Psychologists’ Advice on How to Be More Confident Every Day

Confidence is a feeling that everyone desires, yet most of us believe we require a boost from time to time.

According to Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of How To Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety Self-confidence boils down to believing in yourself and having faith in your talents.” While the terms “self-confidence” and “self-esteem” are frequently used interchangeably, the two emotions are not the same. 

Transform Your Stress and Maximize True Success by Getting Out Of The Red Zone. “So someone can believe, ‘I am a decent person,’ — that’s self-esteem — ‘but I have low social confidence.'” 

Self-confidence is about your skills, whereas self-esteem is about how much you value yourself.

Lombardo continues, “Feeling incompetent may originate from unfavorable prior experiences, especially ones we have aggrandized.” Perhaps you stumbled over your words when reading a report in front of your class when you were a kid, and the notion of speaking in front of a group now makes you nervous.

Maybe you went on a date that didn’t go well, and now you’re afraid to date. Or if your mother always said, ‘Honey, you’re not good at arithmetic,’ and you grew up not believing in yourself.”

Gender, according to Hendriksen, could also be an influence. “I believe that women are often raised to be helpful or supportive,” she says. “Being self-assured entails charging ahead and taking the initiative.”

Interestingly, a Cornell University study found that women are more likely to underestimate their job performance, whereas men are more likely to overestimate their abilities.

There’s also our inner critic to consider. “It’s the tiny voice within your head saying, ‘You have no idea what you’re doing!'” You’re way out of your depth! People will make fun of you!” Lombardo explains. “Sometimes the voice is very quiet, sometimes it’s completely silent, and other times it’s obnoxious. And we all have an internal critic. Why? We’re only human!”

While anyone can feel unsure of themselves in any area, Lombardo believes the COVID-19 pandemic could be the cause of one current theme.

“FOGO” is the Fear of Going Out, and I think many people are feeling less confident in their social skills because they haven’t been out in person for a long time.

Furthermore, Lombardo states that lacking confidence can lead to other issues, such as imbalanced personal and professional relationships (“We could let people walk all over us”), inability to be resilient (“If we have lacked confidence in our abilities, we may stop trying”), and even impact our health (“Lack of confidence can cause tremendous stress”). And Hendriksen adds that it could hinder you from living your best life.

“I think a lack of self-confidence is a vicious cycle because it can keep us from taking the initiative and, to use the cliché phrase, putting ourselves out there,” she says. “And then we’ll never learn that we can be successful — and that we’re more capable than we ever thought.”

However, the good news is that confidence can be learned and built (or, in some cases, rebuilt). Here, Lombardo and Hendriksen offer five practical strategies to boost your confidence.

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Strategy #1: Practice

Despite the fact that it may seem unproductive — even paradoxical — both psychologists agree that the first step toward increasing self-assurance is to keep working at it.

“We are typically persuaded to believe that we must feel confident before acting, but this is not the case,” Hendriksen says. “I like to put it this way: Put action ahead of confidence.”

She uses the analogy of easing yourself into a pool, whereas Lombardo uses the example of gently easing oneself into a hot tub (which she has dubbed the Hot Tub Syndrome).

Lombardo continues, “We dip one toe in and out of the water until we can put our complete foot in, then our leg, and finally our entire body in.” “We’re doing this to get used to what was.”

The more we do something, the more comfortable we will become. ” One way to begin is to start small. If you’re lacking in social confidence, don’t start with a 300-person wedding reception where you don’t know anyone, Hendriksen says.

“Instead, start with a small gathering of people you know well, then work your way up,” Lombardo advises taking advantage of classes and counseling services. “For example, if you’re lacking in your confidence as a parent, get parenting training. There are courses on nearly everything!”

Strategy # 2: Surround yourself with people who lift you up

“Our confidence diminishes when we’re around those who point out our not-so-positive traits,” Lombardo states.

We’ve all heard people say to get rid of toxic people in our lives, but the truth is that there are times when we can’t remove everyone from our lives. She says the key to dealing with energy vampires is to limit your time and interaction with them.

For example, if you’ll be spending Thanksgiving with an in-law whose nonstop critiques chip away at your confidence, keep yourself busy.

“Prepare to have an out, like walking the dog or doing the dishes,” she continues. Then reward yourself afterward, like buying a favorite coffee drink or reading a book. These actions will help lower stress levels.

Strategy #3: Remove yourself from the “Red Zone”

Yes, stress can play a major role in your levels of confidence. On a scale of 1 to 10, when levels of distress are 7 or higher, we are in the Red Zone—this is when our nervous system hijacks our rational thinking, ”Lombardo explains.

As a result, the brain begins to interpret people, situations, and events through a negative filter, and our confidence plummets. “We are in fight-or-flight. We could feel like we’re drowning, and our inner critic is much louder.”

The goal is to go into the Green Zone, which is a state of mind and body when we are engaging the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for speaking, motor skills, organization, and reasoning. Following Lombardo’s ELM technique, she recommends progressing from red to green.

“I don’t mean a 90-minute workout class when I say E stands for exercise. Going for a brisk walk or doing a few squats or push-ups can help to release stress-related physiological responses [such as an increased heart rate or blood pressure].”

The letter “L” stands for “laughing.” In fact, according to a study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, laughter causes chemical changes in the body that reduce stress—so try watching a hilarious Netflix movie. Finally, the letter “M” stands for music.

“My customers have a get-out-of-the-red-zone playlist,” Lombardo explains, “since music has a huge impact on our moods.” Better yet, if the song is energetic, you can dance while listening to music to get some exercise!

Strategy #4: Give yourself permission to mess up.

Since struggling with confidence tends to stem from overthinking and being too hard on yourself, Hendriksen reiterates that any so-called slip-ups serve as valuable life lessons. Try it out, make some mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and keep in mind that this is not an exam.

According to Lombardo, striving for perfection may be preventing you from achieving success. “Perfectionism is all or nothing,” she says, “you’re either perfect or a failure.”

Choose words that will reframe your perspective to discover more balance in your thinking and settle into a state of self-acceptance. “Replace the word “should” with the word “like,” she suggests.

“Say to yourself, ‘I would like to be better at public speaking,’ rather than ‘I should be better at public speaking.’ The term “should” has a negative connotation, whereas the word “like” has a positive one. “

When in doubt, Hendriksen suggests asking yourself what the worst thing that could possibly happen if you don’t think you’ve done well at the fill-in-the-blank activity. “Oftentimes, the worst-case scenario isn’t that bad,” she says. You don’t have to be your best self, just be yourself.

Strategy #5: Focus on others

“Our attention is like a spotlight, and we get to choose where to point it,” Hendriksen states. “If we point it inward, which we naturally do when we’re feeling anxious or less confident, we highlight our inner critic and start overthinking.”

So if you’re in a situation that involves interacting with others (such as attending a networking event or going on a date), point the spotlight towards the other person. After all, it’s not your responsibility to “perform” throughout the conversation.

“We tend to feel better once we take the attention away from ourselves,” she adds. “It’s not miraculous, and while the inner critic may still be making noise, the volume has been turned down significantly.”

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