Tuesday, March 17, 2009
While a number of different factors can contribute to an individual’s level of happiness and success in life, I think self-confidence is a key factor. What does it mean to be self-confident? It means having a strong sense of self. Self-confident individuals are grounded in who they are and they are comfortable being themselves. Being comfortable in our own skin translates to being confident in our own skin.
In my coaching sessions I have noticed that a number of my clients struggle in making changes and moving forward in life because they are plagued with insecurity and self-doubt. Self-confident individuals are not afraid to pursue whatever they want in life because they believe in themselves, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.
Developing a strong sense of self is a lifelong process that requires a considerable amount of effort. Certain people and certain situations will constantly test our self-confidence. Learn to welcome situations that challenge our sense of self with open arms. What I have found is that when I become too comfortable and need to grow, my sense of self is tested. These challenges are a reminder to take a step back and reconnect with the core of my most authentic self.
How do you develop or increase your level of self-confidence? Below are some ideas that may help:
1) Immerse yourself in uncomfortable situations that invoke fear
When we overcome our fears, our self-confidence increases. I used to be terrified of public speaking. Whenever I had to give a speech, the mere thought of standing in front of a group would send my body reeling in anxiety for days. Somehow I made it through high school and college without having to give too many speeches. Then I started graduate school and it seemed every single class required a presentation. I had to overcome my fear of public speaking real quick, otherwise my grades would have suffered and graduate school would have been one long painful experience.
What I realized is that my fear of public speaking was all in my head. All my “worries” were just figments of my own imagination. Instead of visualizing myself standing in front of an audience feeling confident and in command of the material I was presenting, I would visualize myself standing in front of the audience sweating, turning red, and forgetting what I was supposed to say next. It is no wonder I was petrified of public speaking.
After giving one presentation after another however, I learned to overcome my fear of having “all eyes on me.” I became more comfortable and at ease in front of a crowd. The best way to conquer our fears is to constantly work on them. If we avoid fear-invoking situations, we will never grow and move forward in life. Our fears will ultimately rule our world.
2) Stop the vicious cycle of negative thinking
Our mind is our greatest asset but also our strongest weapon. I think the majority of us are guilty of verbally abusing ourselves on a daily basis. Think about how many times in a course of a day you put yourself down. You may say things such as, “I am not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, etc.” All of these negative comments drag our self-esteem down, until eventually our self-esteem resides in the gutter.
What I have noticed is that many people are still holding on to comments that people, particularly family members, made to them years and years ago. When we allow others to define us by their hurtful and inappropriate comments, our self-confidence plummets. Developing a healthy level of self-confidence means learning to define your self based on your own terms and conditions. So ask yourself, “Have I allowed others to define who I am?”
3) Love yourself unconditionally
When we don't fully accept ourselves, including the good, bad, and ugly within us, our self-confidence suffers. Forgiving ourselves and being gentle with ourselves are vital ingredients that are needed for self-love.
A few months ago a client scheduled an appointment with me because he wanted to feel more “alive.” This particular client talked about feeling drained and struggling with social anxiety. It seemed there was a root issue my client was dealing with but I was having difficulty pinpointing what exactly it was. Finally my client admitted he had been unfaithful in his last relationship and as a result of his infidelity, guilt dragged behind him like a ton of bricks. This guilt was causing the life to be sucked out of him and it was preventing him from starting a new relationship.
My client and I talked about the power of forgiving ourselves in order to move forward in life. We have all made mistakes, especially in relationships, but we can’t dwell on our mistakes. We must learn what we can from them, figure out how not to make the same mistakes twice, and then move on.
The next time I spoke to this particular client, his energy had been restored and he sounded “alive.” By forgiving himself, my client opened his heart and self-love came rushing in.
4) Don't look to the external material world for approval
When we focus too heavily on trying to please others and trying to prove ourselves to the world, not only will our self-confidence be negatively impacted, we will end up exhausted. No matter what we do or how hard we try, we will never be able to please everyone. Once we are able to accept this simple truth, we will feel quite liberated and will start living our own life.
Colleen Canney is a Career, Life, and Wellness Coach based in Milwaukee, WI. For more information on her coaching services, please visit www.colleencanny.com or contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.