3 Life-Changing Tips To Boost Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem
- Deepanwita Roy, Clinical Psychologist
- 5 Min Read
Self-confidence is something we all struggle with from time to time. We always want to feel sure of ourselves, but those little whispers of self-doubt show up whenever we try to do something new, want to put ourselves out there, or take risks. Self-doubt tells us to play it safe and expect us to do things the way we’ve always done them to avoid getting hurt, embarrassed, or rejected. But, do we always have to listen to these whispers?
In fact, doing things ‘out-of-the-box’ or doing things your conscience deems unsafe is a great way to develop confidence. In return, working towards developing confidence is the first step toward healthy self-esteem and personal growth.
Here are a few simple yet effective psychotherapy tools to foster self-confidence and nourish self-esteem when it is low:
Use positive affirmations
Affirmations are simply statements that are designed to create self-change in the individual using them. They can serve as inspiration, as well as simple reminders. An affirmation can work in building your confidence because it has the ability to program your mind into believing in it. Here is a 5-step guide by PsychologyToday to make affirmations more powerful and simplified for you:
Step 1: Make a list of what you’ve always thought of as your negative qualities. Include any criticisms others have made of you that you’ve been holding onto. Don’t judge if they’re accurate, and remember we all have flaws.
Step 2: Now write an affirmation on the positive aspect of your self-judgment. You may want to use a thesaurus to find more powerful words to beef up your statement. For example, instead of saying, “I’m worthy,” you could say, “I’m remarkable and cherished.”
Step 3: Speak the affirmation out loud for about five minutes three times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening. You can look at yourself in the mirror as you repeat the positive statement. Another option that helps to reinforce the new belief and would be easy to do at work is to write out the affirmation several times in a notebook. Notice over time as you write it if your style of writing changes. This could be a clue as to how your mind perceives the new concept.
Step 4: Anchor the affirmation in your body as you are repeating it by placing your hand on the area that felt uncomfortable when you wrote out the negative belief in Step 1. Also, “breathe” into the affirmation while you are saying or writing it. As you reprogram your mind, you want to move from the concept of the affirmation to a real, positive embodiment of the quality you seek.
Step 5: Get a friend or coach to repeat your affirmation to you. If you don’t have someone whom you feel comfortable asking, then use your reflection in the mirror as the person who is reinforcing the healthy message.
Affirmations can be a powerful tool to help you change your mood, state of mind, and manifest the change you desire in your life. But they work best if you can first identify the belief that is opposing them.
Do we always show the same care and compassion that we provide to our loved ones? With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. Self-compassion is also associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, and a more caring relationship. Dr. Neff, after years of research, called out these three elements of self-compassion:
Self-kindness vs Self-judgment: We often get carried away with wrongly judging and evaluating ourselves, as a result, our confidence takes a backseat. Instead, imagine being kind to yourself instead, as if a friend is sitting next to you and offering encouragement and warmth. Self-compassion comes from having a kind attitude toward ourselves no matter what we’re going through or taking on.
Mindfulness vs Over-identification with thoughts: Because our thoughts can go so negative at times, it’s helpful to practise mindfulness as a way to avoid being consumed by this negativity. Mindfulness is a way of focusing our attention and accepting our thoughts and feelings without judgment, while also letting them go. Whether through meditation or breathing exercises, mindfulness allows us to stay in our bodies at the moment and allow our thoughts to pass like cars on a train. We can notice and acknowledge them, but we don’t board the train and get swept away. By not over-identifying with our negative or self-critical thoughts, we learn to live more at the moment and feel more self-possessed, both of which can be key to feeling confident.
Common Humanity vs Isolation: Dr. Neff found that it’s much easier to have self-compassion when we accept that we are all part of a shared human experience. In other words, we all make mistakes, and we all suffer. It’s easy to attack ourselves when we view ourselves as different or alone in our struggle. Our confidence can be shattered by both seeing ourselves as outsiders in some negative sense and failing to embrace that we are unique in a very positive sense. When we see ourselves as human, we are less likely to feel like we need to be the best or like we’re already the worst. We are less likely to feel victimized and more likely to look directly at our shortcomings and make real efforts to grow and change.
Using CBT to improve self-confidence & self-esteem
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for developing confidence involves a combination of changing dysfunctional thinking patterns and altering ineffective behavioural patterns that keep us stuck. By altering the key components of lacking confidence, self-defeating thoughts, and ineffective behaviour, we are able to gain confidence. CBT may include the following interventions:
Cognitive restructuring: Cognitive restructuring is a method of identifying unhelpful patterns of thinking, or untrue assumptions, and learning new, more helpful ways of thinking about difficult situations.
Systematic exposure: Exposure works on the theory that avoidance of situations we fear prevents us from realistically evaluating whether they are as bad as we assume. By exposing ourselves to situations we would otherwise avoid, we learn that they are not as bad as assumed, and our anxiety diminishes.
Mindfulness training: Mindfulness can help people be less hard on themselves and reduce second-guessing their own performance in difficult situations, thus improving confidence.
Problem-solving: Problem-solving helps people take a more active role in proactively solving problems, rather than feeling like a victim or passively allowing the unhelpful status quo to persist.
If you try to do too much at once, you may become overwhelmed. Remember that confidence is a state of trust, which, like any other thing in life, takes time to build. Be patient with yourself and know the journey begins with the first step.