5 questions to help you build confidence
Confidence and resilience go hand in hand. But what do you think confidence is? There are a whole range of potential responses to this, including:
- a feeling that everything will be ok
- feeling sure of yourself
- Knowing that you are worthy
- a sense of internal peace
- being able to be completely yourself in any situation
- not overthinking
And then there’s the way we view confidence in other people, which could be anything, from assertiveness to being the life and soul of the party, wearing outrageous outfits, living unconventionally or speaking up on issues.
We can sometimes mistake loudness for confidence and find ourselves awed by, or jealous of, people who seem to be able to effortlessly do the things we find hard or anxiety-inducing. Confidence can become a stick with which our inner critic beats us mercilessly - “If you had more confidence you’d be successful/loved/thin/better.” Which is why I want to offer you a mindset shift where confidence is concerned. So that you can get started genuinely building more of it.
Here’s the flip
What if confidence just comes down to how much trust you have in yourself? I think it really is that simple. Confidence comes from the latin verb fidere, which means “to trust.” The “con” can mean “with” or “thoroughly” (I’m no linguist but I do love to know the meaning of the words I use). So, confidence isn’t just about trusting yourself but trusting yourself thoroughly. I know some people reading this might be a little disappointed it’s not a more exciting answer. But actually, I think it’s more powerful than it seems. If you don’t feel confident right now have a think about how much you trust yourself:
- Do you accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all?
- Do you know how to make yourself feel safe in difficult circumstances or when you feel emotions like fear?
- How much of your inner narrative is critical and harsh?
- Is there a perfectionist in you who constantly pushes you to set goals you could never actually reach?
- Do you sabotage yourself, for example by procrastinating or believing imposter narratives?
How you answer these questions will be a strong indicator of how much you’re getting in your own way where confidence is concerned. Because how could there be trust if you are self-criticising, judgmental and rejecting?
Building trust with yourself
I often view the start of this process as a new relationship with a very little, delicate person - you could see this as your inner child. It’s the part of you that carries all the hard stuff, from the hurts you’ve experienced to the ways in which other people have let you down. It might be dragging a big old trunk of hard stuff or it could be a small carry-on suitcase.
It’s likely that other people have made this little part of you feel unworthy, unwanted or incapable at some point (in childhood or adulthood) and your job is to make it feel safe again. To allow it to trust you. This relationship with you is also the foundation of resilience - it’s the feeling of safety that allows you to keep going when things are hard or uncertain.
Confidence requires a safe base
Empowerment is something that we often think of as a rising up. But in order to do that we need to have created firm and safe foundations for ourselves from which to rise. I personally don't think a resilient mindset is possible without this.
If you think of that little, delicate part of you as also potentially containing all of the most unique and beautiful elements of your personality and attributes - if it is scared and untrusting it’s not going to show the world what it can do. So you need to make it feel safe in order to allow it to open up and thrive.
For me there are three key elements to this: boundaries, awareness and validation.
Boundaries are simply letting other people know what is ok with us - and what is not. They ensure that you value yourself and create clarity around your needs. Strong boundaries mean less resentment and fear for you and - importantly here - a greater sense of trust in yourself in what you want and what you’re not okay with.
The thing about boundaries is that other people never react well to them and so they almost always feel uncomfortable to set. Which is why we can feel reluctant to set them or want to go back on them later. Remember that this discomfort is normal and not a sign that boundaries aren’t the right thing to do. Boundaries are about making that small part of you feel safe and also giving it some direction - setting boundaries with yourself is important here too.
Tip: If you find boundaries hard then practice saying no with the small things - “no I don’t want to go out tonight/no I didn't order that.”
Awareness will mean you're tuned into who you are and what is going to be right for you. When you have self-awareness you will understand yourself better - why you do what you do, where your reactions come from, what your triggers are - and this is the basis for a really clear sense of self. That clear sense of self is vital for building trust with yourself because the way you treat yourself and the choices you make will be well-informed.
Self-awareness is that comfortable understanding of who you are - but also knowing that you will change. It’s an ongoing journey and one where allowing yourself to change your mind will make life easier.
Tip: To start tapping into this, get used to pausing and thinking "what do I actually want here" before you respond to offers or requests.
Validation - we all need some external validation but high levels of internal validation are key for confidence. Start listening to your inner critic - the biggest obstacle to internal validation - take 10 mins a day write down what you've heard from it that day every day for a week. This will show you just how big the validation obstacle really is.
Doing this can also minimise the impact of the inner critic because in black and white things often seem less overwhelming. If you only do one thing to start boosting your confidence, make it this. The inner critic can be a crippling force and this simple exercise is very effective at lessening its sting and creating more space for confidence.
Confidence is built through action
Once you start building a safe base with yourself then you can take all sorts of actions that will boost your confidence - and you can do it knowing that you always have that firm foundation of trust to come back to. This is all about your attitude to risk. Of course, risk is uncomfortable, the edge of the comfort zone is uncomfortable, new things we don’t know if we can do = uncomfortable. But if you’ve always got that safe base at your centre, a knowing that you can handle the consequences of whatever happens, then action and risk become easier.
Remember that it’s action that creates confidence, not the other way round. you don’t have to wait to feel confident about doing something before you do it. Just do it. The reality is that if there is something you want to do then there is a part of you that knows deep down that you’re already capable of it. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be thinking about it.
Building confidence is a big part of the resilience coaching process - just six sessions can make all the difference to how much trust you have in you.