interchangeably. While they’re both similar, there is a nuanced difference. However, a person with reasonable self-esteem is more likely to develop self-confidence. The common thread is that both – self-esteem and self-confidence – refer to one’s personal opinion about oneself. They are intrinsic vs. extrinsic.
#1. Self-esteem refers to one’s overall belief in oneself. Confidence refers to the belief in one’s abilities. It is possible to have good levels of self-esteem, yet be under confident. For e.g. I know people that feel good about themselves, but are under confident when it comes to presentations, exams and interviews. Some people may genuinely be great folks and exude confidence among friends and family, but may have a hard time interacting with possible romantic interests.
#2. Levels of confidence can differ from realm to realm. For e.g. I am a confident of my abilities in word games, but will not participate in Pictionary, because I feel under confident about my drawing skills! Jokes aside, we may be comfortable in a few areas, but feel quite out-of-depth in others.
#3. Sometimes self-confidence is impacted by levels of experience and exposure. I remember in 2010, I tried to run a non-profit in India to support caregivers of people living with dementia. But I was easily overwhelmed with crisis calls from remote parts of the country. I attribute this to not having had exposure to such roles. I would have no such problem today because I have more experience in seeing projects through from the ground up and working with complex clients.
#4. Self-awareness is a pre-requisite to developing self-confidence. Self-awareness leads to evaluating oneself realistically, i.e. to know one’s strengths and weaknesses for a particular realm. Knowing just one of them will lead to either an inflated ego or deflated sense of self.
#5. Developing self-confidence is a slow, continuous process like growing a tree. It requires intention, action and ongoing nurturing in a viable environment. All of these are within one’s control. If we can grow fruits and vegetables in green houses in the Canadian tundra, anyone is able to develop good levels of self-confidence.
#6. Failure is inevitable. If we accept this, we will let go of fear or at least learn to work with it. Failures are actually stairs we climb towards success. And successes will in turn build our self-confidence.
#7. Self-confidence requires resiliency. We cannot eliminate conflict, failure, barriers, etc. But we can develop resiliency which allows us to address and overcome these as they arise. For e.g. I help clients struggling with rage to develop strategies to diffuse the their possible outburst. When they feel extremely angry, they exit the situation and perform grounding exercises. When they feel calm enough, they assess their response and see if the situation even needs to be addressed – most often it does not or has at least lost the intensity. The more success they have in responding without lashing out, the more confident they become in their relationships. Now, instead of running away from people, they engage with them and are able to cope with triggers as they arise.
#8. Building confidence requires the ability to take risks. Of course we can get really good at what we do. But if we want to improve your skills and grow, then we have to stick our neck out from time to time. Risks don’t have to be earth-shattering. They can be small risks like trying something new.
So, how can we actually build better levels of confidence! Here are some tips:
A. Do things we love and excel at. The aim of this is to distribute one’s eggs across baskets. If we’re struggling with a work-related situation and we cannot change it, then we have to build ourselves up through something else – our hobbies, volunteering, creative pursuits, etc. will all help!
B. Learn new things to discover more strengths. It is said that we use only 6% of our brains in our lifetime. The more we learn, the better we feel about ourselves. At my previous work place, I had an opportunity to work with clients directly (which I was already good at) but I learned that I had the skill and passion for developing and training professionals and infusing them with the same passion and energy. It all began with saying yes to an opportunity and creating more in the same realm.
C. Meet new people. Meeting people with diverse outlooks and perspectives enriches us, even if we don’t agree with certain perspectives. Sometimes, it may shake us up as well. It’s great to be challenged.
D. Find mentors that can give you positive and critical feedback. I am so fortunate to have my ex-colleague and friend, Amy, who has several years of private practice experience of being my mentor. She is not only helping me with clinical skills, but also with business skills. She is honest with me about the challenges I have in my way, but encourages me when I make a decision, even if it wasn’t something she had recommended.
E. Practice saying yes and no. By this I mean saying yes to things that challenge us and saying no to things that we don’t really want to do. The idea is to become okay with being uncomfortable. When we are okay with being uncomfortable, we are beginning to need the approval of others less.
F. Accept feedback dispassionately. Whether positive or negative – feedback needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and evaluated. Questions to ask oneself: Is there any truth to the negative or positive feedback? What were my expectations? What did I learn from it? I keep thinking of JK Rowling who was rejected by tens of publishers (over 30 of them) before she got a book deal. Of course, we’re not all JK Rowling, but the idea is to believe in something and be able to run with it even if others are not on board with it.
G. Let go of perfectionism. Perfectionism refers to wanting to live up with one’s own unrealistic and utopic standards of how something ought to be. This means, we are never satisfied. Sometimes, it means we procrastinate so much that we don’t meet deadlines. Sometimes, we may not even try because we feel like we might fail! Life is a process – we will always make improvements as we go along!
H. Figure out our barriers. What stops you from being confident? Is it lack of opportunities? Is it opinions of others? Is it negative self talk and low self esteem? Once we know the real reason for your lack of confidence, we can go about addressing them. For e.g. A new immigrant to Canada may realize their barrier is a lack of exposure to the Canadian system and not having a network. My recommendation to them would be to connect with community agencies to get support in their new journey. Sometimes, they can use their faith-based communities as well. I can say this with confidence because I have had to do this in the U.S. and in Canada.
I. Track your progress through documentation. This is a great way to learn and remember about one’s own journey. Documentation doesn’t just mean journaling (though I love journaling and advocate strongly for it). It could mean creating a folder in your inbox where you document feedback and appreciation and ideas from the start!
J. Change your definition of success. What is success really? For some it is the money, fame, promotions. For others, it might be appreciation and applause. Mostly, progress is part of success. If we’re better than before, it is important to recognize movement. And if we’re worse, than knowing that we’re chasing the wrong thing is success as well.
Confident people are usually:
- Compassionate towards self and others
- Quick to move on
And last but not the least, start by getting organized. When we tackle the things we need to do, it gives us time or at least tells us where we can carve out time to explore interests. Building confidence has to be a priority and not an after thought. Remember, you are worthy and can be confident!
Please share your thoughts and ideas and I can make this post even better. Of course, I will credit you for the same.