9 Lessons for Practicing Self-Confidence

Martin Seligman reminds us that positive self-image by itself does not produce anything. A sustainable sense of security in oneself arises from positive and productive behavior (Seligman, 1996). This is not to say that feeling secure and trusting in yourself is not important to well-being. High self-confidence or self-efficacy has been linked to many positive physical and mental health outcomes (Pajares, 1996).

Many of us would like to have higher self-confidence but struggle to overcome insecurity, fear, and negative self-talk. With some reflection, hard work, and perhaps a shift in perception we can work towards a strong and stable belief in ourselves.

“Well-being cannot just exist in our own head. It is a combination of actually having meaning, good relationships, and accomplishment” -Martin Seligman

1. Stand or Sit in a Posture of Confidence

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy and others have studied the positive effects of confident body postures on our hormones. Look for the sensations of confidence and practice feeling them more in your body. Feel your feet on the ground, keep your body relaxed and open. Think regal.

Watch Ammy Cuddy’s Ted Talk about the effect of posture on self-confidence:

Her basic message in the video is that an individual’s posture does not just reflect the level of confidence or insecurity. Posture sends messages to the brain that informs you exactly how you feel. That being said, if you need to feel confident, you want your posture to send your brain that message. So stand tall, sit up straight, and have a smile on your face.

2. Practice Presence

Similar to the concept of mindfulness, proven to have significant benefits for your physical and psychological well-being. You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere. You can give try it right now by following these steps:

  • Become aware of your awareness; that is, begin to observe yourself and your surroundings.
  • Start with your body sensations, feeling your feet and legs, your belly and chest, your arms, neck, and head.
  • Notice your breath flowing in and out, the many sensations that you are experiencing.
  • Let your eyes notice what is in your visual field, your ears, what they are hearing. Perhaps sensations of smell and taste will come to awareness as well.
  • Then, go beyond these simple sensations to feel the energy, the quiet, or the noises that surround you. Feel your presence.

3. Build Your Capacity for Energy

What does this mean? A bit of stress can be useful to keep us alert and give us the extra energy needed to perform. Try reframing your nervous jitters as excitement! Knowing how to engage with these feelings in your body will expand your presence rather than shrinking it down.

4. Exercise Regularly

Exercise has a powerful effect on confidence. Regular exercise releases endorphins which in turn interact with the opiate receptors in the brain. This brings a type of pleasurable state of mind and in turn, you’ll view yourself in a more positive light. When you are regularly doing this not only will you get better physically but you will feel more motivated to act in ways that build your self-confidence.

5.Visualise: Imagine Confidence

Close your eyes and relax your body completely. Stay firmly connected with the sensation of relaxation and, in your mind’s eye, see yourself speaking on camera or doing whatever activity for which you require more confidence. Allow the feelings of comfortable presence pervade your body and your mind.

6. Give Yourself Permission To Be In The Process, Take Risks and Make Mistakes

From the outside, we often think, “wow, everybody else is more happy, beautiful, creative, successful, active, etc. than me. I’m just not good enough to be like them”. What we don’t tend to consider is that failure is inherent in accomplishment and that in order to pursue our goals we have to work hard and face our weaknesses. Even those who are exceptional in some areas of life are likely struggling in others.

Allow yourself to be a learner, to be a novice. Trust that it’s okay not to be perfect; in fact, you’ll likely provide inspiration to others in similar situations. When breaking out of your comfort zone and starting something new, you are expanding your own limitations and when you successfully complete something that is out of your confidence zone, you are building confidence in yourself.

7. Clarify Your Goals

Making progress towards personally meaningful goals is the scaffolding upon which healthy self-confidence is built. In his book, Flourish Seligman proposes PERMA, a 5-factor framework for well-being in which the “A” stands for accomplishment. The S.M.A.R.T goals system offers a guideline for goal-setting in which goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This system is based on research that suggests that these types of goals lead to greater and more consistent achievement (Locke, 1968).

“Happiness does not simply happen to us. It’s something that we make happen and it comes from doing our best”. –Mihali Csikszentmihalyi

8. Speak Well to Yourself

It’s always delightful to get good feedback from others. However, always seeking approval from outside yourself is an easy trap. Approve of yourself; be the one that says the words of encouragement you long to hear. Speak to yourself with self-compassion, kindness, and encouragement. After all, the most important relationship you have in your life is with yourself- make it a good one!

9. Ask For Help and Offer Your Help to Others

Many of us struggle to ask for help due to fear of rejection or being seen as incompetent. In Western cultures, the high value placed on self-reliance gets in the way of reaching out to others even though this is a necessary part of working toward our goals. However, conversely, a core feature of self-confidence also lies in being valued by others. A sense of belonging within our social system is fundamental to personal well-being (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).

Collaboration among people creates the most powerful results. When we reach out to others, we can see our efforts flourish in ways that we could never achieve on our own.

“Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable increase in momentary well-being than any other exercise we have tested”. –Martin Seligman

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