You’re getting on with your life when suddenly you have a crisis of confidence and your hopes and dreams seem less possible than they were before. Kate Tojeiro, confidence expert and author of The Art of Possible – new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action, explains: “Having the freedom to choose, to follow our dreams and passions and to realise our potential can all be floored when we let the confidence-zappers take control.”
Here, are nine common confidence-zappers, plus nine confidence-boosters to kick them into touch…
1. Confidence-zapper: Constantly thinking about the all-powerful ‘they’
Whether it’s society, people on social media, your family, friends or colleagues, ‘they’ are people we consider won’t approve, will look at us critically or deride us for what we want to achieve. Kate says: “These aren’t the people to have around or give too much thinking time to when we’re striving towards a goal.”
Think about who inspires you and who has stepped beyond the restrictions of convention to follow their own path. “Think Maya Angelou, Angelina Jolie and add a few role models of your own,” says Kate. Studies show that role models can be especially effective at helping us to succeed if they correlate in some way with a goal we are trying to achieve.
A study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that looking at photographs of women leaders boosted the confidence of other women and increased the likelihood of girls choosing non-traditional female roles in life.
2. Confidence-zapper: People that bring us down rather than build us up
“The age-old analogy of people being like radiators or drains holds true,” says Kate. Radiators exude warmth, enthusiasm and kindness whereas drains are negative and glass half-empty. Radiators bring out the best in people while drains can be demanding and never give anything back.
If your confidence is low, consider who you want to be around. Kate says: “If your mobile rings and the name that comes up makes your heart sing – answer. If your heart sinks, call them back when you feel stronger.”
Plan your day to be with or near ‘radiators’. Can’t be with them? Call them, message them or even just look at a pic of them on social media. “The power of a smile in a photograph is the same as the power of a smile in person,” says Kate.
A 2016 University of California study found that snapping selfies and sharing photos with your friends can make you a happier person, so both sharing and receiving a pic is good for wellbeing and positivity.
3. Confidence-zapper: Not eating and drinking properly
When it comes to our mood and behaviour, research shows we are what we eat. A nutrient-packed diet can help to reduce anxiety, boost mood and in turn help you to feel more confident (not to mention the added confidence that can come with losing weight).
However, one loaded with sugar and caffeine can cause energy spikes and mood swings and lead to a dip in how you feel about yourself. Kate says: “We feel better physically and mentally when we eat the right foods whereas reaching for ones like sugary snacks and carbs will give us a momentary feel good boost followed by a dip.”
Keep hydrated. A 2016 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that brain function can be compromised by even a minor degree of dehydration.
Kate also advises eat mood-boosting foods such as complex carbohydrates for slow-release energy, foods rich in vitamin D (such as eggs and fortified cereals), vitamin B (such as dairy and meat) and selenium (such as whole grains, nuts and seeds), as well as those high in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish.
Kate says: “If your brain isn’t working optimally, you’ll be more prone to poor memory, mood swings and making mistakes and this will impact your confidence levels.”
4. Confidence zapper:’I give up’ body language
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, says you should ‘Fake it until you become it’. “If you’re not feeling confident, you may be slouching, slumping or standing in a stopped position.,” says Kate. Studies regularly back the notion that our body language affects how we feel.
Stand tall. Psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper, co-author of The Crisis Handbook, says: “Try this exercise: stand and imagine you are an oak tree with roots coming out from your feet into the ground – this gives a sense of strength, groundedness and confidence.”
5. Confidence zapper: Fear
“Fear has the power to make our dreams a reality or completely stop us in our tracks,” says Kate. In reality, FEAR is ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’ – in other words, when you head towards a goal, you may find that your mind is producing false evidence that will seem real but that can easily blow you off course. ‘What if I can’t do it? What if they say no?’
Acknowledge your fears and carry them with you rather than running away. Kate says: “I tend to liken fear to having a cold; it won’t stop you doing what you need to do, it will just make it a bit harder. So, as Susan Jeffries said: ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.” Acknowledge your fear, take it with you and counterbalance it with your drive, ambitions and desire.
6. Confidence zapper: Your inner voice
That little inner voice is so powerful however we can choose to listen to the inner voice or choose to ignore or give her (or him) a different narrative. The sub-conscious doesn’t distinguish between fact and fiction so if your inner voice is telling you that you can’t do something, that is what you will believe.
Equally, if you inner voice is telling you that you can, perhaps that you are fearful and you still can, chances are you will.
Positive affirmations make a big difference. Kate says: “Whether it’s ‘I can do this presentation’, ‘I will pursue my goal of running my own business’ or ‘I’ll get fit and do a 10K’, telling yourself you can truly do it will help to quiet the inner voice and regain your confidence.”
7. Confidence zapper: Stress and pressure
When we are stressed or pressured, our innate fight/flight mechanism kicks in. Kate says: “If our survival is actually threatened this mechanism is brilliant. However, if it’s because we are constantly worried about things like work, money or family, the cortisol and adrenalin roaring around our system can eventually make us unwell.”
The Health and Safety Executive has published ‘stress standards’ which identify six key sources of stress: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.
Professor Cooper says, “While this is geared towards the workplace, it has relevance to our personal lives as well.” When you are stressed, audit the situation by running through the six points. Ask yourself: Do I have too much to deal with? Do I have sufficient control over what I do?
Do I have enough support to achieve what’s required of me? Are my relationships supportive? Do I understand my roles and responsibilities? And how can I manage change? These will help you identify stressors and make changes to help you feel less pressurised and more confident and in control.
8. Confidence zapper: Chasing other people’s definition of happiness
“Waiting around for someone else to make you happy is the best way to be sad,” says Kate. “Happiness is a very personal thing and will power your self-belief.” If you are aligning yourself to someone else’s ideas of happiness for you or themselves, you may find yourself losing sight of what it is that actually makes you happy and this can erode can your self-belief and confidence.
Connect with what makes you truly happy. This will ground you and boost your inner confidence. In his book Authentic: How to be yourself and why it matters, Professor Stephen Joseph says the happiest people are those who are authentic – those who say and do what they truly feel.
He says ‘authentic people know themselves and their motivations’, own their own decisions and come across as genuine, honest and transparent. His formula for authentic living is therefore: Know yourself + Own yourself + Be yourself = the Authentic Life
9. Confidence zapper: Not asking for help
As natural communicators, you’d think that humans are great at asking for help. But a series of studies has found that we would rather not if we can possibly help it through fear of humiliation or embarrassment; what if someone says ‘no’?
However, the same research led by Stanford University Professor Frank Flynn found that we grossly underestimate how likely other people are willing to come to our rescue by up to 50%. So if it’s so difficult, how can we become better at asking for help?
Professor Cooper says: “People often think they lose control if they ask others for help. But you’re doing the opposite; you’re taking back control. We all need help some time.” A 2015 study by Alison Wood Brooks at Harvard Business School found that people don’t think less of you when you seek advice, they actually think you are smarter.
She also found that asking for help also makes the person being asked feel valued. So by asking for help you’ll feel better and so will others – how’s that for a confidence-booster?
From: NetDoctor UK