Increase your self-belief with 3 simple questions

Increase your self-beliefTo increase your self-belief is, by definition, to increase your confidence.

Confidence is about believing in yourself. In fact, that’s pretty much the definition right there.

And I submit that we need confidence to be successful in whatever we’re doing. Because otherwise, you’re not gonna be able to accomplish very much worthy of mention in this one life of yours.

If you think that you’ve heard that before, it’s probably because people have found this to be true time and time again. So, how can you increase your self-belief, then?

Well, whatever you’re doing, there’s three things you should ask yourself…:

1. How does this align with your values?

Because, if it doesn’t really, then that probably has something to do with it. Because our confidence is always in a dialectic relationship with our commitment to whatever it is we’re doing.

Therefore, your level of commitment at any given time is largely a product of how whatever it is you’re doing is aligned with your values. If it’s not, you’re not gonna be engaged with it.

And if you’re not engaged with it, it’s not really gonna matter to you. And if it doesn’t really matter to you, how do you think your level of confidence is gonna be like?

Not exactly very high, yeah?

And I’m not talking about everyday routines that you can do perfectly well without necessarily being passionate about it, like doing the dishes or checking your email. I’m talking about bigger, ongoing endeavors here.

Checking your phone first thing in the morning is NOT the way to increase your self-belief.
But of course, if you’re a downright FB-status update-reading PRO, then who am I to argue?

So whatever your current job or project is, make sure to ask yourself how it align with your values. If it doesn’t align with your values, you might wanna reconsider your engagement with it.

But if it does, move on to question number two…:

2. What do you need to believe in this even more?

Is it knowledge?
If yes, exactly what kind of knowledge?

Is it skills?
If yes, which skills do you need to improve?

Is it habits?
If yes, what specific habits would be good to cultivate?

Or is there something you need to cut out of your life?

 

Increase your self-belief by cutting out instant gratification
Mnaaaaah…

Question number 3 will probably come as no surprise:

3. With the above in mind, what specific actions can you take right now to increase your self-belief?

– If there’s a book you need to read, what’s stopping you from finding it on Amazon right now?
– If there’s some specific info you need, what’s stopping you from looking it up on Wikipedia right now?
– And if there’s a certain skill you need to develop, what’s stopping you from googling any courses or meetups near you right now?

Et cetera.

You have all the information in the world at your fingertips. I mean, chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re online, yeah?

There’s ALWAYS, NECESSARILY something you can do to increase your self-belief. And everything else you might be telling yourself is exactly just that:

Something you’re telling yourself.

It’s only true if you keep on insisting upon being right about it. And where does that leave you?

Yeah, I’ll just answer that one: It leaves you in a place where you don’t have to take action because you’re allowing yourself to feel confused and overwhelmed instead of focused and empowered.

And believe me: That’s not exactly an attitude that’s gonna have you believing in yourself anytime soon.

In the immortal words of Steve Perry:

Don’t stop believin’.

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How action reduces fear

Action reduces fear, because doing something scary effectively tells our fear to shut up.Action reduces fear, so act.

Truth be told, this neat little quote isn’t my own. It’s one that I came upon while reading a summary of David Schwartz’ classic “The Magic of Thinking Big”. But it stuck with me.

For someone plagued by low confidence and self-esteem, the idea that action reduces fear could very well seem counter-intuitive. Because often, it’s when we need to take action on something — especially something important — that fear arises.

There’s the fear that we’ll mess something up, and that, as a result, people will judge us and ridicule us. But there’s also the fear that we might successfully carry through with our endeavor and advance to a higher level. — We’d have expectations coming at us from all sides! And responsibilities!

Whether it’s one or both, or some other fear, fear associated with taking action is definitely real. So, why would anyone claim that action reduces fear??

To find the answer, take a moment to think about another topic that seems to cause non-fidents a lot of pain: Over-thinking.

We’ve all been there. Stuck with a seemingly unsolvable choice, entirely unable to weigh out the pros and cons. Or, having done just that, unable to make a decision because either option seems just as good — or bad — as the other.

No-one’s exactly a fan, that’s for sure. But still, as it is said in the personal coaching world, there’s always a pay-off.

You see, over-thinking is, deep down, a defense mechanism. When we over-think something, it’s because of exactly those aforementioned fears.

No-one likes over-thinking. But it still feels way less uncomfortable than having to make a tough decision or do something that makes you feel exposed and put on the line.

Over-thinking, then, is the antithesis to the action that it prevents. The two cannot co-exist. It’s either one, or the other.

Sometimes, the over-thinking wins, and we end up doing nothing at all. That’s when we really give in to our doubts and fears.

And so, it’s when we stop thinking and just do it that action reduces fear.

Action reduces fear, because when we act, we only do it because we’ve sufficiently silenced that fearsome part of our brains telling us to abort and run away. Like I said, the two cannot co-exist.

But doesn’t that mean that I’d have to compromise my thinking if I want to get things done? What if I, like, really treasure my thinking?”

Sounds like a defense mechanism to me. 😉

No, seriously, it does. But I DO get where you’re coming from. I was there.

The thing is, thinking isn’t necessarily good for us altogether. Thinking isn’t a means to an end. We have more thoughts every day than can be measured, and that’s not exactly beneficial.

On the contrary, many a study have been done on how meditation helps us by training us to simply observe our thoughts and stay focused on the ones that matter, rather than blowing the insignificant ones out of proportion.*

Also, after we’ve done whatever frightening actions we’re doing, we can evaluate ourselves and get better at it the next time. And, of course, we wanna start out by taking babysteps. This goes for whatever we’re doing. Some people even get help from a confidence coach. (Something I obviously highly recommend doing.)

Bottom line: If you’re feeling anxious about doing something, it probably means it’s important, and you should do it. And really, there are lots of ways to go about your challenges safely and securely. But only the action reduces fear. And, as another quote from the initially mentioned summary goes: Nothing happens just by thinking.

Yes, it’s scary. Do it anyway.


* Sources: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719544/; http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

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Why is it so hard to build confidence? — 4 likely reasons

Why is it so hard to build confidence? The phrasing in this question can tell us a lot about ourselves.I see this one a lot. Not necessarily Why is it so hard to build confidence?, but more or less desperate variants thereof. Such as Why is it so hard to be yourself? and even Why can’t I be happy?.

Sticking with the first one here, why IS it so hard to build confidence, then?

The answer is to be found in a variety of different contributing factors, which I’ve gathered into four general points:

#1: Major changes take their time

From a purely logical point of view, if building confidence was easy, everyone in the world would be confident. Making a million dollars isn’t easy, either, but some people do it anyway. Because it’s sufficiently important to them.

I know: Sometimes the world can change within a heartbeat. Like with the Kennedy assassination or 9/11. But chances are, if you’re really down in the dumps you’re not gonna flip 180° and become an action hero overnight.

The reason that the idea of quick fixes is so prevalent is because it appeals to our comfort. Which is, on a basic level, low confidence in disguise.

Whenever we don’t feel like doing [X] even though it’d be supportive for us, we look at it as being “too hard”, “too tough”, “too much”… Et cetera.

So, from a reverse perspective, we don’t consider ourselves strong, persistent, and altogether capable of doing [X]. And as an added bonus, we might not consider ourselves worthy of the supportive outcome that doing [X] would bring about.

Seeking quick fixes is our non-fidence at play. Nurturing our patience, then, is the key to confidence.

#2: You’re not putting your back into it

This whole “quick fix”-mentality can lead us to believe that hard things are easy. And this is a belief that leads us to only do what’s easy.

For example, in the case of building confidence, many people will tell you that you need to do positive affirmations — writing down a couple of new, supportive ideas about yourself, which you then repeat several times a day. Such as, “I love myself, and I can do whatever I want”.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with doing positive affirmations in and by itself. (In fact, I have an entire page of them which I read 3-4 times every day.) But the thing is, if all you do is this ONE, easy thing, it’s not gonna have much of an effect on you.

And so, it’s only a matter of when your patience runs out, and you give up and become even more discouraged and non-fident.

Now, I’m not saying that you should spend hours of your waking time every day doing confidence-building exercises galore. We all have daily lives to go about, and confidence is what supports us in going about said daily lives.

… But we NEED to do things that support our confidence, and we CAN’T count on a 30-second affirmation to turn us into Alexander the Great (or, optionally, Joan of Arc if you’re female).

This includes stuff like socializing, eating healthy, practicing meditation and physical exercise, sleeping 7-8 hours every night, regularly evaluating yourself by keeping a journal, and, not the least, working towards a goal that brings meaning and purpose to you and your life.

Do as much of this as you possibly can. And keep in mind that while one’s actions are critical, one’s thoughts matter just as much. We wanna do the right things, yes; but thinking about them in a confident manner helps us do them.

#3: You give up too fast

Giving up on things, abandoning projects, and altogether going about life half-assedly is often seen in non-fident people. And, like I was getting into before, it kinda makes sense in this regard.

Think about it. You’ve been shown an alleged quick and easy path to the promised land of confidence, and after weeks you still feel like you’re going nowhere. Would that make for even more encouragement?

 And what’s one more failure  if you’re already used to giving up?

The tricky thing here is that generally, confident people don’t give up. So if we wanna build confidence, we have to get into the mindsets and habits of not giving up.

Basically, if we wanna learn not to give up, we do it by not giving up.

This brings me to the final point…

#4: You’re not sufficiently confident yet

Whenever we ask, — or, indeed, think — Why is it so hard to build confidence?, it says a lot about the way we think.

Because, we’re impying that building confidence IS, necessarily, hard.

It’s circular reasoning, really. The conclusion is part of the premise. Like when you teasingly ask someone, Have you stopped wetting your bed yet?, or, Do you still go around setting cats on fire?

But isn’t it just as much circular reasoning that I need to have confidence before I can have confidence?

Yes. Fortunately, though, that’s not what I’m saying. The gist of it all is that while it might be hard right now, it really does get easier. And the reason for that is because we steadily become more confident.

Some people would talk about “faking it ’till you make it” in this regard. I’d say it’s a simple matter of learning to crawl before you can walk.

And, like I’ve written about before, it might not be easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s complicated.

In summary, building confidence is highly an inner-game thing. It’s about what we do, yes, but it’s just as much about how we think.

And if we think in terms of life and its many challenges being hard, we’re not only thinking non-fidently; we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

Conversely, then, when we think in terms of life and its many challenges being endurable, we’re thinking confidently and setting ourselves up for success.

Therefore, do not ask, Why is it so hard to build confidence? Instead, ask questions like…

 – How important is it for me to be confident? Do I genuinely want to live my life with confidence?

 – How can I find the patience in me to let great change happen in its own time?

 – Am I trying to force something which might not respond positively to being forced?

 – Do I consider myself worthy of steadily building confidence and never giving up no matter what?

 – Am I doing the right things? Could I possibly be doing even more? And if yes, what?

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Building confidence isn’t easy, BUT…

Building confidence might not be easy. But the principles are pretty simple.Theoretically, building confidence shouldn’t be complicated. And theoretically, confidence coaching shouldn’t be necessary.

The key word here, of course, is theoretically.

Because in practice, things act differently. — Like they often do.

Building confidence should be easy. Because the principles aren’t very hard to grasp.

Most of us even know most of them. In fact, here are a bunch of great principles for confidence, straight from the top of my head:

  • Have a goal in life that you continually work towards
  • Evaluate yourself continually
  • Practice active appreciation towards life and your resources
  • Learn something new every day
  • Stop comparing yourself to others
  • Do something you’re passionate about
  • See the possibilities, not the limitations
  • Get out of your comfort zone and do things that unsettle you
  • Practice physical exercise 20-30 minutes daily
  • Meditate 10-20 minutes daily
  • Eat lots of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fibres and protein
  • Don’t eat processed foods, junk foods, starchy carbs, saturated fats, candy, cake, etc.
  • Don’t smoke or do excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol
  • Sleep 7-8 hours every night
  • Surround yourself with people who support and affirm you
  • Shun people who bring you down and hold you back
  • Stand up for yourself, speak up when you want to, fear nothing, never give up, accept what you cannot change, etc.

I could go on, but hopefully you get the point.

… Which is, like I said, that by far most normal people know by far most of these things already. I mean, most of these points are common sense and knowledge.

Why, then, is building confidence so hard for some people?

Because there’s a difference between “easy” and “simple”.

Casually sketching the formula for a great life is, in fact, almost insultingly easy. However, carrying it out in practice is what’s hard. And, for many people, downright impossible without help.

The good news, then, is that it’s simple.

In fact, building confidence is like building muscle. It’s hard, and it takes effort, but it gets easier over time and if done consistently.

Also, what I’ve found is that the same principle goes for the vast majority of people: It doesn’t matter as much what you specifically do with your life rather than the fact that you do it while you maintain building confidence.

In fact, if you keep building confidence continually, it won’t matter much what you do, because you’ll be able to do pretty much anything. And you’ll be confident enough to calmly accept the things you cannot do — for now, anyway.

It’s like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or even owning a car: If you want it to keep working, you gotta maintain it.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’ll take time and effort. But that’s no reason not to do it anyway. Because there is no such reason. There is only the excuses that we make for ourselves out of fear.

 

ACTION ITEM:

This week, get out of your comfort zone. Do just ONE thing that really scares you, but which you really wanna do. It could be talking to someone about a problem; or how you feel about them. It could be walking up to a complete stranger asking for directions. As long as it’s something that really unsettles you.

Why would we do something like this? Because, when practiced regularly, getting out of our comfort zone makes us grow. It strengthens us and makes us more confident. So for goodness’ sakes: Do it, and keep it up.

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Okay, so you messed up. Now what?

If you messed up something, you might feel embarrassed. But mistakes are necessary if you wanna build confidence.Okay. So you did something wrong. Maybe you made a social blunder; maybe you carried out some task and failed. In short: You messed up.

For people with low confidence, failure can be downright devastating.

I know. Because I used to be ashamed of things I did or said. All the time.

And I’m not talking about calmly realizing one’s wrongdoing and immediately learning from it. I’m talking an involuntary panic-anxiety-attack-like-muscle-spasms-complete-with-grinding-teeth-and-making-noises sorta sensation.

With an inner voice going like: “Screw you! You messed up, and you’re useless! You’re unable to do anything right, and you should be locked away! You messed up, and that’s all you’re ever gonna do!

Every day, several times.

And it doesn’t even have to be something big. It could be a misused word, a social faux pas… anything.

When non-fident people react drastically to making any kind of mistake, it’s because non-fidence is often accompanied by low self-esteem, perfectionism, and insecurity.

When we have low self-esteem, we tend to judge ourselves more vigorously than we would our peers. If we don’t like ourselves, we’re hard on ourselves. Simple as that.

But moreover, if we don’t allow for ourselves to make mistakes, we develop perfectionism. Which, in turn, makes it seem so much worse to us when we do make a mistake. — Or even do something in a manner less than “perfect”. (Which, as I’ve written about before, is a BS notion.)

And then there’s the insecurity, which doesn’t allow for much space for mistakes, nor for even trying. This is governed by the amygdala — the reptilian part of our brain — most commonly known for our “fight or flight” mechanism.

See, amongst our primitive ancestors, social identity was way more important than today. Dangers were all around. If you messed up something, it could get you expelled from your tribe and thrown out into the wilderness on your own.

All of this perfectly illustrates the dangerous downward spiral of non-fidence. If we have low regard for ourselves we make less space for ourselves to make mistakes. This, in turn, causes making mistakes to be even more likely, which, then, will only lead to much more self-loathing and shame.

Because we DO make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. We know this perfectly well, yet tend to act like we’re the only flawed person alive.

But here’s the kicker:

Confident people make WAY many more mistakes than less confident people.

The more confident you are, the less regard you give to other people’s opinion about you. The higher you think of yourself, the less you worry about making mistakes. You know perfectly well that your rights outnumber your wrongs. You know perfectly well that you’re able to learn from your mistakes.

Indeed, if you don’t make mistakes, you can never learn. And if you don’t learn, you don’t grow.

In other words:

For every time you messed up something in life, you had the opportunity to learn, grow, and prevent yourself from making the same mistake again.

So get out there and mess up. Badly. Learn, improve, repeat. And as you learn and grow, watch as your confidence grows with you.

ACTION ITEM:

The next time you’re embarrassed about something, use the following method:

  1. Stop what you’re doing.
  2. Breathe. Ten long, deep breaths.
  3. Think. Realize that whatever negative response on your part are merely thoughts, and that they’re not necessarily true, constructive or favourable.
  4. Choose how you want to feel about what happened. Do you genuinely want to be ashamed? Or would you rather accept, learn, and grow?

The choice is yours.

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