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12 Ways to Ignite Your Confidence

Having self-confidence is beneficial in all areas of our lives, and developing confidence is an important part of personal and professional growth. We intuitively understand that lack of confidence can hold us back from achieving all we want and being who we want to be. The experience of fear, insecurity or nervousness can be debilitating if we don’t understand ways to build confidence. I hear so many people share the desire “I need more confidence” or the lament “I’m not a confident person.”

Let’s talk about this.

A common misunderstanding I see when working with people who want to become more confident is the false belief that having confidence means NOT experiencing nervousness, insecurity or fear. While it’s true that someone with high confidence may experience less nervousness or insecurity, it’s a false belief that to be more confident you must first rid yourself of nervousness, insecurity and fear. Also inaccurate is the idea that confidence is a personality trait that you either have or don’t have.

Does it surprise you to hear that living with confidence is a competency you can master?

Before we move to the “how -to" of building confidence, there is a fundamental idea I want you to hear and it may surprise you:

You already have confidence within you,

(even if you’re not yet experiencing your confidence.) 

Try this: stop for a moment and consider a time, situation or setting within which you felt at ease, without fear or insecurity– maybe it's when you’re with certain people, maybe it was a time in your childhood, maybe it’s at home or in a previous work experience – any small or significant moment when you felt ease and comfortable with yourself. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and connect to that place within you, notice it - find even the smallest glimmer. That is the strong and confident you within you. Feel it, notice it, acknowledge it. Practice tuning in to this place of ease within yourself so you can come back to it when you need it. Consider making this connection to your strong self a daily meditation. 

“But I still feel anxious and insecure. I don’t feel confident” you say. That’s ok.

Let me invite you to shift away from black and white thinking, the false dichotomy that someone is either confident or insecure. This either/or style of thinking keeps you trapped in an assumption where you're choosing to understand yourself as only one of two options. This is simply not true.

Having confidence doesn’t mean we never experience nervousness or anxiety. It means that even if you are feeling insecure, you can learn to find that part inside of you that is confident (even the littlest bit) and connect with that part to move forward, even while holding the nervousness alongside it. Can you be gentle with the nervous part of yourself? See it, acknowledge it, not have to chase it away, yet choose to not be hijacked by it? (More on the “how-to” in a minute.)

When I used to teach public speaking, I helped students understand that the physical manifestations of nervousness and anxiety are almost identical to the physical sensations of excitement and anticipation. The difference between the two is our mental model - our perception - our interpretation - of what is happening. Once we know this proximity of nervousness and excitement, we can practice consciously shifting our mindset to avoid being hijacked by the sensations of nervousness and insecurity and the negative inner dialog that accompanies it. One simple way to do that is you change the way you talk to yourself about the experience. I picked up the use of the newly coined emotion from a colleague – we call it “nerv-cited.”

The state of being nerv-cited perfectly captures the idea that we can be more than one thing at once. We can experience multiple emotions at the same time and we can acknowledge more than one part of us at the same time. We can allow space for the part of us that is nervous and a little insecure as well as open up to the part of us that is excited, eager, comfortable, and confident. There is no need to chase away, deny or resent the insecure part - we can choose to “let it be there” alongside the place of ease and confidence that exists deep within us. Once we acknowledge that we can be and are both, we can choose to act and respond from the part of us that feels strong and stable while gently allowing the other part to sit on the sidelines. We don’t have to get rid of all of the nervousness, but we also don’t need to give it more power than the confidence. We can tell ourselves, “I’m feeling nerv-cited about speaking in this meeting so I’m going to respond using my inner confidence instead of my insecurity.” 

You are nerve-cited. You are large, you contain multitudes.

But, you say, what if my scared, insecure part is way bigger and more active than my confident part? Ok, so now you know that and you’re equipped to start training the small confident part and releasing the fearful part. Over time and with practice, you can turn up the volume of your confidence and turn down the insecurity. Many confidence strategies focus on mindset and your connection to yourself while others are action oriented which means you really do have the power to make the change you seek. (Yay you!)

So, let’s get practical…How can you give your confident part a stronger voice in your actions, in your way of thinking, in your interpretations of context? Here are some ideas to help your confidence emerge. No one practice will be the magical solution, but each one can be helpful in some way. Allow yourself to be playful and experimental – try as many of these as you can and give them more than one shot before you decide if they helped – practice makes progress. 

  1. Change your inner dialog: When you find yourself experiencing insecurity, anxiety or nervousness - ask yourself “What would the confident part of me say to me?” Speak to yourself in reassuring, encouraging ways as you would to a friend you are supporting.
  2. Tell your anxiety “I see you, you can take a break now” and then use the strong part of you to make your next move. By coupling self-compassion with purposeful action, you can begin to create new results.
  3. Change your perceptions by using a growth mindset that shifts your language: change “being scared” to “being nerv-cited,” change “I can’t” to “I’m learning to” change “I don’t know how” to "I don’t know how YET.”
  4. Learn de-stressing strategies like breathing and nonverbal techniques that activate your parasympathetic nervous system to calm the fight/flight stress response.
  5. Change your nonverbal communication. Smile, lift and open your chest, take up a little more space, slow down your speech.
  6. Stop comparing yourself to others who are further on the path than you; you can use them as inspirational models if it helps, but don’t expect yourself to perform like someone else. Do you.
  7. Embrace a little bit of YOLO – you only live once, so give it a try! Shift your mindset from asking if you will succeed or fail and ask "Can I have fun experimenting with this?"  "What can I learn?" To build confidence we have to be willing to make a few mistakes. These “failures” are in service to your greater growth. Would you tell a kid who fell off her bike that she is just not destined to be a bike-rider?
  8. Take small actions again and again and again. This idea is essential in your cultivation of confidence Confidence is a muscle that grows from action and builds a sense of self-efficacy (the belief that you can take effective action on your own behalf) Take the next smallest step until you’re ready for bigger steps, then start taking bigger steps.
  9. Celebrate ANY confidence wins you have; write them down, make note of the progress you are making. Congratulate yourself for taking the action you feared, even if you hope to perform better in the future. Give yourself grace and encouragement.
  10. Practice the particular skill you are trying to master- practice your presentation, practice what you’re going to say to your boss during a performance review, develop and practice “go-to” scripts to use in challenging situations, practice your piano before your recital. Sometimes our fearfulness stops us from preparing and sets us up for a self-fulfilling failure. Do the work to be ready for the challenge you are facing.
  11. Exercise and get physically active in whatever way will push you to challenge your physical abilities. Tackling new physical challenges not only releases endorphins and other “feel-good” chemicals in the body, it is an opportunity to set goals that are measured only by your own metrics. Don’t exercise at all? Start with 10 minutes and build from there. Use your own PR (personal record) to measure your progress.
  12. In advance of challenging situations practice connecting to your inner confidence. Sit and breathe into that deep part of yourself where you can find even a drop of ease, comfort and strength. Start there. That drop is actually part of an ocean- a deep reservoir of ease and confidence waiting to be uncovered. You can practice connecting to that place throughout your day. Rather than trying to rid yourself of nervousness, focus instead on getting and staying connected to your inner strength and invite that inner confidence to stand beside the insecurity. 

 You already possess the confidence you need. Find it, nurture it, trust it.


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