Fear is a powerful double-edged sword in your life. Your fears keep you safe, alert you of possible risks and spare you from physical, mental and emotional pain. Without this kind of an alarm system, your body and brain wouldn’t last a week let alone a whole lifetime.
But here is the thing about fear, like an actual alarm system in any house or car, fear’s only goal is to protect you, so it doesn’t notice when it’s keeping out something good. If you are hoping to develop more confidence or assertiveness, chances are you are letting your fears control what you do, who you are and who you are going to become because just about every situation has something to be scared of but somehow you are able to navigate incredibly dangerous situations with ease.
Think about these two scenarios: crossing the street and speaking in public. In the first, you easily could get injured, or killed if you are hit by a car but the majority of people would face a busy street before they would ever deliver a speech in front of a huge crowd. Why is that? Well, control is certainly part of it, but most of that crippling fear and anxiety actually stems from a simple lack of practice. You probably learned how to cross the street when you were a little kid and have crossed hundreds more ever since.
This significantly more dangerous situation isn’t scary to you because you know it, you’ve practised it. You know exactly how to avoid getting hurt but if you’ve only have spoken in public one or two times, you are probably just as scared as you were when you first learned how to cross the street because at the end of the day, your most influential and compelling fear is of what you do not know.
When you don’t understand something, little risks like stuttering or messing up during your speech seem so terrifying that you never even try. So, if you are hoping to build confidence, reprogram your own psychic by confronting your fears, you should start small, but push yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Try getting familiar with things you don’t understand and 9 times out of 10… they won’t scare you anymore.
In the early 2000’s a game-changing psychological study showed that negatives beat out positives time and time again. A teacher might be happy to have a room full of interested students, but the one bored student will always bother them more.
A restaurant might have a single bad review out of 100’s of good ones but customers would still avoid the place because of that one negative comment. Our brains are naturally programmed to hone in on negativity. Just look at our memories which take nearly four times longer to store good things than bad things.
We search for the flaws in other people and prefer to criticize instead of complement because we are instinctively drawn to negativity and we don’t treat ourselves any differently. You may have heard the phrase you are your own worst enemy because people are far more likely to obsess on their own flaws instead of focusing on their strengths.
While it’s easier to dwell on all the things you don’t do well, your self-confidence relies on your ability to pay attention to your talents, achievements and advantages. By simply committing a little extra time each day to remind yourself of your strengths, you can boost your self-esteem and begin developing that confidence you have been looking for.
If you are having trouble finding ways to consistently remind yourself of your strengths, you can use step by step goal setting to give you something concrete to be proud of. Goal-setting is incredibly helpful in just about every aspect of our lives, from career success to health and fitness. But most people don’t think to develop themselves emotionally using lists, deadlines and resolutions.
But this kind of confidence building can absolutely work wonders. By essentially creating daily or weekly boxes for you to check, you can give your progress a physical shape, allowing you to consistently compare where you were to where you are.
For a lot of people, seeing their progress is enough to push even further until they have grown more than they have thought they ever could. Confidence can be a bit hard to see at first but you will begin to feel more bold, capable and proud as you rack up achievement after achievement.
If this sounds intimidating, force yourself to think about each individual goal as its own project. So all you have to do is meet that easily attainable goal. It may take some time to learn exactly how to set the right size and type of goals for yourself but once you get going, you can start upping the ante a little bit more every day.
Also read: How to commit yourself to what you want
Whenever the topic of altruism comes up, some people think that doing a nice thing doesn’t count if you are also helping yourself in the process. While scientists and philosophers could probably argue for hours about whether any generous act is actually selfless, you can and should do things like donating, or volunteering as a way to build your confidence.
Even if you don’t have much time or money to give back, by simply putting out the effort to help someone else, you know that you matter to that person and no one could ever take that away that from you.
Volunteering can provide you with a sense of purpose, improve your social skills, relieve stress and inject a healthy dose of positivity into your life. It also doesn’t hurt that volunteering stimulates a rush of oxytocin otherwise known as the compassion hormone which is usually released when hugging or cuddling with a loved one.
So, you might not be volunteering solely out the goodness of your heart but there is nothing wrong with improving yourself and your community at the same time.
This one tends to get people a little mixed up especially because we just talked about the importance of focusing on your strengths to build confidence. While that kind of positivity is undoubtedly helpful, the simple truth is that negativity isn’t just going to disappear from your life.
Even people who affirm and reinforce their strengths everyday can completely fall apart because someone insulted their weight or mocked their intelligence.
After understanding your own strengths and building that initial foundation of confidence, you should begin to recognize your own weak spots. But it’s more complicated than just listing your flaws because you first have to accept that there are some things you will never be able to change.
If you don’t like your voice, for example, there is no point in wasting time and effort thinking about how to fix it because everyone in the entire world no matter how successful, powerful or perfect you think they are, hate something about themselves.
So, instead shift your attention to the things you can change and find ways to gradually address those weaknesses in a way that makes you stronger. But it’s crucial that you remember throughout this process, that your strengths define you far more than your weaknesses even if it feels like it’s the other way around.
Learning how to truly accept criticism is one of the hardest mountains to climb and many people end up tumbling down. No one wants to hear that another person doesn’t like something about you especially if they are criticizing a flaw you didn’t know you had. But when this happens you should again separate your weaknesses into things you can change and things you can’t. By accepting that you, like everyone else, have both kinds of flaws, you can build inner strength and self-esteem.
In recent years, this destructive habit has become a mainstay of people who struggle with insecurity and a general lack of confidence. With access to countless pictures of beautiful people and amazing lifestyles, it’s easy to start comparing.
After seeing their 300,000$ sports car or their weekly vacations to a private island, you might hone in on all the things they have that you don’t. This can be detrimental to your self-confidence because those fancy expensive things begin to seem like a necessity just to catch up.
This next part might sound a bit cliché but it couldn’t be truer. Every person is unique and has the potential to reach their own kind of success. There is no point in comparing yourself to all those kind of people because you will never be them. You will only ever be you so embrace the gifts that you do have and use them to the fullest like only you can.
The final trick on this list is by far the most straight-forward but that doesn’t mean that it is not as impactful as the rest. For the most part, people especially strangers are unintentionally shallow judging you based on how you look way before they ever pay attention to what’s on the inside.
And this isn’t because people don’t care about your personality; it’s just how our brains work. When we first meet someone, our brains first start moving in overdrive to turn the small pieces of information we have into a working model that explains who the other person is.
Often times most of the signals we have to go off of are physical, meaning that we have to make all kinds of personality assumptions just to answer simple questions like are they going to hurt me? Or do they seem nice?
I’m telling you all this because modifying your appearance and body language not only affects how people behave toward you but also changes how you conceive yourself. Straightening your back in a public place makes people behave more confidently because it changes the way you are perceived. By dressing well, taking care of yourself, and maintaining an open stance you can make it that much easier to tell yourself and the world that you’ve got the confidence to back it up.