Confidence and self-esteem are vulnerable to your inner voice of doubt. Whispers of negativity chip can away at your achievements and ability. It doesn’t have to be like that. By learning to make minor adjustments in your behaviour, you’ll be able to calm doubtful thoughts and restore your peace of mind.
According to author Patsy Rodenburg there are three circles of presence. The first circle is a small place to be. Closed and confining, it stops you sharing eye contact or speaking freely in larger groups. In the third circle, the opposite is true. Here everything is open to you, it’s yours for the taking. Your voice talks over others and you’re terrible at listening. Both these circles are expressions of insecurity, preventing us from being successfully present with others.
The second circle is a better place to be. Here your focus is on everything but yourself. You listen to others and notice the details of their behaviour. An interesting feature of this circle is that this is where you tend to be when in danger, when it’s imperative to be fully alive to a situation.
Our Learnflix eLearning course on Confidence and Self-Esteem helps you spend more time in the second circle. Here, where peace of mind puts its feet up and makes itself at home, your inner voice of doubt struggles to be heard. To get there, try focusing on three key areas of understanding.
The power of presence
The first step is to identify the voice of doubt. By singling it out and recognising that its suggestions are misplaced, it becomes easier to listen to a healthier line of thought. By re-focusing your attention on to who you’re with, your inner voice will quieten. This will bring you into the moment and help you to be fully present. The more present you are, the more at ease you feel. The more at ease you feel, the more confident you’ll be.
An easy way to focus on others is to compliment them. By commenting on the positive behaviours of other people, you’re forcing your mind to stay present. At the same time, you’re priming your mind to focus on the positives in yourself. Stay open to compliments from others, accepting their positive comments and using them to feed your confidence.
Fake it ‘til you make it
Being present is a healthy place to be. The confidence we need to stay there comes from many different factors, some of which might be work in progress. Until you’ve nailed them down you can simulate them, a trick that gives you an immediate boost in confidence and puts you on the road to acquiring them for real. Researchers found that, when given problems to solve, volunteers who sat up straight and folded their arms persevered for nearly twice as long as others.
Similarly, psychologist James D. Laird showed that we can make ourselves happy just by smiling. Smiling lowers your heart rate and enables you to cope more effectively in stressful situations, which in turn helps you to feel more confident in your own skin. The science is on your side: in simulating confidence, fake it ‘til you make it.
Other changes in body language can help you too. For example, try stretching your body out while keeping a beaming smile on your face. This is a simple form of the ‘power pose’. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy and her team found that power poses have an unexpected impact on hormones. They found that testosterone increased by 20% while cortisol (a hormone released in response to stress) decreased by 25%.
Minds and bodies are intrinsically connected, each influences the other. There are many ways that you can strengthen confidence and self-esteem through simple physical adjustments, from posture to deep breathing.
Looking out for yourself
By developing presence in the moment, both psychologically and physically, you can get a good start on finding confidence and self-esteem. You’ll be able to lock them in place with a long-term mindset in which you look out for yourself, for example through better sleep, eating properly and taking regular exercise.
In your new way of thinking, try to limit the judgements you make of others and yourself. Judgement puts emotional, reactionary barriers in the way of managing your self-belief. Negative conclusions never tell the whole story about ability or appearance, whether someone else’s or yours. Simple observations are a softer way to go.
Confidence is a result of behaviours. In developing our confidence and self-esteem, we must first change the way we behave. Confidence is not something you simply have or don’t have – it comes from working at it; here’s your opportunity.