Do you relate to the following story?
A fawn said to her mother one day, “Mama, you’re bigger than a dog, and much faster too! You have greater strength, and antlers to protect yourself. Why is then, Mama, that you are so afraid of the dogs?” “Yes”, the mother replied, “I do know this fully. But, as soon as I hear a dog bark, I feel faint and take off as fast as my legs will carry me.”
Many of you reading this may recognize the story as one of Aesop’s fables. The moral of the story is that no matter how convincing the argument, you can’t give courage to a coward. I decided to use it to start this article, because that’s exactly the way self-confidence works.
My clients have told me countless times, “I know I have the education, the experience, and the resources to succeed. But, I still doubt myself.” Self-confidence is not intellectual. It’s specific way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It doesn’t come from external conditions. It comes from how you relate to yourself and interpret your experiences.
Confidence is often seen as a mysterious, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t. This article will illuminate the often misunderstood concept of confidence. Read on for 7 keys to developing superhuman levels of confidence.
1 Eat your mental Wheaties
Some people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Wheaties cereal, created in 1921, built an entire brand on the importance of breakfast. In the 1930’s the brand became a household name, getting the endorsements of players like Lou Gehrig. In 1939, 46 of the 51 players chosen for Major League Baseball’s All Star Game endorsed Wheaties.
Wheaties quickly became known as the breakfast of champions. The brand became synonymous with “the winning spirit.” Although eating breakfast is certainly important, there’s another kind of breakfast of champions that you might be overlooking.
What is the mental breakfast of champions?
Back in 2005, I did a self-confidence program called Building Super Confidence. The program was so effective that it inspired me to change career paths and become a professional hypnosis practitioner. One of the exercises in the book was called “Mental Breakfast.” The idea behind it was that the morning sets the tone for the entire day. If you start the day confidently, the rest of your day will probably follow suit.
Your mental breakfast is a time of mental reflection before you get out of bed. One option is to visualize the entire day unfolding exactly as you want it to. Go through the day in your mind in chronological order. See yourself driving to work and easily getting through traffic. Think about your morning meeting going exactly like you planned. Imagine the rest of your work day flowing smoothly. Experience yourself interacting with the people and situations in your life as a self-confident, self-assured person.
Setting your expectations of self-confidence
I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of waking up on the right side of the bed. Your mental breakfast is a guaranteed way to ensure this happens. When you use mental breakfast to set the tone and intention for the day, you will act in ways that exhibit self-confidence. This is because expectations tend to be realized.
Think about the optimal way to start your day mentally. You could spend time meditating, thinking about what you’re looking forward to, or just use the time for personal reflection. What is important is that you set up positive expectations for the rest of the day.
2 Access a state of self-confidence
Everyone is has had confident moments throughout their lives. If you don’t consider yourself to be a confident person, what you are really saying is that confidence is not yet a habit. As you’re reading this, I want you to think about a time when you felt confident about something. This is a time when you felt certain that you could handle a certain task.
Getting into the state
You may have to think about it, but I’m sure that there have been many moments where you felt this way. Take some time really get into the experience. Assume the posture that you had at that moment. Breathe like you breathed. What did your voice sound like? Start speaking that way now. How did you feel in that moment? Bring back those feelings now.
If you followed my instructions, you probably are feeling pretty confident right about now. Each time you feel like you need more confidence, do this exercise again, reflecting on a confident experience in the past. Keeping doing this everyday and soon self-confidence will become a habit.
Another way to access confidence is to think in terms of resourceful states. For example, if you’re feeling uncertain, reflect on a time when you felt certain. If you’re feeling frustrated, think about a time when things came easily. If you’re worried, think about a time when you felt optimistic. And don’t just think about these experiences really get into the state by thinking about what you saw, heard, and felt. The point is, for every negative experience you have, there has been a time when you experienced the opposite. Self-confidence is really just the ability to maintain a positive, resourceful state regardless of what’s going on around you.
3. Tame your inner critic
A truly good coach is someone who encourages and inspires even when pointing out mistakes. Have you ever had a supervisor at work that only focused on mistakes? Were they condescending and judgmental? These kinds of managers may get results from their subordinates, but eventually, this kind of treatment will decrease performance due to employee resentment. Managers that encourage and focus more on positives than negatives ultimately have the best workers.
The same can be said for parents. If your parents were compassionate mentors you probably have more self-confidence than someone who was raised by a critical parent. Much of your self-confidence comes from how you were raised.
Turning your inner critic into a helpful coach
Even if your childhood wasn’t the greatest, you can still improve your confidence. One way is to start paying attention to the dialog in your own head. Are you aware of a critical or judgmental voice? That voice is your inner critic. We all have one. The difference is that people with high self-confidence have an inner voice who is compassionate and encouraging. People with low self-confidence have a critical voice that criticizes and puts you down.
Disarming the inner critic
Even if your critical voice doesn’t say the nicest things to you, it’s important to realize that ultimately, it does have a positive intention for you. A great way to tame your inner critic is to ask “According to whom? What evidence is there?” If your critical voice has told you “You always screw up meetings!” Well, according to whom? Has anyone ever told you that you always screw up meetings? Probably not. Is there any evidence for it? Well, maybe you did have a bad meeting or two, but most likely, you do fine in most meetings. By challenging your inner critic to come up with evidence, it’s argument against you weakens, and your self-confidence improves. Strive to speak to yourself in the same way you would want a coach or mentor to speak to you.
4 Redefine your past
All of your memories are a mixture of fact and perception. How you think about the past influences your present day self-confidence. It’s not the event that determines your beliefs about yourself. It’s the decision that you made about what the event means about you. Decisions are never permanent, and you do have the right to change your mind.
One way to do that is to redefine your mistakes. Look for the silver lining. It’s important to realize that you were doing your best given your knowledge and mental state at the time. Hindsight is always 20-20. The important thing is to see your mistakes compassionately. What did you learn from the experience that you didn’t know before? How will you act more resourcefully in situations like that in the future? You might want to close your eyes and go over some of your past mistakes, asking yourself these questions. Answer the questions on a piece of paper, then throw it away and let go of the mistake. Mentally rehearse how you will handle the situation in the future, then just let it go.
Past orientation vs. future orientation
Many people with low self-confidence are stuck in the past. They keep replaying their mistakes over and over in their minds. The problem with being stuck in the past is that it keeps from enjoying the present moment. And because you’re focused on the negative aspects of the past, you’re going to be inclined to repeat those same mistakes over and over again. Negative thinking patterns drive negative behavior.
Being stuck in the past just a matter of habit. People stuck in the past sometimes they don’t realize they do it. Over the next few days, become aware of your tendencies. Notice whether your are more past or future oriented. Often, simple awareness is all it takes to change for the better.
Ideally, you want to become someone who thinks in terms of the future outcomes they desire. Their thinking is focused on what they want to create. They work on their outcomes in the present moment. Doing so frees up their mental resources to work towards creating an ideal future.
The power of the present moment
One way to get yourself out of the past is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is about focusing all of your attention on one thing that’s happening in the present moment. Focusing on your breathing is an excellent way to practice mindfulness. If you’re reading this at your desk, focus on the way your body feels in your chair. Hear all the sounds in the room, especially the quiet ones that are barely audible. By giving your full attention to the present moment, it frees up your mental resources to live your life in the now.
5 Ask for what you want
Once you’re thinking in the now, begin to focus on the outcomes you desire to create. What specifically do you want today, tomorrow, next week, next year? By setting your intentions clearl your tendency to be stuck in the past will disappear.
Setting goals to increase confidence
Setting goals has long been known to increase confidence. This is because confidence is more than a feeling. Self-confidence is also a behavior. When you set clear goals, and work towards them, it increases your self-confidence. This happens because the actions you take reinforce the belief that there is something you can do to improve your situation. It gives you the perception of being in greater control of your life, leading to greater confidence. Finally, when you achieve your goal, it increases confidence even further.
Self-confidence is like a snowball rolling down a hill. Each success makes the snowball of confidence bigger and bigger. Soon you’ll be an unstoppable force towards your greater purpose in life.
What types of success increases your confidence?
The fact is, all goal achievement increases self-confidence. It doesn’t matter how large or small the success is. Anytime you set out to do something, then go do it, it increases your self-confidence. Even reading this article is a success, especially if you’re still reading at this point!
The feelings of success from your previously achieved goals will drive your actions towards the next goal. If that’s the case, it’s only logical that, in order to increase confidence regularly, you need to be achieving goals as often as possible.
Setting reasonable and realistic goals
That’s why setting reasonable and realistic goals is so important. It won’t increase your confidence to have a bunch of goals and fail at them. Be honest with yourself about where you are now. You can only improve your life from your current reality. Assess yourself honestly, and determine what would be reasonable and realistic for you. Even if you only made small gains for the rest of your life, just think about how different your life would be after just a few years! Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race!
6 Be assertive
People who lack of self-confidence often blame others for their lack of success. They blame everyone from a narcissistic husband, to a controlling boss, to the co-worker who just can’t stop talking.
Are you letting an emotionally abusive spouse treat you poorly? Do you letting your boss get away with unreasonable demands? Do you let your co-workers waste your most productive hours? If so, it is your fault! It is your responsibility to stand up for yourself and set boundaries.
You can’t control how other people behave, but you can control how we respond to it. And that’s what assertiveness is. It’s understanding and acting on your basic rights. You have the right to be treated like a human being. It is your right to say no to people who are being unreasonable. You have the right to tell your co-worker you’re not interested in their drama, and then put on a pair of headphones.
It’s up to you and you alone to make your life work. You are fully responsible for living your life according to your highest ideals. No one can define those ideals for you. Also, no one can prevent you living according to those ideals. Blaming others is completely futile.
Set clear boundaries with the people in your life, and enforce them. Doing so is the mark of true self-confidence.
7 Be compassionate
Being compassionate for yourself and others is key for being self-confident. Being compassionate is about seeing others, without judgement or criticism. The confident person understands that everyone is doing the best they can. Even what seems like completely dysfunctional behavior has a positive intention behind it.
Sometimes being compassionate towards yourself is the most difficult. Self-compassion means loving and accepting yourself as you are. It’s about recognizing your own inherent worth. Your worth as a person has nothing to do with accomplishments or status. Your value comes from the fact that you exist.
This concept of worth based on mere existed is illustrated in the following story:
A story illustrating human worth
There was a tree with big branches and abundant leaves. One day a couple of weary travelers who were tired from walking all day in the sun, came to sit under the tree and commented on how useless it was. After all, this tree did not bear fruit. And there seemed to be no other way it could be put to use. The tree immediately told the travelers that they were benefiting from its mere existence.
The tree didn’t seem valuable to the travelers. But, through its mere existence, it provided a great benefit to those who approached it. That’s how human worth works. We all have value because we exist. While we can’t provide value to everyone, we all have a unique contribution to share.
Summary: 7 keys to developing superhuman self-confidence
Well, there you have it. This has been 7 keys to developing superman self-confidence. To summarize:
- Eat your “mental breakfast” every morning
- Access the state of confidence often by remembering your past successes
- Turn your inner critic into a helpful coach
- Redefine your past, and look towards the future
- Ask for what you want and go for it
- Be assertive
- Be compassionate
Follow these tips everyday, and you will be well on your way to developing superhuman levels of self- confidence! Remember, confidence is a muscle that has to be flexed often for it to grow stronger. Please like, comment, and subscribe and let me know if there are any other tips you would like to add that are important for building super confidence!