Confidence comes up a lot in conversations and stories about women and success. I’d put it in the top three issues that women tackle. I have to admit that at times my lack of self-confidence has been debilitating and in many ways I feel like a lack of self-confidence is a disease that I have learned to live with and manage. Sometimes I’m better at it than at other times. As a woman in senior roles I have fought hard to project an aura of confidence and I find it deeply embarrassing to admit to such a big personal weakness!
I think being embarrassed about my lack of self-confidence is why I have found it extremely difficult to write about this subject. This is at least attempt number five to write – and actually publish – a post about it. I also find that while writing this I am constantly slipping into the third person to distance myself from the problem! To root out and eradicate the problem, I have spent a lot of time thinking about confidence. Wondering why it is that some days I feel great – sure that I am on the Earth to share my charm, intelligence and wit. On other days I am equally convinced that I am completely useless! In my experience confidence is an all-or-nothing phenomenon. I have it… or I don’t.
Eventually I decided that to try to understand the problem I could submit to years and years of therapy… then blame my parents. But while I’m sure that would probably be partly correct, and even vaguely satisfying, I don’t believe that it would be a very effective solution! What actually helps me is to have a strategy for dealing with the bad, low-confidence days.
So based on what has helped me, this is my advice to anyone struggling with their self-confidence. I re-read this list whenever I feel my confidence slipping.
- BE POSITIVE. If you believe in self-fulfilling prophecies then you will understand why it is so important for me to smile, act happy, think positive thoughts and say positive things. This really works for me. By behaving positively, I feel positive and that helps me to feel confident. If something, or someone, makes you feel like being negative – stay away from it or them. Those things and people are hurting your self-confidence.
- REMEMBER HOW AWESOME YOU ARE. This is important. If you are thinking that this is easier said than done, then I have to tell you – no, it isn’t. I followed these steps:
Step 1. I wrote down a list of things that I am good at. I started with 5 and build it to 10.
Step 2: Next I wrote down a list of things that I am proud to have achieved.
Step 3. I put these two lists in places where I see them all the time – above my desk.
Step 4. I add to my lists whenever I receive a compliment or achieve something new.
- NEVER PUT YOURSELF DOWN. I am astonished at how often I used to do this. I didn’t notice I did this until someone told me. I used to say small things such as “I suck at this” and I used to say these things a lot. But these small put-downs are insidious. They all added up and they undermined my confidence.
- NEVER MIND WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. When my self-confidence is low I become over-anxious about what other people think of me. I have to remind myself that other people simply are not thinking about me anywhere near as much as I think they are. If they think about me at all, realistically it will only be for a second and they are unlikely to be worrying about the tiny little thing that I think I said badly.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. On the treadmill that is my life, and the life of many working mothers, I find it hard to take time out for my own mental and physical well-being. But I have found that I really, really need to. I struggle to be confident when I am exhausted, dressed badly or my hair is not done. Anyone who sees me can tell you that I am always well dressed, my hair is always done. I don’t even want to describe how I feel about myself when I don’t make an effort.
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