How to reduce self-doubt
What is confidence? Confidence is the belief in yourself and your ability to succeed or do something well. It can be really hard to strike a healthy balance between too much confidence, which can appear as arrogance, and too little confidence, which can be crippling and prevent you from going after your dreams. Many women I have coached, struggle with having too little confidence and often feel like they are powerless over their life and avoid taking action towards their bigger (scarier) goals. Feeling like you have no confidence can be paralysing – it can stop you from participating in social opportunities, making new friends or even pose a barrier when it comes to forging a successful career or finding love. Why is confidence so important? The importance of self-confidence is monumental. It affects our personality, the way we interact in relationships and determines the type of goals we readily pursue. It can affect everything from money, to careers, to how we behave in relationships, the love we seek and accept, the friendships we have (or tolerate), our weight and even our health. You may be confident in one area, but less confident in another area and that can affect you in other ways. A lack of confidence can get in the way of healthy habits, or even cause us to shy away from situations where we might face rejection, but which might also bring us amazing opportunity and joy. It really does affect so much. Why do I lack self confidence? Naturally, chasing a dream or a big, bold goal will mean you have to choose yourself and your values over other people and their opinions – and this always means we will need to encounter some kind of fallout or failures on the way. Our inner critic (voice of self doubt and judgment) is trying to protect us from failing or fallout. Your inner voice is trying to keep you safe. It’s trying to keep you comfortable, making sure that you fit in, don't risk losing people or being judged or abandoned. The reason that voice is so strong is because we have a hardwired instinct within us as human beings to stay safe and belong. We need to belong to survive, we are social creatures and we need love. Our very survival depends on that love and belonging when we’re born and defenceless. It’s an innate human need. The voice of self-doubt or self-judgment is there to keep us safe. But often, it keeps us feeling small and lacking the confidence we need to pursue our desires. When we listen to that inner doubt or that inner criticism, we start to become passive in our own lives. We seek our self-worth and validation from outside sources, like compliments, affirmation or encouragement from others, promotions, our careers, our relationship status, Instagram likes, what we weigh, what our bank balances look like and our material possessions. These extrinsic goals eventually become our top priorities, filling our calendars and our thoughts. These extrinsic accomplishments become the conduit through which we give and receive love, worthiness and confidence in ourselves. If we spend so much of our time prioritising these external goals, we forget about our unique gifts, strengths and values - the types of values that are important to us deep down. When we lose these values, we lose faith in our natural abilities and potential, and as a result our confidence declines. When confidence is derived from external, changing factors our sense of self-worth becomes volatile and we lose the belief in ourselves to succeed. Confidence is not a piece of DNA you're born with. Confidence is like a muscle - it's built through intentional behaviour and applied belief systems. You can literally build your confidence through implementing a few mindset shifts and taking meaningful action in your life.
What You'll Need
- OPTIMISE YOUR ENVIRONMENT. If your environment, your habits, your relationships or your career don’t elevate you in your journey to a life you love, it’s time to make some shifts. These can be internal and external, as long as you focus on making your dreams and desires the priority. For example, if you spend 1 hour scrolling social media every night and that’s taking away from a meditation practice or yoga that might help curb your anxiety, it might be time to reduce some of that time. Or if you’re spending all your time working long hours at a job you aren’t inspired by, it might be time to consider a new path or joining a community that is encouraging and in alignment with your goals. Similarly, if an old friend you see once a month spends most of your conversation time mocking your attempts at your new goals, it’s time to evaluate the level of support and standards you desire in your relationships. I’m not saying these choices are easy – it’s been really hard for me – I’ve had to set boundaries and walk away from people, habits and opportunities. But I know deep in my soul, that all of these shifts are right for me and I won’t live to regret having compassion and respect for myself.
- QUIT THE COMPARISONS. Stop comparing yourself, girl. Fairy lights are beautiful and so is a rose, yet they look nothing alike. I know it’s been hardwired into you for so long now, but it’s time to reject the desire to compare yourself to others. Plus, the girl you’re comparing yourself to is also comparing herself to someone else, whilst the girl next to you on the bus today was comparing herself to you. When you compare yourself to others, you’re contrasting what you perceive as your worst qualities with your perception of someone else’s great qualities. This is in no way inspiring or helpful to your confidence – in fact you’re probably left feeling inadequate, hopeless and terrible about yourself. You have your own unique strengths, qualities and greatness that someone else is wishing for – so instead of focusing on what you lack, it’s essential to focus on your super strengths. When you find yourself falling down a black hole of comparison and self-loathing, write out a page of your best strengths and gifts. Remind yourself of your unique set of strengths. Conscious Action: Go through your social media now and unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself. Spend less time with the people who make you feel crummy and focus on relationships that uplift you and make you feel nourished.
- FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE. I’m a huge fan of positive psychology – it’s a major pillar of the one-to-one coaching I do with my clients and has positively influenced my life in more ways than I can begin to describe. A major pillar of positive psychology is gratitude, and ways in which we can integrate gratefulness into our everyday lives and shift our mindset. The brain is amazingly complex and intelligent – it is constantly filtering millions of thoughts everyday and presenting your conscious mind with the information it believes is most relevant to you (and your survival). Therefore, the things we regularly think about or focus on tend to become the main filters through which we interpret information and notice in our everyday lives. This makes sense when you think about this example – when you’re about to buy a red car, you start to notice all the red cars around your neighbourhood, or when you get engaged you start to notice weddings and other women’s engagement rings. If we think about all the negative things about ourselves all the time, beat ourselves up for lacking confidence or focusing on what we fail at, our brain starts to narrow in on all the negative aspects of our lives. Conversely, when we focus on all the positive traits about our lives, and ourselves we tend to notice more good things happening. In my experience, the best way to influence your mindset is to have a daily practice of gratitude. Personally, I’m a huge fan of starting my day by writing down 3 things I’m grateful for. I aim to include major things (like having a loving family) as well as small things which I otherwise might disregard (like the taste of coffee or clean bed sheets). It’s an amazing way to start everyday and instantly puts me in the headspace that good things will happen to me that day. When something goes wrong that might otherwise knock my confidence, I have this list in the forefront of my mind and it helps me to feel grateful, resilient to stress and focus on the positive side of things. In addition to this practice, most of my one-to-one coaching clients also write a journal in the evenings where they write down 3 “victories” or “small wins” they had that day. Even if they’ve had a really challenging day, this exercise helps them to re-frame even the worst day into something more positive and helps to build their positivity and confidence on a daily basis. Conscious Action: This week, write down 3 things you’re grateful for every morning in a journal, your phone or even say them in the mirror before you brush your teeth. Bonus task – write down 3 small wins from that day, before you go to sleep. Commit to these practices for 7 days.
- GET CURIOUS ABOUT FAILURE. I used to be so scared of failing that I wouldn’t try things if there were even the slightest chance I would fail. Fast forward a few years and most people would describe me as someone who is daring, bold and not afraid to put myself out there. A business coach I had early on in my career once told me to get “curious” about my failures, rather than being crippled by them, and those words have stuck with me ever since. When I look back on my life, it has been the biggest failures, which have taught me the most valuable, transformative lessons and have moulded me into the woman, coach, friend and wife that I am today. Many of us wait to “feel confident” because we are scared of failing, yet the irony is that failure actually gives us the opportunity to build bulletproof confidence. Failure gives us the chance to learn from our mistakes, focus on how to do things differently and come back even better, stronger and wiser. Overcoming our failures is the avenue through which we build our confidence, recognising how far we have come and what we have learned along the way. Everyone has tried and failed at some point in their lives. When you were a baby, you couldn’t use a fork so you tried with your hands, got food everywhere and eventually you could manoeuvre that cutlery. You didn’t give up though and say, ‘hey, eating just isn’t for me’. Similarly, you couldn’t walk or brush your teeth either – but you eventually mastered those things and now you don’t even think about them. When you were a baby, you were a naturally curious being who wasn’t afraid to fail until you got it right. That nature is still somewhere inside you, but it got hidden along the way somewhere. It’s not over when you lose, but it is over when you quit or don’t try at all. Conscious Action: Get your journal out. Was there something you failed at recently? Let’s explore it. Get curious; write down how it played out, what lessons you learned from the experience and what you will do in the future. What were the silver linings?
What You'll Do
- Mindset Shift = Make The Time. Everybody is busy. Everybody does a million things everyday. Each of us has up to 70,000 thoughts per day. Life can be crazy. But, we all get a choice. We get to choose what type of life we want to look back on. If you truly want to look back on a life that you love, you need to get crystal clear on what your values and dreams are and then you need to consciously create time for those things consistently. Most people are really good at making excuses and time for the things that look good to society, but we’re not so good at prioritising our deepest dreams and desires. I want to preface this by saying you don’t necessarily have to make loads of extreme changes all at once, but there are definitely lots of little steps you could take each day if you really wanted to create your dream life, the one that’s in alignment with the real you. You get to decide. Many people are so busy “doing” the stuff we think we should do, that they forget to practice “being” who they want to be. This is where we lose confidence. It’s a bit like ice-skating – if you’re doing it all the time you’ll probably get really good at it, but if you haven’t ice-skated since you were a toddler, it’s going to feel tricky, scary and there’s a good chance you’ll fall on your face a few times and want to get off the rink. Grab a pen and paper and I want you this statement down… “If I wasn’t so busy, stressed and anxious, I would…”
- Mindset Shift #3 – FOCUS ON WHY, LET THE HOW SHOW UP LATER Most people who want to do something amazing or follow their heart, focus so much on HOW they’re going to do it that they a) Get “analysis paralysis” – where they analyse all the options and never get started b) They get so caught up in the details of the plan, that they lose sight of the original reason for the dream and eventually lose motivation In my own experience, I decided in 2016 I would become a wellness coach and I knew I wanted to run my own business. I had no idea how I was going to pull it off and also I’m really impatient, so I wanted to know exactly how I could make it happen as quickly as I could. Instead of obsessing over the plan of how to get there, I decided: - What I wanted to achieve - Why I wanted to do it It was a huge feat, so I knew I had to forget the details and start by putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a bit like walking through a dark forest at night holding your iPhone torch to see a few steps in front of you. You’ll be able to make out some shapes and parts of the path, you might trip but you’ll be OK. The way you get the courage to do that, not knowing exactly if you’ll find your way or not, is through staying highly connected to the reason WHY you’re fumbling around in the woods at night. There must be a good reason or motivation to do that. Knowing your motivation keeps you going and allows your confidence to evolve as you progress. The confidence you are seeking is actually BORN in those moments of doubt and darkness. It’s built and amplified every time you throw yourself into the unknown and figure out your way as you literally go through the process. Over time, with more and more practice and encountering more and more scary dark forests, you begin to realise – hey I’ve done this before, I can figure it out again. It’s the doing, DESPITE THE DOUBT and lack of control, that reinforces your attitude and from there your aptitude also grows. Confidence doesn’t come from the perfect plan or the fail-proof strategy – it comes from the curveballs and the dark nights and embracing it all and being willing to scare yourself sometimes.
Tips & Warnings
- REMEMBER… Building self-confidence is one of the most important parts of living the conscious, happy and fulfilling life I know that you crave! It gives you the up-levelled motivation to pursue your passions and go after your biggest, boldest goals. It’s also the foundation upon which you can reject “fitting in” and learn what it means to truly belong – as your real, authentic self - and live the life you’ve always dreamed about.