Back in October, we shared an article on the topic of confidence, and whether it can be learned (without totally giving it away… it can!). A few seasons have passed now, and we feel it’s time to get back on the confidence train, this time targeting three practical ways you can actually practice being more confident, to help build a more self-compassionate and positive you.
1. Think about it
It starts with a thought. There are various iterations of the saying, from Lao Tzu and Gandhi, to the simplified version from Ben Bergeron, but the gist of the saying is this:
“Our thoughts become our words. Our words become our actions. Our actions will dictate who we become.”
Start to become aware of your thoughts, because these in turn will have a profound impact on what we do, and in turn who we are. If we are internally telling ourselves that we aren’t capable, pretty soon these thoughts will be what we say out loud in the moment. We then hear the words, we begin to believe them. In believing in them, we soon find ourselves giving up.
We may have heard the tip “what words would you use if you were speaking to a good friend?”. This can often be eye-opening, when we realise the kindness we might adopt when speaking to a loved on, versus the harshness and negativity we can use on ourselves. Are we our worst critic? We can all picture that friend who we distanced ourselves from at school – the one who felt the need to put everyone else down, the one who always saw the glass half-empty – but what can we do if we realise that negative friend is our internal voice?
At first, the idea of changing this self-talk might feel impossible, but it all comes down to practice. Start practicing using the right language, and it will become habitual. Before you know it, the confidence-crushing thoughts will no longer be the norm, instead replaced by thoughts (and words!) of self belief which in turn. If you notice yourself having an unhelpful thought, try to re-frame it, and stop ti in its tracks before you catch yourself saying it out loud.
2. Build Trust
We can all be too quick to criticise ourselves for things that don’t go to plan or don’t work out, or when we aren’t able to do what we had planned. Take for example a visit to the gym – we might start off our day with best intentions planning to hit that lunchtime class, but then life gets in the way. Perhaps your toddler has a high temperature and needs to be taken to the doctors, or maybe the car breaks down – or perhaps as the day goes on you simply don’t feel up to it and decide to take a rest.
All of these are times where we can lose confidence in ourselves and lose trust in our capabilities. The whole ‘I didn’t do what I said I would’ mentality can start to build a picture in our minds of whether we’re likely to see something through next time, or not. If this was a good friend who sometimes cancelled on you or often turned up late, it would no doubt begin to affect your relationship with them, and you’d begin to expect disappointment. So in the exact same way, it’s no surprise that these mini-let-downs begin to build some mistrust within ourselves, and can have a knock to our confidence.
So what can we do to work on this? The simple answer is to see through what we intended, but we all know that’s easier said than done! We can’t help the car breaking down, or the little one being poorly… So instead perhaps we need to start acknowledging the times we KEEP our promises and DO what we set out to do, so it’s not just the negative experiences and let-downs that accumulate in our minds. Promised yourself you’d hit the gym today – and you did it? Acknowledge this, and keep that thought fresh in your mind. Told yourself you ought to get to bed earlier this evening, and managed to have the lights out before 10? Make a mental note that you did it. And if these mini-challenged or promises don’t feel feasible, start with small things and take it from there. Perhaps you’re working on your diet, and you made a conscious choice to make a curry on Friday instead of get a take away. Awesome! Add this to the mental success-list.
The more of these we build up, the more confident we can be in ourselves and our ability to see through what we set out to do. And… as we know, if we begin to have these more positive and confident thoughts, soon they will reflect our actions. Goodbye “I’ll never be able to…” and hello “I can… and I will”.
3. Ignore the Noise
This isn’t a new concept either, and we’ll have likely heard dozens of versions of this. Ignore the noise, stay in your lane, you do you… it’s all the same concept! The classic example we see within the gym is when someone is thinking about their goals, trying to focus on what matters to them, but are easily distracted by what everyone else around them is doing. Soon their well-thought out plan to focus on ‘just turning up and enjoying their fitness’ flies out the window because they’ve seen Bob in the corner making progress on his muscle ups, or Joanna hitting a new Snatch PB. These goals are likely completely irrelevant to our journey, and yet we can so easily find ourselves doubting our plan, and getting sucked into what we feel we ‘should’ be doing.
There is a reason monks go to quiet Temples to practice their faith, and a reason students go to libraries to study – to physically remove themselves from the noise. In every day life this is easier said than done, so we need to first become aware of what the ‘noise’ is, so we can recognise it, and ignore it. This might be a case of unfollowing certain social media accounts, if we find their content can send us spiralling in doubt, or it might mean choosing to discuss goals with you coach or gym manager rather than on the big WhatsApp group with your peers. Whatever the ‘noise’ is, be aware of it, so you can recognise it and ignore it.
So there we have it – three ways you can build your confidence, and practice being more self-compassionate. If you’d like to talk about your goals in more detail with a member of the UV team, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org!