What do we really mean when we say we want to boost our confidence level? Most often what clients describe to me in my coaching work, is that they want to feel more sure of themselves, more able to meet whatever situations arise with calm assurance, grace and a feeling of being tapped into their own strengths.
Feeling confident is about really knowing your own strengths and abilities and knowing how to bring those into play no matter what happens. It’s about feeling deeply connected to our own core values and our capacities to be creative in the face of major and minor adversities. In many ways it can allow us to feel totally unstoppable in our lives, and who doesn’t want to feel that?
Increasing your confidence level is a skill and just like all the skills you have learned over the years, from tying your shoelaces, playing a sport, or running a great meeting, all skills take practice to master. It’s a fact that the more we practice a skill the better we get at it, and the more confident we become in employing it. We could even say that practicing confidence builds confidence.
“In order to be successful at boosting your own confidence, you must be willing to practice deliberately, with the intention of paying attention”. – Amy Kosh
The key to starting your confidence boosting practice is to pay attention to what you are doing in the beginning. It’s like learning how to do anything, in the early days you want to pay a lot of attention to what you are doing every moment. Then as you build the habit through practice, you’ll see that your new habit of feeling and acting more confident becomes automatic. As noted author Cal Newport says, “what makes ridiculously successful people so successful is they’re experts at practicing — they can push themselves to the exact limit of their skill-set and thus expand their abilities day after day. If you’re not expanding yourself in such a fashion — called “deliberate practice” in the org. psych. lit — you’ll never be ridiculously successful”.
Check out this list of 10 simple confidence boosters and try out a new one each week.
“In order to be successful at boosting your own confidence, you must be willing to practice deliberately, with the intention of paying attention”.
– Amy Kosh
10 INSTANT CONFIDENCE BOOSTERS
Despite much discussion in the media about so called “Power Poses” and whether they actually can raise or lower your body chemistry, there is real science that supports using the position of your body to boost your feeling of self-confidence. This is called somatic awareness and it builds on our brain’s mapping of our body position in order to fully experience our body and emotions. Whether your boss yells at you, or your relationship tanks, your body knows how to shake it off. You are designed to recover and you can use this to boost your confidence as well.
The practice: As you are going about your day, take time to notice the moments when you might be feeling less confident, and then note to yourself what position your body is in. For example, are you leaning forward or hunching your shoulders? Are you tilted off to one side or somewhat turned away from the person or situation at hand? Get really curious about what you can notice in your own body in terms of position and then note whatever emotions or thoughts are arising. The point of the practice is to get better at noticing what is happening in your own body, moment to moment without any judging going on. Coach yourself to become more aware of subtle changes and that will help you with the next practices. Notice as the week goes on and acknowledge how your ability to notice your own body and emotions in each moment, has increased.
2. Confident Speaking- take out the “ums’ and unhs”…
Our minds build the story of who we are in part, by listening to how we sound. When we take out the hesitations, the fillers, the “ums’ and unhs”, from our speech our brains get the message that we are feeling more confident and in control of our ideas and actions.
The practice: The next time you are talking to a friend, hit that voice memo on your phone and record a sample of your speech. Better still do the same when talking with a colleague. Take a listen and see how often you notice a verbal hesitation or habit such as, “um”, “hunh”, “yes”. Now practice removing them from your daily speech. Fair warning, it may take you a few days of doing this to catch yourself but it’s worth the effort. As you get to the end of the week, notice what has changed in your speaking and pay attention to how you are feeling and the kinds of responses you are now getting from others around you.
We can take our cues on how to center and relax from observing others around us. Dogs are particularly good at this practice.
3. RE-CENTER AND GROUND YOURSELF
If you have been practicing the somatic awareness this will be an easy practice to build.
As you go into a situation where you feel anxious and less confident, take a moment, check in with your body, note the position and then exhale and rebalance yourself on your feet so that you feel fully centered. If you found yourself shifting your weight backwards a little to re-ground, you’re in the majority of people. We tend to lean forward when we feel anxious or less confident, so adjusting our body position, recentering and exhaling all work to create a somatic experience that our brains read as being more confident.
The practice: As you go about your day, try this centering practice at random times, maybe every time you walk past a certain window or doorway. The more you practice the re-centering and re-grounding, the more it will become a habit you can resource when you really need it. It will become your new normal.
4. 1-Minute Morning Mindfulness
Mindfulness practices have been around for centuries in various forms, mostly within contemplative spiritual practices. In recent years mindfulness has made its way into research on brain effectiveness, stress-reduction, and increased physical health. A short daily practice can provide the following benefits to you: mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life, creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events, and many people who practice mindfulness find that they experience increased self-esteem through lowered preoccupation with others and comparative judgment. Mindfulness practice has been found to help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and is currently being used by many psychotherapists as an important element in treating a variety of mental health problems including depression, substance abuse, eating, anxiety and OCD disorders. The goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. You are allowing your mind to focus on the present moment. Mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
The practice: First thing in the morning (yes, you can even do this in bed), sit or lay quietly and focus on your natural breathing, allow your thoughts and emotions to come and go without any judgment. Gently nudge your attention back to your breath if you find you have been following a thought or emotion. It can help to create a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” name them then let them disperse. Notice any body sensations like itching without judgment and let them flow away. Take 2 minutes to gently notice each part of your body from head to toe. Accept the presence of everything you may notice without judgment.
Confident writing is a way of creating something real out of something imagined.
Building on the awareness that when we appreciate what is working, we are able to create more of it, try this short 5-minute practice throughout your week. Confident writing is a way of creating something real out of something imagined. If that sounds like magical thinking to you, consider that the shirt you are wearing right now was imagined by someone before it was ever created for you to wear. Someone had to see a need for that shirt, think about what it would look like or feel like, create some drawings and then translate those drawings into a sample. All this had to happen before that same shirt was ever created on a bigger scale for you to buy and wear. When you consider that every single thing we use every day started with an imagined idea, it becomes more of a practical tool for you to take advantage of. Boosting your confidence through some short writing exercises is one way to apply the strength of your imagination to a practical end.
The practice: The gratitude journal is a quick and easy way to boost not only your daily happiness level, but it also serves to increase your self-confidence as you become more aware of your own accomplishments and “What Went Well & Why”. This is great to do at the end of each day, before your head hits the pillow. Sit down and center yourself for a moment before you start writing. Review your day and write down using a short sentence for each, 3 things that went well in your day. They could be that is was sunny, or that you rocked a project at work, or that you had a great experience after work with a pet or loved one. Then for each item, write down one short reason why that happened. Perhaps you noticed the sunshine and sky that morning, or you had done all the prep-work to handle the project at work, or you made time for your family, self or pets. The reason doesn’t matter as much as seeing that there was something that helped you to create that success in your day. Keep them short and simple. Repeat daily and then at the end of the week review all the things that went well for you and what you did to create or notice them.
Take a moment to be clear in your mind, “what is my ask here, what’s the external thing I need to do”?
Clear communication can help us resource ourselves and others when things get busy or chaotic in our lives. Whether it’s work or home life, we can start to feel overwhelmed and thus feel less confident in our ability to complete tasks or projects as we would like to. Communicating in simple terms, what the need is, 1-2 options for meeting that need and then seeking out a resource to help that need get met, is a big confidence booster. It works at two levels building great self-confidence as you find strengths and abilities within yourself that you may have overlooked or underutilized, and as a way to to tap into a larger resource through connecting with other individuals and groups. As you get clearer in your chain of communication you will start to see a simplification of the needs, and that builds confidence in your ability to meet them. Try this daily as you work to build the habit into one that becomes automatic. You can play with different situations throughout your day, trying out the steps of clear communication and noticing the differences you feel in your own confidence level.
The practice: 2-3 times a day, whenever a situation arises in which you need to do something, take a moment before responding to be clear in your mind, what the ask is, what’s the external thing you need to do? Then as you exhale, consider what need is it that has to be met. Consider if there is also an internal need in you that you would like to have met, perhaps your boss has asked you to create a new website and the deadline feels really crunched. The external thing is the creating the site on deadline. The internal need might be that you don’t want to feel like you have to rush the project. Now take a moment to quickly run through the rolodex of your own knowledge and strengths, what do you already know you can bring to the project to make it happen on time? Last step- run through your mental or real list of all the people and resources you know, whom you could ask for support in filling in the areas where you need help getting the project done to deadline. Connect with those resources and be clear with each of them about the task, the external need and also your reason for seeking their support. Yes! You want to let them know you want their help in completing the project because you can bring x, y and z to the table and they can be part of a bigger success. Your confidence gets a boost because you are using all the resources you have at hand, and when we include others in a way that makes them feel needed and desired, they and we also get a confidence boosting hit of good emotions. It’s a win-win-win situation that you have created.
7. WHAT’S IN THE BACKGROUND?
Noticing what is running in the background of your mind can be a great way to alleviate doubt and boost confidence in action. When we doubt ourselves we often get stuck in a rut of inaction which can quickly spiral into feeling a lack of confidence. This is a simple practice that may take a little more time to work with, you might want to give this one 2 weeks to explore. You are going to be paying attention to your very own “Doubting Thomas”. We all have these voices within us, and in life coachingwe call them the Critical Voice. It’s the voice that stops us and tosses us into the loop of doubt. It’s the phrase or thought that stops you doing whatever you were thinking about doing, in a way that doesn’t feel good, it feels like doubt and often the words we say if asked at that moment are, “I don’t know”. I don’t know is my favorite marker when I’m life coaching, it lets me and my client both know we are on the right path.
The practice: 1-2 times a day notice when your internal “Doubting Thomas” shows up. Take a minute to exhale and re-center and then take a look at what the phrase is that comes to mind. It might be “you don’t know how to do this”, or something along the lines of, “I’m an introverted, extroverted,… insert adjective here… person”. Now see if you can link that phrase or voice to someone from your past, maybe a teacher or parent, coach or teammate. One might come readily to mind or it might take a few tries to find the link. When you notice it come up, take a moment to check in with yourself about whether the phrase is actually true. Practicing awareness of your critical voice leads directly to an increased feeling of competence and effective action. The more you can notice your critical voice stepping into the picture the less power it has to take over and stop you.
8. Clear Goals
This is probably the most straightforward of the confidence- boosting practices.
Setting clear goals lets you keep your eye on the prize and lets you tune into the steps that will make the outcome reachable and productive. In this practice, you are using a business technique that has proven itself in many Fortune 500 and internationally successful companies.
The approach is called Kaizen and it means to create big change by implementing little steps while keeping in mind the larger goal or outcome. As you move through each of the smaller building block stages, you gain a sense of accomplishment and confidence moving you towards your larger goal or outcome.
The practice: Starting with smaller daily tasks, practice breaking each one into single action steps, be as literal as possible with your list. Write out the main goal, then write a list of the 5-10 actions steps, in order, that you need to make in order to achieve that goal. Be very clear in your action steps- you might write, “call HR dept. to ask about top 5 benefits”, as opposed to a more general,”talk to HR”. the more specific you are the better able you are to take each action step as needed, and you’ll experience a bigger feeling of accomplishment with each completed step.
Checking into your resources on a regular basis is a solid way of boosting your own confidence. Resources are both your own abilities, knowledge, and strengths as well as external people, groups, communities and online resources. One great resource is the free VIA Survey of 24 Character Strengths available through the University of Pennsylvania, https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter.
When you sign up you can take the 20-minute VIA Survey of 24 Character Strengths and get a listing of your top 24 character strengths. Having this list you have a way to easily see what strengths you may be automatically relying on and which others you might want to work to elevate by intentionally bringing them into play more often throughout your day or week.
The practice: You’re creating a self-reference resource sheet. Start with the VIA character strengths, then add a bullet-point list of all the things you actually know how to do, whether it’s changing a diaper, walking a dog, designing a house or running a company. Nothing is too small if you know how to do it! Then create a second list of external resources you have access to, again, get somewhat detailed. Now review all your lists together and notice where your knowledge and know-how connect with your strengths and external resources. Do you see some new ways to connect across your lists that you might have overlooked before? Review and add to these on a regular basis and you’ll start to grow your own confidence as you see new ways to combine your resources to meet every situation that might come up. It’s all about knowledge and power when it comes to boosting confidence.
10. Acknowledging accomplishments.
“When you appreciate your appreciation, your appreciation appreciates”. That phrase comes from one of the foremost researchers in Positive Psychology, Tal Ben-Shahar. It’s a tricky phrase that has a simple message when we pay attention to what is working and what we have accomplished, we set the stage for more of that to happen. When we take the time to review our great and good moments, we allow ourselves to see what we did to create them and when we remember past successes, we can more easily create future success.
The practice: As you complete a project take a few minutes to mindfully pay attention to what it took to get it done, and what you were able to bring to the task. At the end of each day and week, take a few moments to sit and reflect on what went well and what you did to make your day and week really successful and fun. To up the ante each week, ask yourself if there is one thing you could do each day for the next 7 days to bring you 4% more happiness and confidence. Whatever that is for you, try it and see what happens. I’m willing to bet that you see a continual increase in your confidence each week you continue the practice.
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