No one can make you feel inferior without your consent ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you feel confident and positive all the time? If you are like most people, your confidence can wax and wane depending on the circumstances. However, lack of confidence and low self-esteem can impact on every area of our lives. When we start to doubt ourselves and our ability, we shut ourselves off from experiences, we impact our relationships and ultimately live an unfulfilling existence.
I was once the shy girl who didn’t speak up in class, who rarely made eye contact with anyone, who didn’t believe I was good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, outgoing enough. Over the years I’ve done a lot of personal development and learnt a number of tips to weed out self-doubt and cultivate my confidence. But even now in my forties I still have to make sure I keep my ‘inner meanie’ in check. Do you have an ‘inner meanie’ - the one who tells you you’re not good enough?
No matter what your background, no matter what your beliefs, if you don’t first believe in yourself you won’t be able to give your best to the world.
But where do you think that self-doubt and lack of confidence live? It all starts in our minds. So try thinking of your mind like a beautiful garden; for it to flourish it must be nurtured daily. You need to fertilise your garden well. Don’t poison your garden with negative thoughts; give it nourishment in the form of positive thoughts and experiences. Weed out those negative beliefs by replacing them with positive beliefs (if you say them enough you will believe them). Stand guard at the gateway to your garden; your ‘inner meanie’ is not welcome! Only allow thoughts that will help it to blossom and in turn this is how you will blossom with confidence and a healthy self-esteem.
In this post, I’m going to share my top tips for weeding out self-doubt and cultivating confidence.
Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world right in the eye ~ Helen Keller
The first step is to stand tall and breathe deeply which feeds your body and brain with oxygen helping you to feel alert, relaxed and centred. It also provides support for your voice which will ensure you are able to communicate with a strong, confident sound.
Imagine you have string attached to the crown of your head and it is pulling your head up so that it rests gently on your neck; the rest of your body is able to stand tall and relaxed underneath it. Put your shoulders back and down and take some deep breaths into your belly (imagine your tummy is filling up with air like a balloon) while trying not to raise your shoulders.
As you take a breath in, imagine you are breathing in confidence. As you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out doubt. After a few breaths you will have breathed out all of your doubt! Then you can breathe in confidence and exude confidence on your out breath. Take some time to walk about with your head held high, shoulders back and, in line with Helen Keller’s quote above, look the world right in the eye.
Love yourself first and everything else falls into line ~ Lucille Ball
The words we say to ourselves affect our self-image and our self-image determines what actions we take. For example if our self-image is one of a person who lacks confidence, we will only be able to take actions that are aligned with this trait. If our self-image is one of someone who worries, we are more likely to think negative thoughts and worry! Alternatively, if our self-image is one of a radiant and fearless individual, all our actions will correspond with this quality. Your self- image is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So if words affect our self-image, start to notice the words you say to yourself and ensure that they are loving, positive and supportive. Practice when looking in the mirror – try saying, “(Your name) I love you - you’re amazing and you have a great (fill in the blank with one of your positive qualities)”. This might feel strange at first and be difficult to believe but the more you do it the easier it will become and the more you will believe it.
Last year I introduced Weed Out Wednesday, a dedicated time once a week to notice any negative and unhelpful thoughts you might have been having and to replace them with positive affirmations. Each Wednesday I post a reminder on Twitter and Facebook for you to observe your thoughts, consider any limiting beliefs and substitute them with kind, loving messages for your soul. Think about that precious garden of your mind and don’t let your thoughts and words poison it.
See things as you would have them, instead of as they are ~ Robert Collier
Our thoughts create our reality; the quality of our life is determined by the quality of our thoughts and the mind works through pictures.
If you have a thought, either positive or negative, you’ll imagine it in your mind, run the movie in your head and visualise the scenario. Then you might start talking about it, and then you start feeling that it really might be true, and soon enough you’ll start believing it until you find that it actually happens. So the first step of that process after the thought is how we visualise it. We should all spend some time every day visualising our desired outcome, mentally rehearsing the way we would like to be and feel (not what we don't want to happen!)
Sex appeal is fifty percent what you’ve got and fifty percent what people think you’ve got ~ Sophia Loren
Think about people you know or famous people who exude confidence. What is it about them that makes them appear confident? If you think about Sophia Loren’s quote above, it is possible to give the illusion that you’re confident and in my experience if you choose to act confident, you eventually start to feel confident. Much the same as if you smile when you don’t feel like it, your mood can be improved simply by smiling. American social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, says you can feel more confident simply by changing your body language. Rather than fake it until you make it, Amy suggests that you can fake it until you become it. You can read more about Amy’s research and watch her TED talk here.
One isn't born with courage. One develops it by doing small courageous things ~ Maya Angelou
I’m currently doing research for a book I’m writing about confidence and this week I interviewed Oli Norman who is a very successful Scottish entrepreneur. The reason I was interviewing him is that someone told me that Oli was the most confident person they had ever met. During the interview I asked him what advice he would he give someone who is lacking in confidence. He said that you just need to do the thing you’re not confident about; get outside your comfort zone and do it again and again, and soon enough you’ll be confident at doing it.
Stepping outside your comfort zone does take courage but using and strengthening your courage muscle will lead to improved confidence. I call it the Courage Muscle Crunch. And I don’t mean you have to do hundreds of crunches a day like you do to get flat abs; with the courage muscle crunch you simply do one small thing each day that takes you out of your comfort zone. By doing that you’ll get comfortable being uncomfortable and that is another key to building your confidence. Read more about the Courage Muscle Crunch here.
Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers ~ Veronica A. Shoffstall
Use these tips and whatever else you find works for you to ensure that you look after your mind garden, weed out self-doubt and cultivate your confidence. You deserve to blossom.
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_