What Happens When: Your Confidence Takes A Nose-Dive

I’ve started a new series called “What Happens When…” which is a set of articles targeted at life’s hiccups and how to sit with them, process them and then try to overcome them. Last time I covered: ‘What Happens When Life Throws You A Curve-ball’. This time it’s all about how to boost your confidence. This was the most-requested article to write when I asked my followers/connections on Instagram and LinkedIn. Again, I’d like this series to be as helpful as it can be, so if you have any ideas or requests for other topics, please get in touch. 

What happens when your confidence takes a nose-dive or a knock? How do you pick yourself back up again, regroup and create strategies to improve your sense of self? It’s much easier said (or written) than done, isn’t it? Often we get into a vicious cycle of self-doubt, self-recrimination and self-loathing. This all too common downward spiral can have serious knock-on effects in your personal and professional life. I think it’s important to say first that we all can suffer from low self-esteem or lack confidence; despite how we may appear on the outside or the facade we have carefully created. We all feel inadequate at some point in our lives. We all feel less than we actually are a lot of the time. We all lack confidence in areas of our life.

In today’s world we are inundated by messaging about who and what we should be, how we should feel, what we should look like and how we should live. If our true inner selves don’t match that, then we can often feel lacking and those invisible little hair-line fractures in our self-image can crack wide open – allowing our confidence to drain away. We constantly compare ourselves to others, thus damaging and devaluing our own innate strengths. Numerous studies and scientific articles have concluded that humans are essentially ‘built’ to focus on the negative or criticism rather than the positive or compliments. This means that when something happens to knock our confidence, or we are generally feeling low in our self-esteem this can compound and magnify these states.

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In light of this pandemic, I asked a load of my friends for their input and got them to tell me how they boost their confidence, and here’s what we came up with:

  • Power-posing – I remember being coached at work on how to present and one of the key takeaways was body language – not only in conveying something to others, but self-messaging too.
  • Dress for yourself – this came up a lot – the big one here is embrace who you are and what you like to wear. We are so often judged by our outer selves and we can let that judgment censor our self-expression and stifle our self-confidence. Whether you feel your best self in jeans and a jumper, or a three piece suit – wear it with pride and this may translate into the rest of your self.
  • Don’t be afraid to shout about your achievements – we never hesitate in championing others successes and express our pride in them, but what about our own? I talk about this a little in a recent podcast – we should be a friend to ourselves as well as to others. This means that when something good happens to us, or we succeed then we should celebrate that. If you’re struggling to do it, then think about what you’d say to a friend in a similar situation and then reflect that back to your own life.
  • Try not to compare yourself to others – as already mentioned, this is a confidence-killer like no other. It can be really difficult to ‘park’ your insecurities and not let them eclipse you when you constantly compare yourself to something you aren’t; someone else. It’s vital to be able to recognise your talents, your individuality, your worth and your strength as a standalone and not in reference to someone else, but it’s not easy. I think you can start slowly to train yourself out of making comparisons little by little. Begin by becoming aware that you are doing it, and then try to halt your thoughts or actions that result from the comparisons before they take hold.  Also, if there is an area of your life or an aspect of yourself that you are constantly focusing on and critiquing (e.g. “I wish I was more creative” or “why can’t I study more”) then instead of being negative towards yourself, perhaps try and work on that area of your life (e.g. take up painting or have a schedule that helps with procrastination).
  • Realise your own worth – one of my friends sent me this message when I asked for input into this article: “Be brave enough not to let people walk all over you and know that you deserve respect.” I couldn’t agree more with this. However, it can be tough to put yourself first if you don’t feel ‘worthy’. I definitely have suffered from not valuing and respecting myself enough, and ended up in negative situations because of that. This kind of behaviour can, again, create a vicious circle where you send yourself the message that you aren’t good enough and further erode your confidence and sense of self. By disrupting those behaviours and waking up to your own values you create virtuous circles. I will caveat this and say it can sometimes be quite painful and feel a bit miserable at times when you disrupt your instinctive desire to put others first or to capitulate or not listen to what you want from life first. But believe me when I say it is short-term pain for long-term gain – you won’t wake up years later in a place in your life that you don’t want to be because of it. Practice saying no to things you don’t want to do, practice putting your own needs slightly higher than others, practice noting your gut reactions and start recognising your own values, beliefs and the non-negotiables – it’ll begin the process.
  • Harnessing the power of music – this was another popular piece of advice and one I definitely endorse. Putting on a banging track, or a soothing sonata or a piece of heavy rap (my go-to ‘walking to my exams’ music always ends up being rap music) can alter your whole person. Listening to music can really help aid relaxation, lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
  • Talking to friends – our friends are often our best support system. They can be fantastic truth-tellers and hold mirrors up to ourselves, showing us parts of us that we hadn’t realised. The best friends are those with us through thick and thin, and talking things through with them can help stop you catastrophising and reality-check situations. I for one would not be where I am today without my friends. Sharing thoughts, feelings, doubts, hopes, dreams, tears and laughter with others is so important for our own selves, but also others. It encourages us to be really ‘us’ and to find strength where we didn’t know we had it. Whether you need a friend to just sit and be with you in silence, or you need someone to mull a problem over with, or you want a distraction – reach out! True friendship goes both ways – you are allowed to ask for help and lean on them as much as they lean on you.
  • Listen to your gut – for anyone who knows me in real life this is one of my favourite sayings. Tune into it, listen to it and then act on it. It’s rarely ever wrong.
  • Do some exercise – another popular piece of advice, and another one that I wholeheartedly agree with. Not only does it produce feel-good chemicals like endorphins (one of life’s natural highs), but it helps remind you that you are strong and capable, and can provide an escape where your mind switches off and your body takes over. You don’t have to go hard and use it to beat yourself up – some simple stretching, a walk in a park or a quick yoga class can sometimes be all it takes to boost your mood and positively impact your self-confidence.

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So there you have it – a not particularly short article, but one that hopefully has provided you with some tools and tips on how to boost your confidence when life has got you low.

(Don’t be shy…click ‘Leave a comment’, share this post if you like it; email, tweet and generally pester me if you want to hear more/share your stories/say hi)

6 thoughts on “What Happens When: Your Confidence Takes A Nose-Dive

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