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  • Writer's pictureHouria Bellatif

We can all use some more self-confidence from time to time.

Lately, a theme seems to surface repeatedly in sessions I have with clients or casual catch-up conversations. This topic finds a way to show up in some way, shape or form.

Self-confidence. What makes self-confidence a topic worth talking about?

Confidence is a necessary ingredient for anyone who wants to live a prosperous life. That belief in oneself allows us to take risks, seize opportunities, and overcome challenges. Confidence sets the stage for growth, influence, and success. It does not mean we become vain or label ourselves "Know-it-all." Being confident means shifting our perspective from doubt and fear to assertiveness for taking on that task or project. It also signifies that we use the outcome as a teaching moment, regardless of how successful that result was.

Before we dive deeper into it, I want us to pause and ask ourselves how we define and use self-confidence vs. self-esteem? The two of them certainly overlap, but they should not be used interchangeably:

- Self-esteem is an inner projection of how we see ourselves on the inside. It stems from who we are, our upbringing, and our experiences. It runs at a much deeper level and requires raising awareness of our imperfections.

- On the other hand, self-confidence is what we tend to project to the outside world. It is also directly in line with skills, abilities, and achievements. Someone can be very confident in their performance ability yet have low self-esteem.

One might ask: If confidence is an enabler of such great things and a source of grand outcomes, what makes it so hard to achieve? What gets in the way of feeling confident?

The first step is to recognize that there are hurdles that prevent our confidence from shining consistently and with strength; many of them are self-created or self-inflicted. That is good news because we are in control; we can make the necessary changes to pump our confidence. It can also be bad news if we give in to the obstacles and are unwilling to do the required work.

Together, let us pin down the four culprits that get in the way and explore ways to overcome them:

Culprit #1 Our negative monologue.

The way we talk to ourselves has a significant impact on our overall confidence level. If that annoying inner voice constantly puts us down or doubts our abilities, our confidence takes a dip.

To counter that, we need to focus on positive thinking. Putting positive energy into how we approach a task, a conversation, or an unpleasant situation can change the dynamics within and around us. Thinking alone will certainly not make it stick; the key is to act on that positive reframing by adopting the "Positive Listing Tactic":

  • List our top five positive qualities even if we do not feel comfortable outlining them. I invite you to reflect on that and possibly call on a family member or a close friend for inspiration.

  • List our top five past accomplishments. It helps when we take a stroll down memory lane and relive our past achievements. It is easier to feel confident when we recall those times we were at our best.

It won't take long before we start feeling a little confidence welling up inside. We should keep those lists handy for future reference, especially when we know that the "Downer" inner voice is coming our way.

Culprit#2 Defining goals that are too big or taking on too many projects:

I am not suggesting that one should not be ambitious or inspiring to accomplish great things. I invite you to consider this when the confidence level is not at its peak.

When tackling many projects at once or engaging in initiatives that are too large in scope, some tasks may end up unfinished, not finished timely or not executed well. Seeing the audacious goals not progressing or feeling overwhelmed by the unending to-do lists is an easy way for doubts to start creeping in. …Sounds familiar?

We can overcome this by making a realistic, manageable plan and executing it:

  • Break down significant goals into smaller chunks that still move us in that direction.

  • Make a shorter to-do list: Define what is essential vs. urgent and create a Parking list for "I would like to get to these eventually."

  • Start with the easiest tasks. Many experts suggest starting with the most arduous tasks, and I agree with that in most cases. However, this might not be the best option when our self-confidence is in the basement.

We build more confidence by showing ourselves that we can make a plan and execute it. So, whether it's following through on your plan to go to the gym or clean out your garage or finally starting that blog, make a manageable list of actions that will get you a step closer and get it done.

Culprit #3 Neglecting body language signals

Slouching, closed-off body posture, looking down, and avoiding eye contact are little things that play a significant role in what we project to our audiences.

Whether adjusting our stance, smiling, giving a firm handshake, etc. Adjusting little body language allows us to feel more assertive and slightly more convincing. Let us glance at that mirror more often; find the extra inch by standing taller, pushing the shoulders away from the ears, smiling and repeating.

Culprit #4 Saying 'Yes' when we mean and feel 'No'?

Saying 'No' might be uncomfortable, but it can also be very liberating. It can be a great booster of confidence.

One way to start feeling comfortable saying 'No' is to explore what we have been tolerating. I invite you to think about what you have accepted for a while, where negative emotions such as disappointment, anger, and resentment start building up. Get the riffraff out of your life, including behaviors from people around you, items you no longer need, and everything else that annoys you. We need to remind ourselves that our intent is caring and preserve our well-being and that we deserve better.

Finally, it is vital to surround ourselves with positive people who will support and encourage us. These individuals can provide guidance and motivation when self-doubt starts tip-toeing again.

Remember, self-confidence is ours to take when we are ready. How will you choose to show up for yourself today? With a bit more confidence, I hope.

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