Putting the ‘I’ in confidence…
In the midst of a pandemic, there’s another plague sweeping the nation — a confidence crisis. Feeling uncomfortable within ourselves — and women in particular suffering with the second lowest self-esteem in the world — being confident seems like a skill only other people can do.
Although it may feel like it sometimes, confidence and high self-esteem aren’t something you’re born with. And, while they are similar, they’re very different constructs; confidence is defined as the ‘belief’ in yourself in ‘the ability to meet life’s challenges and to succeed’, whereas self-esteem refers to ‘how you feel about yourself overall.’
So how do you boost your self-esteem and confidence? Here’s five tips on how to turn your life around and become your best self.
Stop comparing yourself
As our lives revolve around social media, especially during the pandemic, we have found that our screen-time is up and self-esteem is down. Because of constantly being online, seeing and processing images, we’re comparing ourselves to others.
While this is entirely biological — as our brains evolved to compare ourselves with each other to get jealous and fight over any potential mate — our media has evolved quicker than our genes. Although we no longer need the same survival tactics as we once did, our brain chemistry is built to compare ourselves to others; be it someone next to us on the bus, people in the office, or even people on billboards. Indeed widespread advertising might be profitable for companies, yet this negatively affects our confidence and self esteem.
Although it might be hard, retrain your brain to stop comparing yourself to others. Whenever you find yourself thinking about how much better your co-worker is than you, for example, take a step back and think about everything you add to the office environment and the impact you have. While this might take some getting used to, by stopping the constant self comparison, you will become more confident within yourself and your role.
Truly look at yourself
In a world of constant comparisons, it can be hard to look at yourself and think ‘what’s so great about me?’ And, although you might think you’re nothing special, you will have an endless, unique list of things that your friends and family love you for.
So, as you stop comparing yourself to others, Michael Broder, Psychologist and Author, suggests that you take stock of the things you love about you by writing lists.
Your first list should contain ‘some of the ways you undermine your own self-image, and how it costs you that precious self-confidence that you know could help you excel in virtually any aspect of your life.’ (Aka, you’re so-called weaknesses.)The second list should be ‘things about yourself that you are proud of and that you feel good about in any part of your life’. (Your positive strengths and values.) Then, using this second list, create a third filled with ‘paragraph success stories’. With these successes, keep them close as constant reminders of the brilliant person you are.
As you find things you like about yourself, you will stop passing self-judgement drawn from the first list, but will add more and more to your second and third list.
Treat yourself as you would a friend
Sometimes things just don’t go as expected. No matter what we do or what we say, we can’t control the negative outcome. Take the pandemic, for example. No one could have predicted it, and everything that is happening as a result is not your fault. Whether it’s to do with work, your social life, or events happening to your family, most things are simply out of your control.
In any form of setback or mistake, you should always treat yourself with compassion. Being kind to yourself when the world isn’t does not hinder your ability, but rather motivates you to get back up and out there, as found in a study from 2009.
So, next time something doesn’t go your way, instead of being self-critical, talk to yourself like you would a friend. Be kind, considerate, and compassionate. Give your self-esteem a much needed boost.
Switch comfort for danger
Although you know what you’re good at, do you only feel confident in certain situations or with a specific group of people? Well, unfortunately, the only way to become truly confident and comfortable is to get out of that comfort zone!
Ok, ok, maybe don’t book that skydive just yet, as there are loads of ways to get out of your comfort zone without being pushed out of a plane. Katherine Noel suggests putting yourself in a new environment that’s a little closer to the ground first.
By beginning with ‘some small changes that don’t present any real threat, such as eating at a different restaurant in a different part of town’, you’ll slowly find comfort in new experiences. By not ‘picking the safe choice’, you’re giving yourself room to grow, but entering new, teachable experiences that you can learn from. While they might make you uncomfortable, they will help you become more confident regardless of your setting.
So, if you struggle talking in meetings, try speaking up — while it might be uncomfortable, you will learn from the experience.
Fake it ‘til you make it
The easiest way to become confident is to simply pretend you are. Although building faith in yourself can take years, look at how others portray confidence and mimic them.
Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, we all know employees that shouldn’t be a manager, but somehow wormed their way into the position and are milking it for all its worth. Even though you might not think they’re qualified for their job, they act like they are. They’re the real life Hewlett-Packard study, which found that men asked for a promotion when they met 60% of the requirements, whereas women only applied when they were a perfect fit.
What am I getting at? Well, although they might not have all the skills, confident people are sure in themselves that they’ll do a brilliant job. And, whether you agree or not, bosses probably think so too. During their interview, they exude confidence and could convince anyone to take them on.
So next time you’re in the office, in an interview, or simply out with friends, act confident. Think ‘what would someone confident do in this situation?’ and do it. And chances are, although you’ll be slightly uneasy for a few weeks, you’ll stop asking and start doing.
Written by Alison Irlam
Alison is a writer with a keen interest in mental health and wellbeing. Since finishing a postgraduate degree in Creative Writing and having her own experiences with mental health, she has dedicated her time to helping and empowering others to make positive changes in their own lives.