Yesterday I read an article on CNN online news, about the first female African-American three-star general in the US Army history, confessing that she had self-confidence issues throughout all her life.
That news did not surprise me. Anybody, no matter gender or social status, may experience low self-confidence and self-doubt.
Some people are very well aware of their difficulties in dealing with social or professional challenges. Others, unconsciously, hide them under an aggressive temper.
Self-confidence issues are connected to a lack of self-esteem and make it hard to behave assertively in many occasions. It is a vicious circle that often ends up in experiencing negative thoughts and emotions, influencing our behavior and well-being.
For some people, a lack of self-confidence is a trait, a part of the character. It's rooted in the person.
For others, it is a state, rooted in situations. Often it is caused by past traumatic experiences.
The story of the US General is a classic example that, no matter the type of challenge, everybody has the tools for overcoming their fears, face any difficulties and achieve the best results.
Here are a few ideas that might help you deal with self-confidence issues.
1. First of all, you must be determined to overcome your fears. If your resolution is firm, you will take action. Only once you take action, you will start your journey towards the achievement of your goals.
2. Spend some time to analyse yourself and your behavior. Make a list of all the goals you have accomplished until now. Try to recall all the sincere compliments and acknowledgments you received by friends, family and, most of all, from strangers. Think positive.
3. Are you feeling anxious due to the fear of failing in a specific event? Spend some time in planning and get to the event well prepared.
Be it giving a presentation or attending a networking event, or meeting your in-laws to be, every social or professional situation may bring a degree of stress and anxiety. Identify all possible challenges and difficulties and figure out how to deal with them in the best possible way, should they come up.
Try to visualize yourself in the situation, acting at your best. When you come to deal with the same situation in real life, you will find yourself replicating a successful previous experience.
It will give you the positive energy you need to address any difficulties that may arise.
4. Use mindfulness to be in the present moment. Stopping your mind from dwelling on what happened in a failing past experience, or ruminating on what is going to happen, will reduce the level of cortisol in your brain. Cortisol (the stress hormone) is produced by our body when it feels in danger, triggering a "fight or fly" response that results in increased heart rate, sweating, anxiety, shallow breathing. On the contrary, if you address your mind to your breathing (in, out, in, out..) you will be able to keep control of your cortisol level and look at things in a more detached and relaxed way.
5. Smile, and bring your chest forward for a couple of minutes a day. Studies show that our body language shapes who we are. Our posture and gestures are strictly connected to our emotions. So, when we feel depressed and not confident, we tend to hold a slouching position, keeping our head down or sitting with the face looking at the knees. But that contributes to increasing our level of depression. The great news is that the relationship also works the other way round. It's called "embodied cognition": it's the idea that the body influences the mind. So, if you keep a confident posture, your brain will process the information that you are a confident person, and you will start feeling empowered and positive.
The journey to become more confident and take on the challenges in our way with courage and confidence may be long and winding, with ups and downs. But we know that we surely have the means to reach our goal, if only we want to.
If low self-confidence is affecting your social or professional life, join my 6-week Self-confidence program: a series of one-to-one meetings specially designed to guide you throughout your journey to a more confident and fulfilling life.