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Building confidence

2 Jul 2014 2:23 PM - By Dr Claudia Cobon

All of us reach a point in our lives where we are faced with a task or situation where we just don’t feel confident. I know I certainly have faced many occasions where my mind came up with a multitude of reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something:  “I’m not good enough”, “I’ll say the wrong thing”, “I’ll embarrass myself”.  Of course, on some occasions I got hooked in by those thoughts and stepped back from the goal; but on other occasions I was able to see that my mind was just trying to throw up obstacles and I could choose whether or not to listen to them. 

In his book “The Confidence Gap”, Dr Russ Harris explains that what we actually know about confidence is that the actions of confidence come before the feelings of confidence.  What this means is that we need to behave as if we are confident first and the actual feelings of confidence will eventually follow.

Use the steps below to start thinking about how you can build more confidence in your life.

Imagine confidence. Consider how things would be different if you had unlimited confidence. How would you walk, talk, act? How would you talk to yourself? How would you be with other people? How would your relationships change? What things would you start doing? What things would you stop doing?

Clarify your values. Values describe how you want to behave as a human being, what kind of qualities you want to cultivate and what principles you want to live by. They have no end point; you can choose to live by your values every day. Once you have identified your values you can then set goals to move a little closer to the way you would like your life to look. Your values can provide you with the motivation to achieve those goals, which can sometimes be quite daunting.

Check your self-talk. Listen to the way your mind talks to you – does it tell you things must be done perfectly? Does it criticise you and tell you that you are not competent enough, smart enough, good enough? What we know is that talking to ourselves in a critical way is not very helpful and actually serves to make us feel less motivated. A helpful way of looking at it is to think about how you would motivate or encourage a friend or family member. Try talking to yourself in a more compassionate way.

Practice mindfulness. As you move towards your goals your mind will want to veer you off track with unhelpful thoughts, memories and suggestions. Use mindfulness skills as a tool to help you unhook from unhelpful thoughts and refocus on what is important to you.

Keep practicing. Think about all the things that you can confidently do today. How did you learn to do these things? We know that becoming more skilled at something, whether it is learning a language, running a marathon or being in relationships takes practice, practice, practice! Identify the skills you need to work on and practice them by setting yourself achievable, realistic goals.