Improving Self-Confidence Using Scientific Methods
How do we go about improving our self-confidence? What even is self-confidence? And why does it matter?
Many people come into recovery riddled with anxiety, with a low opinion of themselves, a lack of surety, and little to no trust either in themselves, those around them, or the institutions they may find themselves dealing with. This all plays into self-confidence – it is why we need to build it up.
Self-confidence can be seen as an attitude towards yourself, your capabilities, and your skills. Having self-confidence can be seen as a form of acceptance. You accept yourself, at least in part, you have faith in yourself, and you have a sense of some form of control over your life. This isn’t blind bravado, however – rather, it is a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, tinged with an overall sense of positivity about yourself.
We can also define it in opposition to low self-confidence. Low self-confidence can be characterised as feeling a lot of doubt about yourself, being overly passive or unable to assert yourself, and having trust issues in others. If you struggle with low self-confidence, you may think of yourself as, or at least feel, inferior in some way. You may be overly sensitive to criticism. Or you may see criticism where there is none.
You may find it hard to feel loved or accepted.
However, none of this is related to how you actually are. It’s all perception.
Self-confidence can therefore be anything that low self-confidence isn’t. This is what we want to work towards – feeling loved and accepted (by others, of course, but also by ourselves), being active, being able to overcome doubt, and feeling at least adequate, if not positively fantastic.
It’s hard to do. However, it’s far from impossible.
Improving self-confidence v’s self-esteem: The difference?
There is a great deal of overlap between self-confidence and self-esteem. They influence one another, share common properties, and are often used interchangeably. However, they are different.
Self-confidence refers to your belief in yourself. It can depend on different situations and can often rise or fall depending on different circumstances. Your self-confidence can wax and wane depending on these circumstances. Self-esteem, on the other hand, refers to the appreciation and value you show yourself. It is primarily dependent on your life experiences and interpersonal interactions.
Self-confidence generally depends in part on self-esteem: you need a healthy dose of self-esteem to buoy up your confidence through adverse situations.
Finding the baseline for improving self-confidence
There are many reasons you might suffer from low self-confidence. It might come from different experiences, like childhood trauma or a lack of support during your upbringing, being separated from loved ones, friends, or your home, or a fear of failure (or, inversely, of success).
No matter the reason, self-confidence is something of a false perception. It also often goes hidden, so you may not even know you have low self-confidence. There are, however, some common signs to look out for, which are obviously good places to start when improving your self-confidence. You may be suffering from low self-confidence if any of the following apply.
1. Struggling with anxiety and emotional unrest
Anxiety is often a sign that you are unsure about an outcome. If you fret over something particular, it is a sign that you don’t know how that thing is going to go. This can be a signifier of low self-confidence. However, improving self-confidence here may give you fewer reasons to be anxious over outcomes or situations.
2. Withdrawing from society
If you tend to avoid social situations, it may be a sign that you lack self-confidence. You may prefer to isolate yourself because you’re unsure of your safety or social skills when you mix with other people. Improving self-confidence may help you to feel more comfortable in these social situations.
3. Worrying too much about other people’s opinions
Worrying overly much about what other people think of you can be a sure sign of low self-confidence. On the flip side, if you work on improving self-confidence, you may come to learn that self-love and self-believe are enough – you don’t need to please others to make you happy or feel fulfilled.
4. Being unable to take a compliment
Low self-confidence can lead us to ignore, undermine, or feel uncomfortable with praise. You may not be able to believe what someone just said. You may think that it doesn’t mean much.
If you’re looking at improving your self-confidence, learn to accept these compliments. Say thank you to them, take them on board, and feel them – really feel them.
On the flip side, you may take criticism too much to heart, as it simply underlines what you already think. Take it as constructive, if you can. If there’s a nasty edge to it, try to ignore it. You are better than that.
5. Neglecting yourself
Low self-confidence can often be characterised by an inability – or an unwillingness – to do right by yourself. After all, you might wonder, why bother?
Why? Because you’re worth it and you deserve it.
This can show physically. You might neglect your appearance. It can show itself in your health, as you live unhealthily because you don’t think you deserve better.
You may also assume that you’re going to be unsuccessful at things, which can lead you to miss out on opportunities, accept second best, and lack the ability to succeed or attain fulfilment. You might also simply assume that you’ll fail in any challenge, so you don’t even make the attempt.
This is a false perception. Take care of yourself. Take on challenges. This will signify that you are improving your self-confidence whilst simultaneously being self-fulfilling – doing so will give you self-confidence.
6. Mistrusting your own judgement
If you tend to second-guess yourself or undermine your own views, it could be a sign of low self-confidence. You are doubting your ability to make a good judgement call. This can also show up as an inability to hold your own in an argument, or even in a simple conversation. Rather than sticking to your guns, you kowtow and take on other people’s views – or at least accede to them – simply to maintain peace.
You may even find it hard to speak up in the first place, not trusting yourself to say something of worth, and not valuing your own contributions or opinions.
Improving your self-confidence should put this to put. It should give you confidence in your own thinking.
7. Struggling in improving self-confidence
You will absolutely struggle as you seek to improve your self-confidence. This is normal. However, treat it as a learning curve, especially as it runs hand-in-hand with addiction recovery. This is a chance to build resilience and show yourself and the world what you are capable of. Don’t let setbacks undermine your own sense of self.
There are, luckily, plenty of ways to improve your self-confidence. Many will overlap with improving your self-esteem. As above, the two are separate but intertwined: self-confidence will often depend on your self-esteem.
The following methods are proven ways of improving your self-confidence.
Improving self-acceptance for self-confidence
Self-confidence often comes hand in hand with self-acceptance. This is because self-acceptance is simply you telling yourself that you’re doing OK.
Practising self-acceptance can mean that you accept your mistakes as part of life’s learning process. We all screw up sometimes, but don’t let this diminish your self-confidence – just accept it. It can help you to see ways to solve problems differently or change your way of thinking. It can allow you to evaluate your behaviour and circumstances without criticising yourself – your faults don’t undermine your sense of self.
Self-confidence is situational. You shouldn’t find yourself having to avoid situations. However, as you go about improving your self-confidence you should note where you feel more or less confident. This will help you to identify your strengths as well as areas that perhaps need some work.
Critique yourself, too, without being critical. Learn your strengths and weaknesses without them being judgements. List what you’re proud of, good at, and confident with. List what you need to work on and simply be aware.
With this in mind, try to identify positive and negative influences on your life. As much as possible, try to surround yourself with the positive and keep the negative at arm’s length.
Reprograming your thinking
This will all help you to reprogram your thinking. However, you can take this a step further in improving your self-confidence.
Language matters. How you talk and think about yourself matters. Take note of the kind of language you use for yourself as opposed to others. You may find that you use far more positive, complimentary language with others than with yourself.
Turn this around (though don’t stop being nice to others!) Use kinder, more confident, more complimentary language to refer to yourself. This will help you to reprogram your inner critic, making it far less emotionally damaging and far more constructive.
Also, learn to reward yourself. Those lacking self-confidence often don’t, as they don’t believe they deserve it. We all deserve it. Celebrate your accomplishments to really cement them in your inner picture of yourself.
This might be better phrased as ‘practice assertiveness’. It needn’t be combative or arrogant. It needn’t be destructive. Simply practice telling others about your needs, sharing your thoughts and opinions, asking for what you want and saying no to what you don’t.
Share with others, too. Assertiveness need not be about control. Rather, it’s about putting yourself out there for both scrutiny and praise. Tell people what you’re up to. Listen to their feedback; accept their encouragement; return it with your own feedback and encouragement directed at them.
Again, this will display improved self-confidence whilst also improving your self-confidence in a virtuous cycle.