“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” ~ Nhat Hanh
Who remembers the 1992 Maybelline TV commercial “maybe she’s born with it”? Didn’t you want to look and feel that confident?! I did and probably bought the eyeshadow too. Now, that’s good marketing! While I realize that wearing a certain eyeshadow won’t really make me more confident, I do know that self-confidence can be nurtured and developed. We’re not simply born with it. I’d say that’s good news if becoming more self-confident is something that you want. The bad news, like anything else worth having, it takes time and practice to nurture it.
Research has shown that we are born with our personalities, it’s our nature. Self-confidence on the other hand is something that is developed and nurtured. While some personality types might appear more confident, it likely has more to do with society’s perception of confidence. For example, an extrovert may come across as more confident at a party because they are more comfortable talking in a group. However, I think it’s safe to say that talking isn’t an indicator of confidence. In fact, sometimes over-talking could be a sign of insecurity. An introvert on the other hand could embody more self-confidence, yet not need or want to be the centre of attention or enjoy small talk.
Ideally, when we’re children our parents nurture our self-confidence in us by providing a psychologically and emotionally safe place for us to develop into our unique selves. But as we know, this isn’t always the case. Many parents lack self-awareness or confidence and, therefore are unable to effectively nurture self-confidence in their child. Nevertheless, no matter how we were or weren’t nurtured, it’s never too late to develop our self-confidence.
High self-confidence is important for overall success, happiness and fulfillment so fortunately it’s a skill that we can all develop. Self-confidence will give you the courage to try new things and to live the life you want to live. I’ve always been fascinated by those women (and men) who embody that je ne sais quoi and have been curious how they developed it. This interest is at the core of my work, both personally and professionally. And, I know I’m not alone because it’s something that I’ve heard from employees, co-workers, clients, family and friends. Many of us desire more self-confidence.
How do we develop and nurture self-confidence?
The most important thing that I have done to help improve my self-confidence has been learning and understanding how my brain is organized using the Striving Style Personality System. Knowing and understanding my unique talents, gifts and strengths provide me with a guide to what and how I do my best work. When we understand what motives us, we can direct our energy and focus, thus developing them into strengths, which ultimately develops and nurtures our self-confidence. When we spend too much time in an environment or doing certain activities or tasks that drain our energy, we become held back and our self-esteem erodes.
Understanding your weaknesses and what triggers your self-protective system is equally important in developing and nurturing self-confidence. When we live or act out of our self-protective system, doing certain things can feel difficult and we can judge ourselves harshly for it. We wonder why some things are so difficult for us, yet appear easy for others. Life can be difficult when we’re constantly fighting against our nature, and doing so, we diminish our self-confidence.
9 Ways to Nurture Your Self-Confidence
- Get clear on who you are – the best way to be more confident is to know who you are. When you understand your personality and unique gifts, what you value, your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, habits, beliefs, needs and desires you can stop living life for other people and start living for you. Go ahead and use your unique voice to contribute, create and express yourself. The more you live your life on your own terms the more confident you’ll become.
- Focus on your strengths – Know what you have to offer and do that more confidently. Play to your strengths, as the saying goes. Most people take their strengths for granted, mainly because they come easily to them so they assume it must be easy for everyone. Identify your unique talents and needs, then build them into strengths, and your self-confidence will improve. Your greatest room for growth is by developing your strengths.
- Understand your weaknesses – Learn how your unique brain is organized, understand your blind spots and areas that are challenging or more difficult for you. Identify if you are spending too much or all of your energy doing activities or in an environment that drains you. Are you doing these things based on societal expectations or because of others’ needs? It’s a faulty assumption that the greatest opportunity for growth is focusing on your weaknesses. Focusing on weakness ultimately erodes self-esteem, whereas putting your energy into developing your strengths nurtures self-confidence.
- Practice self-compassion – be a kinder “friend” to yourself and start saying positive things about yourself. Forgive yourself and stop punishing yourself when you make a mistake. Tell yourself that it’s ok to make mistakes because it’s how we learn. Self-confidence erodes when you’re continuously putting yourself down and are too hard on yourself. Negative self-talk has a major impact on how we feel about ourselves, so ask yourself, would you say those things to your best friend? We often tell ourselves awful things that no one else would say to us. Practice saying or writing positive affirmations about yourself. Treating yourself with more compassion and respect will build your confidence.
- Develop your skills and knowledge – If you aren’t feeling confident in a specific area of your life, then be open to learning. Increase your competence by taking courses, reading, training, or by working with a mentor, coach, or trainer in the area that want to improve. Knowledge is power so dive into learning about your specific interests. The more you learn, the more confident you’ll feel in that area of your life. While many things can be learned through courses, reading and research, to really develop confidence in a specific area, you’ll need to put that skill or knowledge into practice. We aren’t born all-knowing so, whether you are exploring personal development, want to change a behaviour or habit, or learn a new job, sport or activity, real change and confidence come from continuous and consistent practice.
- Value your own opinion – Stop making other people’s opinions matter more than your own. Your opinion matters so if you want to develop self-confidence you need to value your own opinion. While seeking help, advice or opinions from professionals or trusted friends and family is healthy, ultimately it’s your opinion that matters the most. Constantly worrying about what others think will just make your confidence go down. While you can remove negative people and their negative opinions from your life, remember, there will always be someone else out there. Speak up and let your voice be heard. Stop telling yourself that your voice doesn’t matter. Value your own opinion of yourself, and make it the main opinion that determines how you feel about yourself and what you’re capable of.
- Be courageous and face your fears – Feeling fear is completely normal and we’re all going to feel scared from time to time. However, every time you face fear head-on and overcome it, your confidence grows. Confidence comes from taking risks, getting uncomfortable and ending up on the other side. More often than not, we discover that we’re more capable than we thought which makes us feel better and more confident about our abilities. Being courageous means doing it anyway in spite of our fears. Every time you take action you build your self-confidence up a little more.
- Use positive body language – Having good posture and opening up the chest increases confidence. It also allows your voice to be heard loud and clear. Practice “Power Posing” to boost your confidence. You’ll not only look more confident, but you’ll also actually feel more confident. In her Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy explains “Power Posing” and shares her scientifically proven techniques. Research has shown that just standing or sitting a certain way, even for a few minutes a day, can raise testosterone levels and lower your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and help you feel more confident.
- Take care of your body – While it’s true that confidence comes from the inside, we can’t ignore or underestimate the importance of taking care of our physical self. You know what they say, ‘when you look good, you feel good’. Grooming yourself such as getting a haircut or dressing nicely can boost your confidence. Find your unique style that fits your personality and lifestyle. Develop the daily habit of moving your body, eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water and your energy and self-confidence will improve.
Self-confidence always starts with developing self-awareness and becoming aware of your unique personality, your strengths and weaknesses, and knowing what motivates you. It comes from understanding how you most like to live your life and what is most important to you. It comes from learning how and when to consciously shift to your predominant Striving Style when doing certain activities in your life. Learning how to do this is a critical step to optimizing your potential and developing high self-confidence, if that’s something you desire.
Now, it’s your turn.
What tools or techniques do you use to boost your self-confidence? Are you “playing to your strengths” in your life (work, relationships, extra-curricular activities, etc.)? Share in the comments below.
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