Are you as confident as you would like to be? Are there times when you hesitate and miss an opportunity? If you catch yourself saying this such as “I’ll happy with myself/successful/confident … when …”, it is time to make some changes in your life.
As a communication skills trainer I help people become confident in the way they speak and portray themselves. If anybody knows what it feels like to lack confidence, it’s me. During my schooldays in Russia, I was a shy, antisocial child who always sat in the back corner of the classroom and never raised her hand because she was afraid of what others might think of her.
What expectations did people have of me? Definitely not succeeding as a speaker or an entrepreneur. Yet, that’s exactly who I’ve become.
To help you build your Unshakeable Confidence here are some actions to take, based on lessons I have learned the hard way!
1. Find areas where you are already confident
What are you already good at? The first and most important step towards building confidence is to be aware of what you have already been successfully doing in your life.
The answers may range from being a talented artist to being a good parent or friend. Feel free to note down any idea that comes to your mind because everything you are good at counts as a valid point.
What this will reveal to you is that confidence is not absolute, because no person on this planet is fully confident about everything. All of us feel confident about particular aspects we know we are good at. Equally, each and every one of us struggles with a specific area that needs improvement.
For example, I used to be extremely bad at speaking in public. In fact, on the occasion of my first presentation, I ended up totally forgetting my script despite spending days memorising it. I felt so terrible, that my hands started to shake, which made my job even harder. As you can imagine, this experience absolutely shattered my confidence. But after a couple of days, instead of focusing on how bad I was overall, I chose to focus only on how poor my skill of speaking in front of the public was. Separating myself from my skill was crucial because it gave me clarity on what I could do about it. The next thing I did was to join one of Toastmasters’ public speaking clubs where I received the help and support I needed to become a confident presenter.
To summarise, once you start working on developing a new skill, your confidence will grow with it. Thus, you track what you’re good at and don’t let yourself identify your overall confidence with the areas you feel least certain about. Nobody is good at everything, whereas obtaining new knowledge and developing new skills is entirely under your control.
2. Change your negative thoughts with positive statements
A great way to start reprogramming your mind is to repeat encouraging affirmations or statements before facing challenging situations. To find which affirmation will work best for you, go with the opposite of your negative thought. For example, if you think “At work I’m terrified of being called on to share my opinion on a Zoom meeting”, you can replace this statement with “I’m so excited to share my opinion at the next meeting!”.
Do not expect to believe in what you are saying after making your affirmations a couple of times, because you may have been trained to think negative thoughts for years. Give yourself time to practise your affirmations properly so that they sink in.
The affirmation that worked magic for me when I was learning to speak in front of a crowd, was; “I’m excited to be called out onto the stage”. I kept on repeating it to myself as my turn approached. After six presentations I started to get genuinely excited about my turn instead of being terrified on hearing my name.
This is all very personal though and if a certain affirmation doesn’t work you may prefer using slightly softer opening statements. For example, instead of saying “I’m great at sharing my opinion”, you can be more inclined to affirm “I can be very good at sharing useful ideas”, What is most important is to create and repeat affirmations which make you feel better about yourself.
3. Question your negative thoughts
If affirmations still seem vain or shallow to you because they evoke contradicting thoughts and emotions, here is a more analytical way, gathered from my performance coaches. By answering the following questions, you will find out the fears that are hidden behind your lack of confidence and learn how to transform your destructive thought patterns into constructive ones.
Write down, record, or simply answer:
- How can I describe the exact negative thoughts on this particular subject in only one sentence?
- Is this thought 100% true? Is it a fact or is it my assumption?
- What proves that this negative thought is completely or partially false?
- If the event that what I most fear were to happen, how would it truly affect my life? What would I do (realistically and without exaggeration)?
- If my best friend had this exact thought, what would I tell them?
These questions helped me get through very difficult times, such as the financial uncertainties during the pandemic. I hope they will be of use to you too.
4. Celebrate small achievements
When I turned 16, I organised my first ever birthday party. I reserved a room for my friends in a new pizzeria and prepared a couple of games to lighten up the mood. The turn-out was pretty good, but I felt terrible afterwards: people complained about the pizza options and found my games stupid. It was the first – but also the last – large birthday party I organised.
Sometimes, when we take on difficult projects we’ve never done in the past, they don’t go according to plan. In such situations, it’s easy to forget that one unsuccessful event means little, and that true success is achieved by taking small but consistent steps towards the goal. So, if you’ve just failed at something, remember; the key to becoming better at anything is to shift your focus onto your progress over longer periods rather than holding on to the setbacks along the way.
By following this approach you are attaching a number of small successful experiences to your journey, and this enables you to notice your improvements. As a result, you are building a new neural pathway responsible for the positive events in the struggle area and transforming it into a normal area or even a power area. This is a part of habit formation process in The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.
Back to my bitter event-organising experience: I lost the confidence to organise any events after that birthday, so I avoided doing so for years, until one day I was faced with a situation where I had no choice but to step up. It happened when the organisers of an event I was involved in were stuck in traffic. They asked me to start as the guests were already waiting and it was important to start on time. I knew what needed doing, so I started the meeting without the main organisers. It may have come as a shock to me… but nothing terrible happened! The meeting didn’t go ideally, but it was still pretty good. Small steps at a time. I learned how to organise successful events and eventually ended up organising all sorts of events and parties for hundreds of people.
In other words, regardless of what happens along your journey, your job is to always interpret your attempts as steps towards your success. They might be small ones, but they’re still there. Keep on doing the same thing over and over until your brain is convinced that when you perform that stressful activity something good happens.
I hope these tools will help you as you develop into women with unshakeable confidence and that you’ll apply this positively in all areas of your life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Robertson is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org
Anna is a Wales-based writer and graduate from SOAS University of London.
As the voice behind On Your Journey, she empowers women to embrace holistic well-being and spiritual growth through her expert insights into wellness and symbolism.
When she isn't writing thought-provoking articles, you'll find her busy crafting and raising her 4 children.