During our holiday over Christmas, I noticed my little boy saying, “I’m shy” when confronted with a social situation he wasn’t sure about, for instance, a couple of kids interacting on the beach, who he’d like to play with. This is something relatively new, and I’m not sure where he learned the expression, but he obviously feels it fits with the emotions he has around trying to interact with some new encounters. Fortunately, I find it doesn’t take much to cajole him into participating or saying hello, just a grown up to maybe break the ice, or help him find a shared interest in something.
One of the things my hubby and I tell him is that funnily enough, even grown ups can feel shy when meeting new people, and that it’s ok to feel a bit bashful about new encounters; it’s one of the things we learn to master as we grow up. Or not. Because even us grown ups can find ourselves feeling awkward and shy in new social situations, like a party full of strangers, or a networking meeting, or the first day at the new job.
Nature or nurture?
Some people come across as uber-confident and self assured; we can watch from the sidelines and envy their grace and flow in social situations, or upbeat presence whilst holding a room’s attention. And others can seem small, disconnected and clinging to the shadows. So, are those self-confident types born with boldness in the bones, and certainty in their blood? Or are these traits that can be cultivated and nurtured?
Probably a little of both. I believe self confidence can be cultivated and exercised, even when we may start out feeling small or lacking in it.
What’s the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence?
I think Katty Kay, who co-wrote The Confidence Code, explains it well:
“Basically self esteem is the value you see yourself having in the world. “Am I worthwhile human being?” Answer that question with a yes and the chances are you have pretty high self esteem. It’s not a quality that changes very much since it is related to a broad sense of personal value or self worth. If you have high self esteem at work, you probably have it in other areas of your life too, because this is a reflection of how you see yourself. People with high self esteem tend to see the universe as a pretty friendly place.
Confidence, on the other hand, is related to action, it’s a belief that you can succeed at something. Psychologists call it domain specific. So, you can be confident about one area of your life, but totally unconfident about another. “I am confident that I am a good manager but I’m not at all confident about speaking in public.”
So, confidence can be fostered in different aspects of your life, for example, you may be a confident driver because you effectively practise every day, but you have little confidence in complaining when you receive appalling service, because it’s something you rarely do. Someone may appear super confident – say a comedian on stage – but actually feel little self-esteem. In other words, self-esteem relates to self-love, and self-confidence relates to abilities, and overcoming fears.
If you’re lacking in either or both of these, there are things you can do to support yourself to help build up both your inner feelings of self-worth and outer confidence. And as you reinforce those more positive aspects of yourself, you’ll start to see how you attract more positivity in your life.
Here are 10 suggestions to support you:
1. Recognise you do have qualities
Everyone has strengths – so take a moment to jot down what those positive attributes and strengths are. If you struggle with this one, ask a friend or family member to tell you what they see as your strengths.
2. Avoid comparing yourself to others
We can feel inadequate if we continually compare ourselves to other people. Each of us has unique qualities and gifts – be your own person.
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
3. Accept a compliment
How many times have you rejected someone’s compliment? “You look nice in that top,” she says, “Oh, this old thing? Years old…”, you say. Not only have you rejected their acknowledgement, you haven’t enjoyed the positive reinforcement you’ve been offered. You’ve effectively devalued yourself. So next time, when someone compliments you, just say ‘thank you’.
4. Nourish yourself
Be with people who make you feel good. Do things that inspire you; learn and grow from digesting material that resonates – from stimulating TED talks, to thought-provoking workshops or books.
5. Teach yourself more self-worth
Pay attention, and become more mindful and catch yourself when the negative self-talk kicks in. The brain has the capacity to re-wire, so you can choose to focus instead on thoughts and actions that have you feel better about yourself. Perhaps use positive affirmations like I am good enough, or I am of value.
6. Review all your accomplishments
Make a list of all your past successes and achievements, to remind yourself that you have the qualities and abilities to have things work out for you.
“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.” ~William Jennings Bryan –
7. Do something for someone
By doing good for others, you feel better about yourself. Not only can this help foster gratitude for what you have but the feelings you gain from supporting another can also be very beneficial.
8. Find what inspires you
When you delve into your passion, and work on or create what really calls to you, fears and doubts can fall away. You can fortify and develop those feelings of self-worth by spending time on developing your dreams.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
9. Find something you’ve been putting off – and do it anyway
When you sit in procrastination too long, it diminishes your confidence and self-doubt creeps in. Sometimes you don’t do something because there’s a fear around it but past experience tells us that when we’re in action, when we just ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, not only is the fear unfounded but we enjoy the rush of satisfaction of completing the task, and being our word.
10. Be the authentic you
Sit with your vulnerabilities and feelings and own them, experience them and love them – for they are there and came about to protect you, to have you feel safe. So,as you might with a small child, see how you can love all those parts of you that served you and how now some of those beliefs and stories might be ready for release, so that the real you, the true you is free to emerge.
“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” ~Brene Brown
So I invite you to cultivate and develop your inner self-worth, challenge yourself to help grow your confidence and trust that despite some of the negative self-talk that can crop up here and there, you are a powerful, beautiful being who can achieve amazing things.
“Embracing your true self radiates a natural beauty that cannot be diluted or ignored. Confident, powerful, untamable, badass you!” ~Steve Maraboli
See also: A more confident you.