Your Confident Self: Increasing Confidence, Self-Esteem and Self-Belief
Over the last few months I’ve been busy learning how to play the guitar. Having not even picked up a guitar for over twenty five years, I’ve pretty much been learning all the notes and chords from scratch. And over the many weeks of practicing with online lessons from Fender, I kind of got to an ok level (think advanced beginner not Hendrix!).
At the end of last year I decided to start some online live guitar lessons with a great guy called Chris. Let me tell you, Chris can really play! Whilst I had a fairly ok level of confidence playing on my own to myself, that first lesson with someone who knows their stuff took me way outside my comfort one. In fact, in that first lesson with a pair of eyes watching me, I struggled to get my hands and fingers to co-ordinate in any sort of reasonable fashion.
Yet by the next lesson, and beyond, I’ve found myself able to play more confidently and to be ok with the inevitable mistakes that I make as I learn new things, and to feel good about the bits that go well and improve.
It can happen in any area of your life: you start something new, it takes you into a bit of discomfort outside your comfort zone, and then you adjust, adapt, learn and get better from perseverance. You learn that you can trust in your abilities, have faith in yourself and make some good progress.
It’s the same whether you train for your first race, meet someone knew, learn a new skill or do anything else new, different or potentially more challenging.
Yet sometimes, people struggle to have faith in their abilities and in who they are. They think they aren’t good enough or worthy in some way. They think they don’t deserve whatever it is. They dwell on mistakes and failures and things that didn’t go well and convince themselves it will always be like that. Their confidence, self-esteem and self-belief isn’t where it needs to be, or should be.
Your self-image, confidence and self-esteem can be shaped and moulded by life experiences, people, places and a whole range of other factors. But of course your self-confidence and self-esteem are ultimately down to the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and beliefs you have about yourself, your own self-perception and view of yourself. And whilst your confidence and self-esteem may not be where you want them to be, it is definitly possible to grow in confidence, to have faith in yourself, to feel good being you, to back yourself and believe in yourself and to feel comfortable in your own skin.
Confidence, Self-Esteem and Self-Belief
Recently I’ve been revisiting some work by psychologist Arnold Lazarus. In his book, In the Mind’s Eye, he discusses the role that mental imagery plays in our daily lives. Whether we are aware of it or not, the sort of images and pictures we unconsciously create in our mind can impact on how we feel, think and respond.
Take, for example, someone who has a fear of flying. If every time they think of flying they imagine the plane plummeting out of the air as they fall to their death, then no wonder they feel fearful. Someone with a dog phobia might see a dog and immediately imagine the dog biting them, leading to anxiety.
If you struggle with anxiety, then you may find yourself imagining the worst possible outcome in a similar sort of way. That imagined scenario leads to increased anxiety, more anxious thinking and then dread, avoidance and escape. You may even know that the things you are imagining aren’t logical or realistic, yet it still habitually happens.
It can also easily apply to confidence and self-esteem. If you imagine failing, others judging you, being unable to cope or lacking ability in some way then you are likely to experience worry, anxiety and dread, and may even avoid certain things to avoid the potential negative outcomes. If you feel you are unlovable, undeserving, unworthy or not good enough then the same sort of images and thoughts will drive how you feel and what you do.
People often refer to their self-image, how they perceive themselves in their own mind, and that self-image will dictate what you do and how you do it.
“In the final analysis, our images colour and produce our emotions. Sad, angry, and anxious feelings are caused by self-destructive images” (Lazarus).
Mental images can often be fleeting and we often don’t notice we are doing them. Yet anytime we plan ahead, or think back, imagine or remember, we can call upon mental imagery in fractions of moments. Whether you are aware of your mental imagery or not, and however good you think you are at picturing things in your mind right now, through practice you can get better at it. And through practice you can learn how to systematically and repeatedly picture yourself being successful and confident, and achieving your goals.
Some of this is very similar to a topic I’ve covered before (The Anxiety Equation). Although it may often seem like it’s a person, place or situation that causes your anxiety, and those anxious feelings of discomfort may be very real and strong, there is an extra step in this psychological process.
That extra step is all the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, expectations, experience and behaviours about it. All those things that take place inside your mind, those psychological processes, create your anxiety, fear and dread.
If you think of yourself as lacking confidence, being not good enough or have a negative self image, then that will colour and influence your thoughts and feelings as you go through the situations in your life.
And because your self image and perception, confidence and anxiety levels are all based upon the thought processes, beliefs, expectations, mental imagery and self-talk inside your mind, it becomes possible to influence those things so that the end result is that you feel good, having robust self-belief, strong self-confidence, feel more capable and know you can do it.
Your Confident Self
Part of being more confident is being more mentally calm and physically relaxed. This means you can think more clearly, make decisions, keep things in their correct perspective, feel at ease and know you can handle, deal and cope with any of life’s challenges. If you don’t already have a copy then my confidence hypnosis download is a great resource to help you increase your confidence.
And here’s a little technique, based upon one from Lazarus and which I’ve seen elsewhere too, that can help you to build your confidence, self-esteem and self-belief.
1) Sit somewhere quiet, take a deep breath and close your eyes. If you know self-hypnosis or meditation techniques you could incorporate these here. Start to extend your out breath and say the word ‘relax’ to yourself on every breath out. You could tense and relax each part of your body or tell yourself that each part of your body is relaxing. You could imagine a calm colour or sensation spreading through you or fill your mind with a relaxing sound. You could engage your imagination and imagine being in a remembered or created place of calmness, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds. Or you can draw upon and utilise any other ways that allow you to feel comfortable, calm and relaxed. Your aim here is just to feel as safe, calm and comfortable as you can right now.
2) Inside your mind, imagine the more confident you, your confident self, almost like you were looking into a mirror in your mind’s eye. Really imagine the real you who is confident and at ease, comfortable in your skin, enjoying being you, trusting in yourself and believing in your own capability. Make the image life size in your mind and as vivid as you can.
Notice the confidence, self-esteem and self-belief in your posture, in the look behind your eyes, in the expression on your face and in the way you move. Have it there in the way you talk to others and in the positive, encouraging, supportive things you think to yourself. Really imagine the confident you handling any challenges, taking action on your goals, making good decisions, evaluating things intelligently and feeling good about accomplishments and achievements.
And really notice what it is that tells you that this confident you feels self-assured, comfortable and safe in their own skin.
3) Continue to imagine the confident you and then imagine yourself taking that confidence and self-esteem, that mental and physical calmness and self-belief into the typical situations and aspects of your life. See yourself through people, places, times and situations feeling and being confident, feeling good in yourself, relaxed around others and taking action positively towards your goals.
4) Continue to focus upon and think about the confident you, thinking, feeling and doing things exactly as you want them to be, as realistically and vividly as you can inside your mind. As you do so, start to remember times when you accomplished something you were proud of, or where you did something well. Remember it vividly inside your mind and start to connect to those good feelings. Get that good feeling and spread it throughout your body and let yourself feel really good.
5) Keeping that good feeling, now, step into that image of the confident you in your mind. See with these eyes, hear with these ears and feel the feelings of confidence, self-esteem and self-belief within you. Really associate with it, feel the feelings of confidence and get them lodged into your mind. Take these thoughts, feelings and behaviours into your life from today. Be this version of you.
See what you would be seeing, hear the sounds of your success, feel the feelings that you would feel. Experience it as if it is happening right now. Adopt the mindset, take on the attitude, become this version of you in every way.
If confidence was a colour, what colour is it for you? If confidence has a sound, what sound is it for you? How does confidence feel? Imagine that colour spreading through your body, hear that sound resonating throughout you, feel that sensation and feeling flowing through you.
Tell yourself that you are becoming more confident, trusting in your ability, knowing you can handle whatever comes your way. Really tell yourself you are becoming more and more confident with a sense of meaning and conviction, like you just know that this is your reality now.
6) From today, in whatever you are doing, be your confident self in your thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions. Think of yourself in this way, expect it and believe in it. Keep the image of your confident self in your mind in way that means that the more you think of it, the more confident you feel in yourself and in your life. Maybe think of a specific step you will go and take to prove to yourself that you are now more confident, that you believe in yourself more and feel more comfortable in your skin. Commit to taking action and then go and do it and enjoy the positive results you experience.
7) Take a deep breath, count up from 1 up to 3 inside your mind and then open your eyes and reorient yourself to your surroundings.
Repeat this exercise regularly, have fun with it and enjoy the benefits of becoming more and more confident in yourself.
You may also be interested in this hypnosis download, where I guide you through this process of increasing your confidence: Your Confident Self
There are many more things that can help you to increase your confidence and self-esteem. As mentioned above, using techniques that help you become more mentally calm and physically relaxed will help, as will tackling any tendency to dwell and overthink on perceived inadequacies or failures and to instead focus on successes, things you are proud about, things you are grateful for and the positive steps that move you closer along the path towards your goals.
To your confidence and self-esteem,
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