I grew up with an extroverted and very talented older brother. Didn’t matter what he tried, he was good at it. He was popular, entertaining, and adored by his family and peers. This is not a story of jealousy. I worship my older brother and I’m so proud of his many achievements.
This is a story of the kid who was introverted, not very talented, and a bit boring. The kid who followed her brother and his mates around because she didn’t really have a tribe of her own. (She was instructed by said brother to remain at least 10 paces behind so as not to cramp his style, and she dutifully complied). This is a story of the kid who tried really hard to be as entertaining as her brother, but came off a bit weird and awkward.
Growing up, I watched how easily my brother did everything. How easily he made friends. How easily he made people laugh. How easily he just walked into a shop and bought whatever he wanted, chatting with the shopkeeper like they were old mates.
These things were not easy for me. Wherever we went all the other kids seemed much older or much younger than me. Or just much cooler. So I was too shy to approach them. I was terrified of having to go into a shop and make a purchase on my own, because I didn’t know what I should say. What if I made a fool of myself? Or what if I got confused with the money? What if the shop keeper thought I was stealing something because I was a kid and some kids steal?
I had zero confidence! Because everything that seemed so easy for my brother, seemed so very difficult for me.
When it all began to change
It was only in my late twenties, when I started to consciously work on my own self-development, that I started to gain some confidence. And the results have been huge. I started getting great jobs that I loved. My salary increased. I left a terrible relationship and ended up in a loving and supportive marriage. My friendship circle increased and became more interesting.
I still feel terrified before a job interview, but then I go in there and (usually) nail it. Public speaking doesn’t frighten me like it used to. And thankfully I can now go into a shop and chat with the shopkeeper like we’re old mates.
If your lack of confidence is holding you back from living a fun and free life, I feel you! I’ve been there. I still struggle a lot with my confidence. But I’ve found many strategies that work for me, and I want to share them with you.
How to be confident
Recognise your strengths
What do other people often compliment you on? Be sure to think about all the different ways that people show admiration. Sometimes it’s a straight-out “Wow, you’re so good at _____”. Other times admiration is shown by asking for your advice or opinion. And sometimes admiration is subtly displayed by jealousy. In any case, consider all the different things that other people might admire you for and write them down.
Next, think about the things you’re proud of, and write them down too. Don’t worry, you’re not going to show anyone this list. Toot your own horn in your sound-proof bubble. Write it all down.
Now keep this list somewhere you can look at it often. The more often you remind yourself of all your great qualities, the more likely you are to start believing that you’re actually pretty great. And when we believe that we’re alright, we start to feel more confident. You might even start honing in on some of those strengths and building on them.
Use your body
This one was a game changer for me. I have always had terrible posture. I hunch my shoulders, I cross my arms and legs, and I touch my face a lot when I’m a bit nervous. All these things make us LOOK timid, but they also make us FEEL more timid. Standing tall with your shoulders back and your body open allows you to breathe easier and changes your physiology. Your body language alone can help you to feel more confident. I urge you to watch the TED Talk by Amy Cuddy “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are”. Practice the Power Poses she talks about. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel like a real weirdo when you’re doing it, but it will have positive results.
Be your own bestie
If your best friend called you and said she felt like a failure, or that she was thinking of cancelling her date, or that she felt fat and ugly, would you agree with her? NO! That would make you a jerk. You’d tell her how amazing she is and remind her why you love her. You would build her up to the point that she was strutting out her front door ready to take on the world.
So be your own bestie. Have a little pep talk with yourself. Speak lovingly, encouragingly, and positively.
Celebrate your wins
No matter how big or small, when you start acknowledging your achievements you start feeling more confident. As you feel more confident you try more things and you achieve more things. It’s a positive cycle! Take five minutes each week to think of all the good things that happened through the week. Do something nice for yourself to celebrate.
Step outside your comfort zone
Push yourself to do something you normally wouldn’t do. I’m not saying it will be easy or free of anxiety. But when you realise you can do it, it’ll boost your confidence. It might be attending a networking event, putting yourself forward for a promotion, or introducing yourself to your neighbour. It might be skydiving, or going to a Zumba class, or joining the gym. Whatever makes you a little uncomfortable but could be a great experience, take a deep breath and give it a whirl.
Joining groups that have common interests can be a huge confidence booster. As a shy introvert, I find this really hard, but usually very rewarding. Once you get over the initial discomfort of putting yourself in a situation where you lack confidence, you’ll start to connect with like-minded people and feel more at home. You’ll open yourself up to new experiences, learning opportunities, and the chance to share your knowledge or interest with others. Joining my local Rotary club was the best thing I ever did.
Subtract negativity from your life
Whether it’s your own negativity or people around you, you don’t need it. Practice turning your negative thoughts into positive ones. Politely tell your negative-thinking-self to shut the hell up. If possible, avoid people who are constantly bringing you down. If avoiding them is not practical, maybe you could gently bring it to their attention that they come across very negative. Chances are they are not even aware of it.
I’ve been told before that I’m very negative, which took me by surprise because I thought I was being funny! I now try to be aware of how I’m coming across and pull myself back a bit if my dry sense of humour or my fact-stating might be coming across as overly negative.
Take on the world
All these strategies might feel very uncomfortable at first. Do them anyway. This is not about faking it or pretending to be someone you’re not. This is about celebrating who you are and genuinely increasing your level of self-confidence.
Because sure, you can “fake it till you make it”… that works for some. But for others we just come off a bit weird and awkward.
So continue to be your spectacular self. Celebrate your spectacular self. Share your spectacular self with the world. And set in motion the positive cycle of increasing your confidence and achieving great things.
How is your confidence holding you back? Do you think you’ll try any of these strategies? Do you have other strategies that you use? Tell me in the comments!
You might consider hiring a personal coach to help build your confidence and start living the life you want. Contact me for a free initial consultation and let’s chat.