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7 scientific hacks to build more self-confidence
Can I ask you a question? If you had 100% self-confidence, neither doubt nor an ounce of fear as to whether or not you would succeed, what would you do? I think you should write that down.
Self-confidence is freedom. Freedom to live your life to the fullest. Confident people aren’t people who are never scared or apprehensive, but people who believe in themselves enough to take risks or step out of their comfort zone with the assurance that they’re going to be the better for it.
It’s okay if you want to skip right to the list of how to build more self-confidence, but I’d like you to know something first. Our sense of self-worth and confidence comes first from other people but you can change it.
Experiencing low self-confidence says more about your formative environment than it does about your abilities.
I have been asked once by a teacher “are you really that stupid or you just act that way?”
A real confidence boost huh? This strong negative idea was given to me—Inge you’re stupid. Whenever I made a bad decision, I would hear that same question in my head.
Many negative ideas have been given to you about yourself from your environment. You probably have really solid memories of the condescending insults or moments so deep that you actually started thinking that you aren’t …insert adjective…enough.
HOWEVER, my dear, because self-confidence is formed through a process of thoughts (ideas) and memories. You can hack this process by undoing negative memories and rewiring your thoughts through positive repetition i.e. positive habits. Let’s begin!
Undoing negative memories
The Sword of Self-Compassion: Self-compassion is the strongest weapon against shame. Dr Kristin Neff’s years of psychological studies prove this. This weapon is forged from accepting your imperfect human nature. There’s a reason superman and wonder-woman are simply products of imagination. To err is human.
When we made mistakes, fall short of expectations, or even have experienced trauma we feel shame. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if it wasn’t our fault (as with trauma), we still experience that gut-wrenching sensation. And the worst part is our experiences of shame are so powerful that they clamp themselves unto our long-term memories.
Time to say enough! Self-compassion is treating yourself the way you would treat your dearest friend with kindness. Let’s revisit my early shame:
Physics Teacher: “Are you really that stupid or you just act like it”
If this memory pops into my mind when I mess up something, just like I messed up the answer to that physics question, my self-compassion sword cuts through it like this
Self-Compassion: At that time, I didn’t know and that’s okay. No one knows EVERYTHING all the time. Making mistake doesn’t mean I’m stupid, it just means I’m human. I continue to know better and do better. That’s how life works.
Slowly but surely, I am undoing the negativity of that memory and fighting the shame. I am destroying the mental connection of mistake=stupidity, with mistake=learning.
This might seem too simplistic to work, but this study which measured the self-compassion technique in dealing with a key confidence sucker—body dissatisfaction—proves that it leads to significant improvement.
Counter Memory with Memory: Welcome to emotional math. The logic here is to create a positive memory that kicks that negative memory in the gut. The goal is not to eradicate the memory but to reduce or eliminate its power. It’s the classic ‘I was told I would never…and now here I am”
If you’re tormented by the recollection of something about you that happened at a family gathering. After a while, consider organizing a family gathering (it doesn’t have to be with the exact same people) in a setting you can control. Or, you could show up at the next family gathering with something that’ll make everyone happy like a family recipe etc.
I admit some memories are easier to counter than others but you get the idea, don’t you? Engineer a positive moment to reduce the hurt of the past
Celebrate Small Wins: Little things matter. You need to celebrate your little daily achievements because they testify to your ability. Think of the way the Owl on Duolingo gets super excited over your 3-day streak. Sure, there are people with a 1000-day streak, but you’re measuring yourself against yourself.
Here’s a good way to incorporate this. Set yourself a small target and attach an incentive. For example, I will write 100 words on this report I’ve been avoiding; and as a reward, I’ll buy myself a cup of my favourite coffee right after. Trust me, that cup of coffee will taste like the best cup of coffee ever.
Maybe you’ve worked super hard on a project and it turned out great? Others may not tap you on the back, but get yourself something nice to REMIND you of your abilities. You got it (no matter how big or small) done! You did it.
Mindful Living: This is all about living in the present. It’s especially useful when you have intrusive negative thoughts that chip away at your self-confidence. If your present could be everything you want it to be, would you care about the past? No. So, let’s focus on the present and making it what you want it to be.
Studies show mindful living significantly reduces stress and anxiety about life; therefore, having a positive impact on self-confidence. Regarding negative memories, incorporate mindful practice by redirecting your thoughts to the present moment. Focus on each of your senses. Acknowledge your thoughts but don’t pay attention to them, only to the things in the present.
It takes practice but it’s worth a shot.
Rewiring your thoughts through repetition
The habit of Self-Care: Your thoughts, feelings and actions are intimately connected. Your actions flow from your ideas. When you make a habit of setting out time to pamper yourself, you’re keying into the idea of self-worth.
‘I am worthy of rest and deserve to be taken care of.’
You don’t wait for others to feed you, do you? Why wait for them to care for your mind and body?
Strengthening the idea of self-worth through self-care improves your self-confidence. Rather than pining for validation of your worth from someone else, the validation is coming from you.
However, the key is making it a habit (repetition). Have a self-care plan. Make it a chief priority in your week. You could even set aside an entire day for it. Because guess what? you’re worth it!
Unity of Life: Your self-confidence improves when you live according to the principles and values you deem worthy. A value is something good, positive and worthy of attention. When you consistently live in a way that lines up with the values or principles you admire, you begin to acquire the ascribed characteristics of that value. You become better, a more positive person, and worthy of attention. That’s a unity of life.
Let’s say I admire punctuality. It’s a value that I think is very important and is extolled by endless motivational self-help books. Great! I try to build the habit of punctuality. Like that, people can always count on me to be on time. Therefore, making me a more dependable person. People are confident in your punctuality, and you become more confident in yourself.
Try to draw up a list of non-negotiable values. When you know the things you can’t compromise on, you’ll be more confident in making decisions. There’re fewer reasons for regret. And you’ll be living in a way that YOU ADMIRE.
Engage Your Strengths: hey, you’re not perfect. You have your strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to navigate your weaknesses and build on your strengths. Remember that low self-confidence has to do with shame and inabilities; I’m asking you to focus on your abilities.
Can you write? Write more, hone that skill, leverage it. Or you’re really good at solving problems with sound logic? You’re a working think tank, my friend!
The more you engage your strengths, the more confident you become in general. Because you are establishing and reinforcing a new connection of self-worth in your head. You’re rewiring your thoughts by bringing and sustaining focus on your excellence.
I don’t know what you’ve been through (or are going through) that has brought you to this place, but this is the light at the end of the tunnel. You’ve taken the first step, finding information that’ll help. Your own the way to building more self-confidence and rocking your world.
I’m rooting for you.
And if you need more help, just call me coach.
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