Carol could never seem to get a break.
In spite of being highly-educated and one of the most talented people in her office, she was bypassed for promotions and rarely asked to lead a presentation or pitch a client.
Not that she minded missing out on presentations and pitches — she never felt comfortable with public speaking.
It just didn’t seem fair — she knew she was smart and capable, but Carol was stagnating while more junior people were zooming ahead. She spent hours going over it in her head and just ended up feeling worse about herself than ever.
Ryan is an attractive guy — great eyes, nice smile, successful at work, and really funny.
He has loads of friends — but no girlfriend. His buddies have set him up with some really nice women, but every time he takes someone out, he can see it in their faces right away. “He’s too short.” At 5’9″, he’s never felt women could see past his height. He rarely asks someone for a second date.
Jennifer is lonely. She’s a successful virtual assistant working from home, and after she’s done for the day, she spends most of her time reading or watching TV.
Her roommate, Lisa, is friendly and funny and has a huge circle of friends. Jennifer longs to hang out with Lisa and her friends, and Lisa’s invited her many times, but now she’s stopped asking. Jennifer clams up every time they’re out.
She has a lot to say, but her fear and embarrassment overwhelm her. She knows they’re all judging her.
Carol, Ryan, and Jennifer all have a lot to offer. They have plenty of reason to be confident, but in critical areas of their lives, they don’t feel confident at all. Their self-doubt has infected their entire outlook.
Carol thinks she’ll never get ahead at work and her frustration makes her insecure and angry. Ryan is convinced his height makes him unappealing to women, and it’s starting to impact his self-esteem. Jennifer believes she’s destined to be shy and lonely forever, and she’s starting to feel depressed.
All of them long for more, but they feel trapped by their beliefs and insecurities. Their increasing lack of confidence compounds their limiting beliefs about their abilities and capacity for success.
Do you ever wonder how to gain confidence in areas of your life? If so, here are six strategies to help:
1. Confidence is a skill
DNA does has something to do with confidence, but not everything. Confidence is a skill you can learn, practice, and improve over time. Brain science has proven repetitive thoughts and actions actually rewire neural pathways to foster measurable change. When you practice confident actions and thoughts repeatedly, you will eventually feel confident.
Further, the more confident actions you perform, and the more successes you achieve as a result, the more confident you’ll feel.
Just knowing this fact should give you a confidence boost. Just because you don’t feel confident speaking, meeting women, or going to parties doesn’t mean you will never feel confident doing these things.
2. Low confidence doesn’t define you
When you lack confidence in one part of your life, it can begin to feel like you’re a loser. You paint your entire life with a broad brushstroke of insecurity and doubt. The feelings of low confidence, even if they are grounded in some truth, don’t define your entire life or your essential worth.
Everyone lacks confidence from time to time, and most people have pockets of insecurities that hold them back. You don’t have to be perfect to be successful. In fact, you can be confident in spite of your imperfections. Confidence is a state of mind that allows you to move past failures and flaws and to even learn from them.
3. Understand the root cause
Quite often a lack of confidence is situational. Something has happened in the past to undermine your confidence in the present. If you flubbed a big speech, then it’s natural to lack confidence in your next attempt. If your business tanked, it’s hard to muster the courage to launch a new venture.
Other times, low confidence has longer, deeper roots or is connected to your personality. Your sister teased you incessantly about your height, so as you grew older you never felt tall enough to attract women. You’re more of an introvert and was shy as a kid, so you’ve never felt comfortable in big groups.
By examining the reasons behind your confidence problems, you gain a certain control over them. When you recognize the root cause, it no longer holds the same power. Simply because there’s a source for your insecurities doesn’t mean you must live with them forever.
4. Debunk your beliefs
Situational or long-term confidence problems train us to believe certain things about ourselves. The strong negative feelings associated with failure, embarrassment, or shame, make us wary of stepping on a potential emotional land mine. Why tempt fate if it’s possible we might fall on our butts once again. We begin to embrace our limiting beliefs as reality.
These negative feelings are natural, but they aren’t always truthful — and they’re holding you back from your potential. You may have flubbed a speech previously, but now you know what you did wrong, and you’ll correct it. You are capable of speaking successfully. Your sister may tease you about being short, but all women don’t feel the same way. You might be an introvert, but you can act against your personality type and become comfortable talking with others.
Change and growth are always possible. You just need to change your mindset about your beliefs.
5. Acknowledge what you’re missing
Even though it might be painful, fully acknowledge how your lack of confidence is limiting you. Being honest with yourself about this can help you have the courage to move forward.
If you could speak confidently in meetings, you’d perform better at work and be considered for more challenging projects or promotions. If you allow women a chance to get to know you, in spite of your height, you might meet the love of your life. If you make just a little more effort to make friends, you might have the social life you really want.
Envision the way your life could be if you didn’t experience low confidence. Imagine all the ways you could be happier, more successful, more financially secure, or more fulfilled.
6. Take small steps
If you accept the premise that change is possible, that you can learn the skills of confidence, then begin taking small steps to reinforce your confidence. Expose yourself in manageable increments to the thing you fear. Brainstorm actions you can take in the next few weeks related to the area where you lack confidence. Of course you’ll feel insecure and uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice these actions, the easier it will become.
For example, if you have a fear of speaking in groups of new people, practice saying small things to strangers you encounter in day-to-day life, like the grocery clerk or bank teller. Do this for a while, and then increase the challenge by asking to join a small dinner party or going to group event and talking with a few new people.
The key here is regular practice in settings with low risk. Then increase the difficulty of the challenges you give yourself. You will probably have a few bumps in the road or times you turn tail and run. Don’t beat yourself up over these, or use them as an excuse to give up. Just try again, and you’ll see how you feel more and more confident with time and practice.
If you want to gain confidence, start by believing it’s possible. It is. It’s a skill that doesn’t require a degree or any special talent. It just requires practice, determination, and some patience. Don’t allow a lack of confidence to prevent you from living the quality of life you’re truly capable of enjoying. Low confidence is simply a state of mind, a feeling you have the power to change.