Four Actionable Ways to Ramp up Your Confidence

Four Actionable Ways to Ramp up Your Confidence

Created: Thursday, December 1, 2022 posted by at 9:30 am

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By Diana Robertson, Toastmasters International

Have you ever found yourself thinking “I will be … when …”? Perhaps you caught yourself having this thought, “I will be confident in myself when I get the promotion I’ve been going for”, or “I will be confident in my abilities when I create something valuable”. The list goes on.

Four Actionable Ways to Ramp up Your Confidence

Four Actionable Ways to Ramp up Your Confidence
Image: 123RF

As a communication skills trainer, I help people become confident in the way they speak and portray themselves. If anybody knows what it feels like to lack confidence, it’s me.  During my childhood in Russia, I used to be shy and awkward at school with nothing but big dreams. I wanted to become a leader. In reality, I was always a follower. I wanted to speak up for my friends when they got into trouble, but I couldn’t even speak up for myself. I wanted to become a successful entrepreneur, but people found it funny that I was even considering it. Looking back, I can’t blame them. Indeed, what can you expect from a shy, antisocial child who always sat in the back corner of the classroom and never raised her hand because she was afraid of what others might think of her? Definitely not succeeding as a speaker or an entrepreneur.

Yet, that’s exactly who I’ve become. This article is based on lessons I have learned through my personal experience. In it, I’ll share with you four different ways to build your confidence – until it is unshakeable.

Let’s start with the first action:

1. Find the areas where you can see that you are already confident

What are you already good at? The first and most important step towards building confidence is to be aware of what you have already been successfully doing in your life.

The answers may range from being a talented artist to being a good parent or friend. Feel free to note down any idea that comes to your mind because everything you are good at counts as a valid point.

What this will reveal to you is that confidence is not absolute, because no person on this planet is fully confident about everything in their lives. All of us feel confident about particular aspects we know we are good at. Equally, each and every one of us struggles with a specific area that needs improvement. And yet, when we face our pain points, instead of offering constructive solutions, our minds may find that there is something wrong with our whole being. This is a trap and a pure lie because each of us is a completely whole being with numerous qualities.

For example, I used to be extremely bad at speaking in public. In fact, on the occasion of my first presentation, I ended up totally forgetting my script despite spending three days memorizing it. I felt so terrible, that my hands started to shake, which made my job even harder; not only did I forget what to say but I could not even read it from my script due to all the shaking! As you can imagine, this experience absolutely shattered my confidence. But after a couple of days, instead of focusing on how bad I was overall, I chose to focus only on how poor my skill of speaking in front of the public was. Separating myself from my skill was crucial because it gave me clarity on what I could do about it. The next thing I did was to join one of Toastmasters’ public speaking clubs where I received the help and support I needed to become a confident presenter.

To summarize, once you start working on developing a new skill, your confidence will grow with it. Thus, you track what you’re good at and don’t let yourself identify your overall confidence with the areas you feel least certain about. Nobody is good at everything, whereas obtaining new knowledge and developing new skills is entirely under your control.

2. Change your negative thoughts with positive affirmations

Changing your thoughts is easier said than done. However, our thought patterns are no different to the muscles in our bodies. Both can be trained.

Any habit you currently have was once formed and developed in this exact manner. Creating a new positive approach towards your area of struggle may sound strange but it is going to be a life-changing act for you.

‘The most important person you will ever talk to is yourself.’ – Paul McGee, author of S.U.M.O. (Shut Up, Move On)

A great way to start reprogramming your mind is to repeat encouraging affirmations or statements before facing challenging situations. To find what particular affirmation will work best for you, go with the opposite of your negative thought. For example, if you think “I’m terrified of being called on to share my opinion in a team meeting”, you can replace that statement with “I’m so excited to share my thoughts in the meeting!”.

Do not expect yourself to believe in what you are saying after making your affirmations only a couple of times, because you may have been trained to think negative thoughts for years. Give yourself time to practice your affirmations properly so that they sink in.

This is all very personal and if a certain affirmation doesn’t work for you or if you feel extremely uncomfortable with reversing your negative thoughts into extremely positive affirmations, you may prefer using slightly softer opening statements. Instead of saying “I’m great at sharing my opinion”, you can be more inclined to affirm “I can be very good at sharing useful ideas”, “I love the idea of contributing to the conversation” or “It’s totally possible for anyone, including myself, to present well at a team meeting”. What is most important here is to create and repeat affirmations that make you feel better about yourself. So, feel free to improvise and try a couple!

3. Questions to transform your thought patterns

If affirmations still seem vain or shallow to you because they evoke contradicting thoughts and emotions, here is a more analytical way, gathered from my performance coaches. By answering the following questions, you will find out the fears that are hidden behind your lack of confidence and learn how to transform your destructive thought patterns into constructive ones.

Write down, record, or simply answer:

  1. How can I describe the exact negative thoughts on this particular subject in only one sentence?
  2. Is this thought 100% true? Is it a fact or is it my assumption?
  3. What proves that this negative thought is completely or partially false?
  4. If the event that I most fears were to happen, how would it truly affect my life? What would I do (realistically and without exaggeration)?
  5. If my best friend had this exact thought, what would I tell them?

These questions helped me get through very difficult times, such as the financial uncertainties during the pandemic. I hope they will be of use to you too.

4. Celebrate achievements, including the small ones

Sometimes, when we take on difficult projects we’ve never done in the past, they don’t go according to plan. In such situations, it’s easy to forget that one unsuccessful event means little, and that true success is achieved by taking small but consistent steps toward the goal. So, if you’ve just failed at something, remember; the key to becoming better at anything is to shift your focus onto your progress over longer periods rather than holding on to the setbacks along the way.

Why is this so important to do? Because by following this approach you are attaching a number of small successful experiences to your journey, and this enables you to notice your improvements. As a result, you are building a new neural pathway responsible for the positive events in the struggle area and transforming it into a normal area or even a power area. This is a part of the habit formation process that Charles Duhigg talks about in his book The Power of Habit.

This is about small steps. In other words, regardless of what happens along your journey, your job is to always interpret your attempts as steps toward your success. They might be small ones, but they’re still there. Keep on doing the same thing over and over until your brain is convinced that when you perform that stressful activity something good happens. And it surely will, especially if you’re serious about getting better!

So, to summarize, confidence is not immutable but can be built up over time. This is done by separating your self-confidence from your areas of struggle, reminding yourself of every small success along your journey, questioning your negative thoughts, and substituting them with positive ones.

Diana Robertson

Diana Robertson
Diana Robertson is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organization that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland.

Members follow a structured educational program to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings, and time management. To find your nearest club, visit Toastmasters International.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

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