You know you could achieve so much more in your life if only you had more self-confidence. You'd listen to that nagging urge to start your own business. Perhaps you would get up the gumption to approach that handsome stranger you always see at the coffee shop. Or maybe you would speak up more at parties and in meetings.
You've tried time and again to talk yourself into having more confidence, yet, despite all the affirmations you recite, there's something in you that doesn't quite believe them.
Luckily, there are research-based strategies that will help you get to the root of the thinking patterns that undermine you. Here are some tips to get you well on your way to a more positive view of yourself.
1. Challenge your self-talk.
A lot of times we respond to our thoughts as if they're gospel truth, without ever questioning them. To fix this, start observing how you talk to yourself. Then take on the role of scientist. Being as objective as possible, question whether what you're saying to yourself is really true. And, if you hear yourself saying "always" or "never," that's a warning sign that you're probably not taking the whole picture into account.
For example, if you say to yourself, "I'm always terrible at making small talk," think about examples that disprove that. What about the way you chatted with the barista in the morning? How about your morning drive-bys with your co-worker? As you start to notice instances that disprove the ways you discredit yourself, you'll develop a more accurate, well-rounded view of yourself.
2. Watch out for catastrophizing.
Sometimes we can be afraid to take risks because we envision how awful we'll feel if things don't go as planned. We think of worst-case scenarios and picture ourselves feeling humiliated as a result.
Think about all the possible outcomes — not just the most feared ones that hold you back from taking action. And, remind yourself that research shows we tend to overestimate how long negative feelings will last after we suffer a disappointment.
So, realize that even if you do happen to suffer a little embarrassment, you can tolerate it (and the flip side is that things could actually turn out well)!
3. Talk to yourself like you would a close friend.
A lot of times, we say horrible things to ourselves that we would never say to anyone else. You don't deserve that! Be compassionate with yourself, have your own back, and speak to yourself kindly.
When you talk to yourself, do it in the third-person. Research shows that this little shift does a better job of building your confidence than using first-person language.
So instead of saying, "I can do it," say "Vanessa, you can do this." For whatever reason, taking this approach tends to give us a bit more distance from the situation, and allows us to see things more objectively.
4. Try power posing.
Researcher Amy Cuddy has found that putting yourself in an expansive physical position (think a superhero, with hands on hips and legs apart) is associated with greater confidence. After maintaining this kind of position for two minutes, your body physiology changes so that your cortisol (stress hormone) levels go down, and your testosterone (dominance) levels increase.
People who have been power posing also have a higher risk tolerance and are rated by others to have more presence. People who put themselves in more diminutive poses have the opposite effect. So, channel your inner Wonder Woman and take on the world!
5. Remember, people are people.
Low confidence can also be associated with a fear of rejection — we're simply afraid of being negatively judged by others. Realize that we are all just people, with various quirks and insecurities. Seeing the humanity in others can make them seem less threatening and allow us to connect with them on a deeper level. Don't let your concerns about others cause you to dull your shine!
These five strategies will help you change your thinking and allow you to share your talents with the world. As John F. Kennedy said, "There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction." What action do you need to take today?