Have you ever been too shy to speak up, or felt intimidated when in a group of people who you perceive to have achieved more than you have? Even the most outgoing and accomplished of us have a wobble of confidence from time to time, where our self-esteem shatters.
Niggling thoughts of unfulfilled goals. A sense of imposter syndrome at work. Feelings of inadequacy that arise after scrolling through social media. All of these events (and many more!) have the power to spark low self-confidence. Indeed, research in Singapore has confirmed that engaging in social media, creating and sharing content about products, can trigger a damaging social comparison process.
“Low self-confidence can create a sense of internal disharmony, when we have thoughts or beliefs that don’t match our behaviours or decisions,” explains Lindley Craig, a certified NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) trainer and founder of All In The Mind and the president of the NLP Association Singapore. “For instance, a person may wish to speak up, yet their low self-esteem doesn’t allow them to do so. They may blame it on something outside of themselves which can cause anxiety and — over time — potentially chronic conditions like mental health issues.”
To help you to mindfully build your self-confidence, Lindley and Dr Jade Kua, an associate certified coach accredited by the International Coaching Federation and founder of Jade Life and Wellness (Singapore), share their tried-and-tested self help and self-esteem boosting techniques.
Ask yourself questions
While some find it affirming to repeat positive mantras like “I can achieve this”, consider a slightly different approach. Lindley suggests asking yourself questions such as, “How can I be more confident today?” or “What can I do today that will develop my confidence?”
Let your subconscious ponder the questions as you go about your day. By doing so, it’s likely that actionable ideas, such as telling yourself to raise your hand during a meeting, or making a resolution to write down your thoughts to look over them afterwards, will flow into your mind organically.”
Says Lindley, “Research suggests that the mind responds better when presented with questions rather thanstatements. It’s not necessary to think of an answer, because you’ve just given your brain a question to mull over. By doing so, you help to reinforce feelings of self-confidence perhaps without even realising it.”
Instead of becoming overwhelmed by your perceived shyness, take time to unearth your underlying root issues. “Honestly examine why you feel you have poor self-esteem. Is it related to your personal image or perceptions about your abilities?” asks Dr Kua.
Make a list of what success and confidence are to you. “Perhaps if you’re shy and find it difficult to strike up conversations, you might consider being able to speak up easily as a socially attractive trait,” she says.
Once you’ve identified an aspect of yourself that you’d like to improve on, set specific measurable and achievable targets. For example, try to strike up conversations with others whenever there’s an opportunity. This will give yourself the chance to grow in confidence.
Perhaps practice introducing yourself to new friends before the event so you feel less insecure when it happens in reality. Be mentally prepared for moments that cause you stress by having some easy conversation starters up your sleeve, such as “What movies have you watched recently?” or “What’s the next destination on your bucket list?”. Being prepared can provide a real lift to your self-confidence.
Change your posture
What does confidence look like?
There is truth to the adage “fake it until you make it”. To project a sense of conviction, change the way you carry yourself. This in turn will positively improve your mental state.
“People with confidence sit upright, stand tall and are alert and focused. They breathe evenly and look above the horizon line — not down to the floor,” says Lindley. “Just by pulling your shoulders back, looking people in the eye and not fidgeting as you speak, you’ll be giving the impression of assertion even if you’re a wreck inside. And a lot can be said for flashing a smile — this immediately makes you appear more approachable and self-assured.”
Do the impossible
Forcing yourself to do the thing that scares you is often the most effective way to build up your self-esteem. This is because the discomfort of confronting your inadequacies will reveal that you can actually handle your perceived problems.
In particular, people who lack certitude often feel they cannot rely on themselves. Overcome this by challenging yourself with a new project to prove that you’re more capable than you think. Lindley says,“Building skills raises our neural networks — connections in our minds that allow us to achieve things more easily. Once we repeat these actions, they become familiar and our neural network becomes stronger.”
Have an accountability partner
Ultimately, the key to growing in confidence is practice. So, once you’ve set your mind to feeling more self-assured, find an ‘accountability partner’ to keep you on track. “This could be a coach, a friend or even a personal journal,” says Dr Kua. Your accountability partner can offer support and prevent you from straying away from your intentions. You’ll stay honest to your goals and the results will speak for themselves.