It is no secret that as human beings we all struggle at times with self confidence.
We can often have thoughts that we aren’t good enough, didn’t do a good enough job, should be better, should know better etc.
We then can have a range of uncomfortable feelings that accompany those negative thoughts, and when we feel uncomfortable we behave in ways that match that, such as withdrawing from others, giving up on a task etc (O’Kelly, 2010).
Generally we want to feel that we are strong, smart, capable, knowledgeable, liked by others, and many more. We have this desire to be accepted by others because humans were originally designed to work together to survive and populate.
If you think about the show ‘Survivor’, there generally tends to be some who are better at lighting a fire, building shelter, fishing etc than others and they all need to work together to survive (Cast & Burke, 2002). A person can be awesome at fishing – but they also need a fire to be able to cook and eat the fish.
So there appears to be a misconception that we need to ‘know everything’ and ‘be good at everything’. This is where the cracks begin to appear. Of course we want to be good at the things that we try, however the reality is that as humans, we have strengths and weaknesses and that is OK (Vonk, 2006).
We need people in this world who are good at building homes; doctors and surgeons to help those who are ill; others who create amazing food; athletes to watch and inspire; and so many other professions that make the world go around.
When you think about it, if we were all the very same, how boring would the world be? If we all were interested in the same things, looked the same, liked the same food, behaved the same, thought the same way etc. We wouldn’t have some of the very cool things in this world if someone (or a group of someones) didn’t have the confidence to make, build or create them.
Bottom Line: it’s OK to not be great at everything!
Tips for Improving your Self Confidence
Here are some tips for improving your self confidence:
Challenge your negative self talk – Find a way to switch from being very critical and even bullying yourself about not reaching your desired outcome. Instead accepting that this happened, can you learn from it, is it part of who you are that this is not a strength of yours (and that is OK). Challenging negative self talk with evidence is an effective way to rationalise and let go of the non factual thoughts and criticisms.
Identify the positive about yourself – Often times we focus on the things that we don’t like about ourselves or the things that we want but (seemingly) don’t have. This keeps you in the cycle of negative self talk.
Break the cycle by acknowledging the positive things about yourself such as sporting talent, academic talent, compliments others give you, your achievements etc. Remember, positive self talk is a big part of building up your self confidence!
Surround yourself with positive relationships and avoid negative ones – Throughout life we encounter all sorts of people, some help us to feel good about ourselves and the world around us ,and some have the opposite effect.
If you notice that there is a relationship in your life that makes you question your self worth and the world around you, and you feel drained, tired, miserable etc from the interaction, maybe it’s time to make a choice about whether this is a relationship and environment that you need to be in. You have a choice.
Be kind to yourself – Do you find that you give yourself a hard time if you’re just not feeling up to it today, that something or yourself isn’t ‘perfect’?
Self confidence is something that can fluctuate just like our moods. We don’t achieve a level of self confidence and stay there, it changes based on situations and environments. Be kind to yourself, try your best, acknowledge what is happening for you and take care of yourself if you’re feeling challenged, nervous or low. Again, try to avoid negative self talk here.
Creating and enforcing boundaries – Some of us feel that we want everyone around us to be happy, so we say yes to a lot of things (even when there is already too much on our plates or when we really don’t want to do what the other person wants). Having reasonable boundaries (your limits) and being assertive with enforcing these boundaries helps to build self confidence.
Look after your physical health – It is far easier to feel good about ourselves when we are healthy and fit. Your health deserves to be looked after, this means engaging in regular exercise, eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep.
Challenge yourself – You may find that you avoid difficult situations because you feel you don’t have the knowledge or resources to be effective – but one way to build your confidence is to take on challenges (these are different and personal to everyone).
This doesn’t mean that you need to do it all on your own, part of it might be asking for help. Find something that is challenging yet achievable. By completing the challenge, you prove to yourself that you can achieve things (and you learn about yourself in the process).
You do you – How often do you find that you compare yourself to other people? When we do this, it feels garbage, we are magnifying what we believe we don’t have and minimising what we do have.
Additionally, we never really know the other person’s story or struggles. We are individuals and not meant to be carbon copies of everyone else. You can certainly aspire to behave, achieve or take on a challenge that someone else has, but you do you when you do it. As Dr Seuss said, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You”.
Mistakes are ok – This is how we learn and grow. Avoid that negative self talk, reflect on what you have learnt and use that as fuel to grow.
Focus on what you can change – We can often get caught up with trying to control things that are actually out of our control. This uses a lot of brain power and physical energy (maybe anxiety energy) with little to no outcome.
Instead, make a list of the things that you’re not happy with and three realistic ways that you can change them.
Do the things you enjoy – If we spend more time doing the things that give us joy, the less time we spend bullying ourselves. This could be reading, sports, exercise, cooking, colouring in, doing a puzzle, socialising etc.
Celebrate the small wins – Often we are too focused on the big wins and goals and waiting for something to fall into place before we will ‘be happy’. Switch it up, focus on the small wins as well – such as getting up in the morning, cooking a great breakfast, making it to the gym, etc. At the end of the day, write down 3 things you did well.
Be kind to others – Sometimes when we have low self confidence, we can want other to feel that with us, or we can want to be invisible. Instead, try being kind to others by saying hello when crossing paths with someone in the street, offering to help, or even giving them a compliment.
It is important to keep in mind that you are generally judging and criticising yourself much more harshly than anyone else is. Everyone is trying their best in this world especially when times are tough. We never know the full extent of someone else’s story or struggles. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others to help the world feel a little safer.
Aleah Haffenden is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, working primarily with young people (aged 15 and up). She takes a client-focused approach, using a mix of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), tailored to their specific needs.
To make an appointment with Aleah Haffenden try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.
- Cast, A. D., & Burke, P. J. (2002). A theory of self-esteem. Social forces, 80(3), 1041-1068.
- O’Kelly, M. (2010). CBT in ACTION: A Practitioner’s Toolkit. CBT Australia.
- Vonk, R. (2006). Improving self-esteem. Self-esteem issues and answers: A sourcebook of current perspectives, 178-187.
- Welford, M. (2012). The compassionate mind approach to building self-confidence: Series editor, Paul Gilbert. Hachette UK.
- Wright, J. H. (2009). Building self-confidence with encouraging words. TotalRecall Publications, Incorporated.