Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s make-believe… or perhaps she’s learnt to be more confident. The truth is, our confidence levels are in flux all the time, but making sure our self-belief doesn’t dip too low is vital to a happy, fulfilling life.
Indeed, as the former first lady Michelle Obama puts it: “Your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.”
It’s easy to look at great women such as Michelle and think that confidence is something that other people have. But here’s the thing: we can all have it; there’s enough to go around.
So, what is the secret to feeling self-assured? “Confidence is a funny thing – some people can look like they have loads of it, while others may appear to have none,” says Pascale Lane, a London-based relationship and confidence coach. “And the truth is, that whilst many appear to have it in abundance, a lot of the time, they are just wearing a really great mask. Why? Because confidence is something that we can all have, but we are often plagued by our own insecurities.”
Why confidence can drop
It’s fair to say that self-esteem doesn’t come easily for everyone – it can take a bit of effort. And the work might need to go deeper than a few daily positive affirmations (though these can help).
“Whilst there are some easy things that we can do to help us feel more confident, such as affirmations and positive mantras, we need to really get to the root of our confidence issues,” explains Pascale. “Affirmations are very important, but we also need to believe that those affirmations are true, because, without the belief, they hold no, bearing.”
The impact of your early years
You might need to look back a few steps and think about your early years experiences, says Pascale. “After all, this is where everything begins – your sense of self, your sense of value and self-worth.” she says. “All your strengths, all of your desires and all of your insecurities. How do you view those early years experiences? What were the stories you learned about yourself growing up that have helped you form your identity now?”
Think about: “How you viewed your role in your family; whether you felt valued, seen and heard,” she says. “Or whether you felt like you were a nuisance or a burden; silly or ‘in the way’.”
Recognising where some of your critical self-talk comes from is key to quieting it and overcoming self-limiting beliefs. “These are all really important things to consider because we are all valuable in our own way and we all have strengths and skills that can support our emotional wellbeing,” adds Pascale.
“So take a moment to think about the stories that you heard and how you were made to feel validated,” she continues. “And, where there are negative stories, please take this time to consider whether or not these are correct. So often, a lot of confidence comes from stories or incidents we have learnt from along the way they actually hold no value or truth to who we are today. Whether that is academic achievement, physical, achievement, being tall, short, fat, thin, pretty or otherwise. None of this actually needs to play a part in how you consider yourself today.”
How to be more confident
Want some practical ideas you can do today to lift your confidence levels? Here are four things Pascale would like you to do:
1. Celebrate the wins
“Make a list of everything you have ever achieved, everything that you are good at and everything that makes you feel proud… It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it seems significant or not, just make a list of it and write it down.
“You will have a list of so many great things about yourself. Whether it’s degrees, certificates, running a marathon, being a great cook, being a great mum or wife or being a compassionate and honest friend… All of these need to go down on your list.
“Take a moment to appreciate everything that you are, everything that you have been, and everything that you are yet to be.”
2. Watch your critical self-talk
“You have your list now, so next time you catch yourself being hard on yourself, bullying yourself or just feeling bad about yourself, refer to the list above.
“You now have the evidence to counterbalance whatever that negative story is you’re telling yourself (or anyone has told you in the past), so you can refer to this list as often as you like. Because the truth is, most of the things we tell ourselves when we put ourselves down, are simply not true.”
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
“Instead, shift your focus to being the best version of you. I know it sounds cheesy, but nobody can do You better than you. If you are looking to others and putting them on a pedestal, stop.
“First of all, you have no idea how hard they have work to get where they are. The hours they have put into their personal and professional development or wellbeing. By all means, be motivated by others, but only to know that if they can do it, you can do it too. Just concentrate on being the best version of you that you can be and this will help you be more confident in your own skin.”
4. Set small goals
“If there’s something you want to go after, then what actually is holding you back? The honest reality is that the only thing ever be holding you back from anything in life is yourself.
“So set your sights high and make some bold goals. But then, break it down. What can you do today that will get you one small step closer to your goal? I’m not talking about running marathons or doing PhDs here… I’m talking about small steps that will get you one step closer.
“Map it out and work out everything that you need to do in order to achieve the things that you want to achieve, in order to be the person that you want to be. Keep this in your conscience… Regularly refer to your list of achievements and remind yourself that you can do or be anything that you want to be as long as you have belief in yourself.”