What is confidence anyway?
It’s hard to precisely define confidence isn’t it? It’s a pretty amorphous term which can cover a whole load of different emotions, the common thread being that generally you feel most confident when you’re feeling at your best, your strongest, your most impressive.
That’s because when you feel confident, you trust in your own abilities. You can tackle tricky situations with relative ease and you take on new challenges with vigour and enthusiasm. Simply put, confidence is self-belief.
And contrary to what you might believe, there is no such thing as a ‘confident person’. Confidence is subjective, contextual, personal and hard to pin down. You may feel varying degrees of confidence depending on who you are with, what you are doing and where you are.
The trick to feeling confident more often is to recognise where you feel most confident and try to recreate that feeling more of the time, in more situations. This isn’t always easy and we all have ‘off’ days, but knowing when and where you feel most confident can help to strengthen the feeling.
When do you feel most confident?
First of all, confidence is a choice - though it doesn’t always feel that way! If we know how it feels, we can create a sense of confidence even in situations that challenge or intimidate us. So it pays to get familiar with the factors that have made you feel at the top of your game in the past. Consider what you were doing, who you were with and where you were when you last felt invincible.
There are certain situations or people that trigger and encourage our feelings of confidence. We are more confident when we feel comfortable, but we can’t be comfortable all of the time - and that’s when doubts set in.
Just as it’s important to recognise the situations, people and events that make us feel great, it’s also important to figure out what and who leaves us feeling unsure of ourselves and our abilities. So think about the last time you felt under confident and ask again what you were doing, who were you with, and where were you?
Identifying when you feel most and least confident can help you to take more control of your low confidence when it occurs. By comparing and contrasting the contexts, you can start figuring out what aspects of the high confidence situation you could bring to a time when you are feeling low on confidence.
Know your strengths
Research suggests that people feel more confident when they are engaged in tasks that they find easy and enjoyable. Knowing more about your strengths can help you to be better at predicting when you will feel confident and when you might need to draw on some reserves.
And too often we focus on worrying about what we don't enjoy or are not as good at, and the resulting anxiety undermines our confidence. So rather than trying to improve our 'weaknesses', we can build our confidence more effectively by amplifying our strengths.
Be kind to yourself
Everyone experiences dips in confidence. When you’re feeling lacking, try not to be too hard on yourself as this is only going to make you feel worse.
Recognising when you feel low confidence, respecting that feeling, reflecting on it and moving forward will help you to feel more confident next time and is less likely to create a negative association in your mind with that particular situation.
And remember confidence can be cumulative. When you have a positive experience, you are more likely to make that association the next time you are in the same situation. These positive associations build confidence over time.
Sometimes it even pays to make a list of your ‘wins’ so you can look back over it when you’re feeling less confident, and remind yourself of all the times things have gone right.
Look after number one
Sometimes our confidence is low because we aren’t feeling our best. If we are tired, stressed, hungry, anxious or unprepared, our confidence is likely to be negatively affected. If we forget to look after ourselves or adequately prepare ourselves for the situations we face every day - even those we don’t usually find challenging - our resilience is compromised and resilience and confidence are closely linked.
Making sure that you are healthy and well, managing your time and energy levels effectively, and having coping mechanisms in place to deal with feelings of stress or anxiety will increase your ability to be confident more of the time.
Summing up confidence
We’ll say it again, there is no such thing as a confident person. Even people who present as super confident have plenty of self-doubt, and everyone’s understanding of confidence is subjective and contextual. So stop thinking of either having it or not!
You can build your confidence muscles by tuning in to the times you feel it and recognising the factors that have contributed to the feeling. Taking those observations, and thinking about what you can bring to situations where you feel less confident can help you overcome the doubts. And understanding your strengths, and playing to them, will also help you to predict where your confidence will be at its peak.
Ultimately, don’t be too hard on yourself when your confidence is low and make sure that you are looking after yourself so that you create the best conditions for your confidence to grow.
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