Our lives have ways of throwing us curveballs, big ones, that can leave us breathless and deflated. No one comes out unscathed from a painful divorce or a break-up, children leaving home, or the loss of a loved one. The realisation that we are alone and that we have to form a new and unfamiliar chapter can feel heavy and frightening.
In a crisis, almost the first thing that tends to leave us is our confidence.
Confidence is the essential foundation upon which all else is built. No matter how much or how long we’ve been living our old familiar lives, the minute things get disrupted and change, we gradually lose ourselves and start doubting that we are equipped to handle what lies ahead.
Why is that?
One reason is that humans don’t like change. Period. Especially not change we have not instigated ourselves. Shock and surprise events take us directly into our fight, flight, freeze area of the brain as it is perceived as a threat. We may react without reflection (think Will Smith at the Oscars) and see worst-case scenarios play out.
Another reason is that we inherently want to belong to a tribe, whether it is a family, a group of work colleagues, student mates, our NCT gang, school mums and most importantly, our romantic partners. Feeling that we are included and that we belong are essential human needs that go way back in time. Evolutionary speaking, without our tribe we were unprotected and vulnerable to hostilities that could lead to our death. This is why being abandoned, excluded and left out (even someone passing away can feel like a form of abandonment) feels so awful today. We are channeling our inner ancestors.
On top of this, we have a personal narrative that was set in early childhood. The stories we have about ourselves, the world around us and how we fit in, are largely down to how we felt growing up. If we were encouraged to be ourselves, felt accepted, loved and valued in those early years, chances are we have a pretty rock-solid sense of self today.
Confidence is all about knowing yourself and accepting and feeling good about who you are, flaws and all. An inside-out approach that requires less external approval and validation and more a deep trust that we are good enough and have the tools we need to navigate our way through life.
Our childhood pattern may still be running the show.
The stark truth, however, is that many of us don’t grow up feeling this rosy. Instead, we may have downloaded a negative self-talk tape that has been running in the background, on a subconscious level, since early childhood and is still present today.
Setbacks in life, especially those related to our most important relationships, can trigger a return to a familiar mindset that we thought we may have left behind. That mindset mostly boils down to not feeling good enough, lovable enough, clever enough, and important enough. Confidence stems from accepting ourselves as we are, with everything that comes with, and nailing this can feel incredibly liberating. Here are some top tips of how to get your confidence back if its left you.
5 Ways to improve your confidence
- Be picky about the company you keep and pay attention to who energises you rather than drain you – these are your people.
- Learn how to say NO and mean it! When you identify what lights you up and what doesn’t, begin to get selective because your time is precious. Don’t waste it on something you don’t find meaningful.
- Commit to overcome one small challenge per day. When you stretch your comfortzone in a manageable way, you grow (literally, you sprout new neural connections). Make that phonecall, send that email, commit to that presentation in the name of growth.
- Practice self-care regularly in whatever form that works for YOU. You’ll impress your brain and imprint that you matter and have the right to take up space. It doesn’t have to involve bubble baths and flowers (although it could do), taking time out to read, journal, meditate, draw or exercise are all forms of self-care.
- Make sure you develop a supportive and encouraging self-dialouge. What you think creates your life and if you have limiting thoughts circulating in your mind recognise that it is the worst place for them to be. Have a few sentences at the ready when self-doubt and limiting beliefs lingers. Such as:
- Everything is always working out for me.
- I have lots of qualities that I like in myself.
- No matter what I encounter I know that I’ll be able to handle it.
- I remember when I handled xxxxx (you choose) really well.
Confidence is not something you are born with, it is made up of small daily choices that you keep repeating. As you can’t control much in this life, neither world events nor other people, deciding how you want to wake up each day and what sort of day you want to have are definately in your remit to control.