Confidence is one of those topics that gets talked about considerably. It’s something we all want a little (or a lot) of. And let’s face it, if confidence were easy, it would have been bottled a long time ago by Big Pharma. But the truth is that gaining confidence is not easy. It’s not something that we are born with, it’s not something we can fake, and it’s definitely not something we can just wait around for all our lives until it finally arrives.
I used to think that confidence and courage were reserved for the “lucky ones.” People who knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to claim it. I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone, and I know I’m not alone. Every day, people decide not to chase their dream job, move to a new city, date new people, leave their spouse, or whatever it is they really want to do because they don’t have the confidence to do it. They’re afraid. And I get it. It took having my life fall apart for me to realize that I had to push through the fear and find the confidence to take action if I ever wanted to realize my dreams.
Here are five ways a lack of confidence might be holding you back—and what to do about it.
1. You can’t make a decision.
Does having options ever paralyze you? When you’re presented with a tough decision, do you seek out the help of everyone around you to try and make the right choice? While it can be key to seek advice from a trusted friend or mentor, be careful who you place your trust in. Your mail carrier, psychic, or a myriad of online quizzes isn’t going to help you make the right choice.
Instead, do your best to trust your gut or seek out the counsel of people who’ve always had your best and biggest interests at heart, and who gently push you out of your comfort zone.
2. You have terrible boundaries.
When we lack confidence, chances are that we are terrible about setting boundaries with the people in our lives. What happens when we can’t set boundaries? People will walk all over you. Without confidence in ourselves, we can’t set or maintain boundaries, and it can make us miserable.
Boundaries are usually never easy, and they are a skill. Seek out a therapist who can help you with this, or one of the many books or podcasts on exactly how to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Learning this skill, and ten minutes of uncomfortable conversation are worth it!
3. You are constantly comparing yourself to everyone else.
And chances are, while you are comparing, you’ve already decided that you simply don’t measure up. You’ll hold yourself to unreasonable expectations, beat yourself up for making any mistake, and engage in chronic negative self-talk that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Notice when you’re comparing yourself to others, and have a neutral (meaning, not positive or negative focused) mantra that you say to yourself. Something like, “Hmm… I’m comparing myself to them again.” Or, “That’s interesting that I’m doing that.” This may seem small, but it’s a pattern interrupter—and if practiced often, has the capacity to change the neural pathways in your brain, so your comparisons will happen less and less often.
4. You wait to start something until you are “ready.”
You’re unable to make a leap of faith into something new. Instead, you wait for signs that it’s time to apply for a new job, say yes to the date, get a degree, etc. If you wait around for the time to be “right,” you’re going to be waiting a very long time.
It’s time to ask yourself, what are you afraid of? Sometimes when we actually address our fears, they aren’t as big and scary as we thought they were. Get out a pen and paper and actually write down what is going to happen if you just dive into something new. What’s the worst-case scenario? Is it really that bad?
5. You have trouble prioritizing your needs and speaking up.
Maybe you don’t think you deserve to get what you want. Or maybe you’re afraid to speak up because you don’t want people to think that you’re loud, selfish, or annoying.
We allow fear to hold us back in so many ways, both personally and professionally. And the truth is, that to build confidence and start asking for what we want in life, we have to face these fears head-on. To gain confidence, we have to dig deep and find courage over and over again. No matter how scary it is.
The first step is to actively choose courage. Choose to stand up for yourself, what you believe in, and what you want no matter what. Second, identify your personal behaviors that make you unhappy. Dig deep here. Identify what they are, then practice doing the exact opposite thing.
You’re going to fail, it’s going to get messy sometimes. But if you practice these two steps over and over again, you’ll bust through your fears, you’ll get stronger, and you will find confidence.
About the Author: Andrea Owen is a global speaker, professional certified Daring Way™ life coach, and the best-selling author of “52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life,” “How to Stop Feeling Like Shit,” and the forthcoming, “Make Some Noise” (TarcherPerigee, August 31, 2021). Her podcast, “Make Some Noise,” has been downloaded over 3 million times. Andrea has taught hundreds of thousands of women tools and strategies to empower themselves with unshakeable confidence to live their most kick-ass life.
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