“The moment you doubt whether you can fly,
you cease forever to be able to do it.”
Do you ever feel like a duck stuck in white water, paddling furiously and never getting any closer to where you want to go? The goals and dreams you have just aren’t coming together, and you’re not sure where or why you’re missing the mark.
You think you’re doing your best and busting your butt at work, but that promotion never materializes. You’re so excited about the date you had last week, and you thought it went well, but he never responds to follow-up calls. You work really hard at a new business idea, put in significant time, effort, and energy, but for some reason it just never catches on.
So you catch yourself thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Am I not good enough? Am I not smart enough?”
Then at other times you know you’re not on your ‘A’ game, but you try to cover it up. You put on a happy face and hope no one notices how fearful and full of doubt you’re feeling. And while acting confidently like this, despite your doubt, may be a decent strategy for boosting self-confidence over the long-term, you’re still sending out lots of low confidence signals to the decision-makers and important people in your life.
Your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings translate to noticeable expressions that actually spotlight just how unsure you’re feeling. And unfortunately, low self-confidence is an unattractive and off-putting quality to almost everyone, no matter how smart you are or how ingenious your ideas may be… Which means it may be the very reason success in various walks of life has been so elusive.
In fact, did you know that 93% of the recognizable messages we send to others are through non-verbal communication?
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He learned that only 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through specific vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.). When we remove the 7% for vocal content, that leaves us with the 93% statistic.
If you are going to act confidently (whether you feel it or not), you must first understand what low confidence behavior looks like. Here are 20 ways you might be trapping yourself by sending out signals of self-doubt:
- Using weak body language – Such as crossing your arms, not smiling, looking down, and not making eye contact
- Hesitating to speak up in groups – Whether in a meeting, social setting, or a public speaking situation
- Avoiding interaction with anyone new – Being unable to initiate new connections or approach someone you want to meet
- Weak verbal communication – Speaking with a low voice, ending sentences with questions, or sounding really nervous
- Fear of trying new things or taking on challenges – Difficulty taking actions that stretch your comfort zone or feel even slightly uncomfortable, even if you know they will improve your life
- Hesitating to ask for what you want or need – Inability to confidently express your desires because you don’t feel worthy
- Resistance to letting go of past failures and mistakes – Dwelling in negative thinking and embarrassment of what happened long ago
- Not trusting your own judgment – Feeling your ability to solve problems, make decisions, initiate ideas, or take assertive action is compromised or not as sound as your peers
- Indecisiveness – Not trusting your own judgment enough to even begin to know what you want
- Letting others make your decisions for you – Letting the opinions of others dictate your reality
- Fantasizing about not being successful enough – Feeling intimidated around people perceived as being more successful or accomplished than you
- Feelings of jealously or resentment towards successful people – Projecting your insecurities and longings into negative feelings and behaviors towards others
- Expressing no motivation to take action – Feeling depressed or defeated and seeing action as useless or too difficult
- Purposeful self-sabotage – Creating a situation that makes it impossible to succeed so you’ll have an excuse for failing, or to justify why others should feel sorry for you
- Needing constant external validation – Not just in personal relationships, but from bosses, co-workers, teachers, clients, and peers
- Fear of rejection – Constantly worried that others will purposely shun you or hurt you
- Extreme self-consciousness about how other people perceive you – Feeling painfully shy and uncomfortable about your intelligence and your appearance
- Highly focused on physical appearance and physical flaws – Constant need to check your appearance, compare yourself to others, or obsess about parts of your face or body, at the detriment to everything else
- Establishing no personal boundaries with others – Allowing others to take advantage of you simply because you don’t have the confidence to say “no”
- Being overly accommodating or people pleasing – Completely ignoring your own values, needs, or desires to win affection and approval
Do you see yourself in any of these low self-confidence behaviors? If so, sadly, you are sending signals to those around you that you aren’t deserving or capable of stepping up to take charge of whatever situation you’re facing. And if you don’t appear confident to those around you, they won’t have much confidence in you. Even worse, when these other people show a lack of confidence in you, it will make you feel even less sure of yourself.
7 Steps to Increasing Your Self-confidence
So what can you do to turn these low self-confidence behaviors around – to start acting and feeling more like yourself again? Plenty. And the good news is, confidence is a skill that can be learned and nurtured. Like any other skill, it involves understanding specific actionable steps and practicing them until you gain mastery.
Here are seven important steps to get you started:
- Awaken your awareness. – We cannot change what we refuse to confront. Which is why the first key to any change is self-awareness. You must acknowledge what the problem is and how it’s manifesting in your life. What low confidence thoughts, actions, and choices are you making in your life right now? In what areas of your life might others perceive you as weak or insecure? Be honest with yourself and acknowledge where you need a confidence boost.
- Find the origin and present trigger of self-doubt. – Once you’ve identified where you lack confidence, dig deeper and try to discern why. Was there a triggering event in your childhood or in the recent past that undermined your confidence? Is this situation still a reality in your life? Most of the time it’s just the memory of past pain that keeps us stuck in a rut of low self-confidence. There’s no longer any truth to the event at all. Knowing this puts you back in control.
- Redefine the present truth of your life. – If the past event that triggered your pain is no longer real, find evidence that contradicts the event. Look for authentic, positive situations present in your life right now that reflect confidence and strength. There are likely plenty if you mindfully look around. In other words, train your mind to see the good in everything. Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems. What could you smile about right now if you wanted to? (Read The Happiness Project.)
- Build a realistic schedule of positive actions. – If you discern that you need to do something to improve yourself, your skills, or your comfort level with a situation, then determine exactly what needs to be done and create a list of suitable actions. Maybe you need to switch careers. Maybe you need to meet with a counselor to help overcome deeper past wounds or insecurities. Whatever needs improvement, research it, figure out the first step, and schedule it into your routine. Then let the first step lead to the second step, and schedule that in as well. And so on and so forth.
- Exercise your confidence. – If you feed your confidence you’ll starve your fear. So in small and manageable situations, practice acting confidently – even if you don’t feel confident. Speak up in a meeting. Introduce yourself to someone new. Challenge yourself to do something a bit beyond your comfort zone. As you take action and see some success in these smaller situations, you’ll feel more and more confident. Your increased confidence will allow you to tackle riskier actions that have a higher payoff in the long run.
- Study the upside of failure. – Winston Churchill once said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Know this to be true. Just because you have faced many defeats in your life, does not mean you have been defeated. Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. Every wrong turn you take is a necessary part of your journey towards growth and eventual success. What you learn from failure can be carried to the next effort to ensure a greater chance of success going forward. (Read 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Concentrate on contribution. – Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves. We focus too much on our own perceptions and not enough on the needs of other people. This causes us to feel like the world revolves around us; and among other side effects, it makes us more self-conscious about everything. So break free of your thinking and concentrate more on the contribution you’re making to others. Doing so will help you worry less about your own flaws, because everything will be less about YOU. This will increase your self-confidence and allow you to contribute happiness to the world around you. And when you witness the positive effects of your contributions, you’ll be rewarded with amplified feelings of self-worth.
By paying attention to low confidence behaviors, you not only awaken to areas where you need to improve and strengthen yourself, but also you begin the process of redefining how you are perceived by others. Confidence is the most attractive quality you can possess. Don’t allow low self-confidence to hold you down and keep you from your best self.
And remember, it’s not about how smart you are, or how much you know, it’s about taking action and using what you know to change how you live. Do something today to become the self-assured, successful, and happy person hiding inside you. By reading this post you’re already halfway there.
The floor is yours…
What has helped you boost your confidence during times of insecurity? What’s something positive you try to keep in mind when you’re struggling with self-doubt? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Barrie Davenport is a certified personal coach, published author, founder of two top-ranked personal development blogs, and creator of The Simple Self-Confidence Course.
Photo by: Felipe S. Morin