Poor confidence creates a cascade of challenges in a woman’s life. Everything from financial difficulties to body image issues to relationship problems can be traced back to this one, deeply disturbing and hard to tackle issue for women.
The conditions required to generate confidence early on in life are multidimensional and include everything from how your caregivers nurtured you, to genetics, to the types of support you had when faced with challenge, to the community and environment you grew up in as well as many other factors.
If you are an adult woman struggling with low confidence I want you to know that you are not alone. Even if you didn’t have the best upbringing or if you’ve faced some really defeating and disappointing experiences, the good news is that you still have the power to shape the direction of your life moving forward and to increase your confidence to levels it might be hard to imagine right now.
There are two key factors that you need to focus on if you’re serious about increasing your confidence. The first is your belief system and how you perceive yourself, others and confidence in general. The second is on tried and true methods for cultivating confidence.
As with anything in your life that feels challenging and perhaps even insurmountable, it is much more effective to start with small steps and incrementally work your way toward ever greater levels of accomplishment. So today I’ve got 2 recommendations for each of the aforementioned categories.
Belief System & Perception:
- Confidence is a process not a finite destination; there is freedom in specificity
There is no such a thing as ultimate, unbreakable confidence. Confidence is not static, rather it is an ever-evolving and dynamic experience that varies with each day and phase of life.
Consider a child learning to walk: as a toddler looks around they see the bigger adults in their world have no trouble at all with walking, but in the child’s eyes simply putting one foot in front of the other without falling face first into the floor is a huge hurdle to cross. After some months, with hard work, repetition and the passage of time, what was once terrifying, uncertain and unfamiliar, soon becomes a domain of mastery.
It is essential to recognize that life is a series of cycles in which we gain confidence in specific areas and also lose confidence in other domains. It includes peak experiences of full body triumph and gratitude as well as devastating full on crises of confidence that seem to shatter across all areas of our lives.
Recognizing the cyclical nature of confidence and broadening the horizon of our understanding on the topic can help to move us out of black and white thinking such as “I am confident” or “I am not confident” into a more nuanced place from which we can more accurately and honestly assess where we are currently at with our confidence.
Perhaps you feel confident at work or in your friendships, but are lacking confidence in your marriage or health. Wherever you may be right now, it is important to root yourself in the specificity of your experience and also to recognize that you have had other experiences with confidence in the past and that you will continue to have variations into the future.
Once you are able to free yourself from the confines of all or nothing thinking, a new freedom emerges out of which curiosity can grow. Curiosity leads to experimentation. Experimentation is required for any type of major personal growth, including the increase of confidence.
- Confidence is not necessarily the absence of fear
Many women come to me in therapy and coaching with the desire to “get more confidence” as if confidence is a commodity that can be purchased, like food or clothing. While there are many practices and things to do which can increase our feeling of confidence (which I’ll be sharing about in the next section) ultimately, confidence is a deeper state of being. It is not only about having certainty, self-assurance and a firm trust in oneself. While these feelings are lovely and wonderful, they are impermanent and nobody can abide forever in these states.
Confidence can include elements of not-knowing, fear, uncertainty and doubt as long as you are willing to remain curious about what these aspects have to teach you. Confidence is a state of being and an internal orientation that supports you to stay engaged with life’s challenges even when you are afraid and even when you don’t have the answer. It is very common to treat fear, insecurity and uncertainty as alarm bells that indicate you are not confident, but I am proposing an alternative perception, which is that these less desirable states, when included, are a part of our authenticity and vulnerability as women.
When we are willing to share honestly with ourselves and others, often times we generate more fulfilling connections. Connection and belonging are two essential factors in developing confidence. So, when we don’t try to push our insecurity away or hide it from ourselves or others, the very qualities we were once perceiving as the opposite of confidence, can actually generate connection, one of the primary building blocks for an overall sense of confidence and well-being.
Tried & True Methods for Increasing Confidence:
- Look for evidence of confidence and cross-pollinate
Every single person on the planet has something they’re good at. If you’re feeling particularly crappy about yourself, you’ll most likely want to roll your eyes at me right about now, but I’m going to challenge you to put in the effort and really consider what it is that you’re good at. Perhaps it is organizing a mess, making good food or solving computer glitches. Maybe it’s listening to your children with patience, intuitively knowing what other people need or long distance running. Whatever it is, no matter how large or small. I want you to identify at least 1 thing you are good at and bring it to the forefront of your attention.
Next, reflect on how you became good at this particular thing you’ve identified and write down the steps that it took to get there. Some examples of things that might be on your list are as follows:
- Took a class
- Observed others doing it
- Completed a training
- Had a mentor
Once you’ve done this exercise, I want you to think about the specifics of how you’re currently struggling with your confidence. Is it in a particular area like your performance at work, in your relationships with friends or your physical appearance?
Whatever it might be, I want you to then apply the steps you took to gain confidence in the area of your life that you feel good at and adapt them for this other area of your life where you’re feeling insecure and lacking.
When you are feeling defeated and hopeless, the search for inner confidence can feel like a dark forest without any clear path. This simple exercise can help to create some structure to the chaos and support you to recognize that the journey toward gaining confidence in anything does have some rhyme and reason.
- Look for models of that which you seek
One of the amazing things about being in a female body, is that our brains are uniquely wired for relational connection and influence.
Albert Bandura, a world renowned psychologist, found in his research that one of the proven ways to increase confidence in any area of our lives is to seek out exposure to someone who we perceive as similar to us who embodies and has accomplished that which we seek out for ourselves.
If we do not perceive this other person as having similar qualities to us, our brains immediately categorize the accomplishment or confidence as something that belongs to others, but not to someone like us.
When you seek out mentors and role models, whether it is someone you can actually meet or simply someone you can learn about, it bolsters inner resilience. I encourage you to proactively pursue women who radiate the particular kind of confidence that you desire. Get curious about their life stories and unique paths. What have they struggled through? What did this person need to overcome? How did they accomplish what they did or grow into who they are now?
Let this person or people be your inspiration as well as tangible motivation for your own human potential. It is important to remember that you can never be exactly like someone else. Beyonce credits Michael Jackson and Tina Turner as two of her greatest musical inspirations. With them as her iconic role models, Beyonce certainly has achieved confidence and accomplishment in similar ways and domains. She is not them, however, she is herself.
Simply put, look out into the world to coax yourself into enough confidence that what you desire is possible, and then turn within to discover how that potential wants to uniquely express itself through you.
Remember, change of any sort comes from engagement and action. It’s wonderful that you’ve read this article, and sticking with it until the end is a beautiful form of engagement, but unfortunately it’s not enough to help you gain major traction with increasing your confidence. For that, you will need to apply the concepts in this article to your own life. Taking this action is what generates momentum and what will ultimately help you to get the result you long for: greater confidence.
Remember, no matter who you are, where you come from or what challenges you might be facing in your life right now, you are worthy and you are loved.