This is the third in a series of 6 blog posts on managing your fear of change or transitions based on my C-H-A-N-G-E method. Having confidence in yourself is an essential skill for managing your fear.
In my blog post – “Why do we Fear Change if it is Just Part of Life” – https://www.triskeliontransitions.com/blog/ – I wrote about how the brain tries to control your fear of change. I also introduced you to the skills I encourage to help you manage that fear of change – these are my essential CHANGE skills. In this post I will discuss the second skill in the method. H – Have Confidence in yourself.
When you were younger, what did confidence look like? Did you describe it as a posture? A way of acting? Or did an actor or fictional character embody your idea of confidence? For me, Mary Tyler Moore embodied confidence, both the fictional one who tossed up her hat at the end of each opening to the show and the real one who chased her dreams and broke down barriers in Hollywood.
Yet, as we get older, we leave these images behind, often labelling them as “childhood fantasies.” What if we embraced those images instead of pushing them away?
When I begin to lose confidence in myself, I remember my teens, when The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran on TV. Now as a 50-something woman, I’ve revisited my childhood dream and studied her confident ‘take on the town’ attitude. Just envisioning her courage, bravery and confidence help me to stand up straighter and smile more. In short, I begin to behave like I have the confidence of MTM and can take the world on with my smile.
Building Confidence From the Outside In
To effect an important change within ourselves, we sometimes have to act the part first. Like actors who automatically slip into character once they’re in costume, smiling more and standing up straighter can help us feel more confident. If your confidence has taken a hit (or feels like it’s sinking), start with those two simple steps: standing straighter and smiling.
Of course, without support from our deeper selves, that confidence can remain superficial. Part of having confidence in yourself is being kind to yourself. It involves learning you deserve to live a full and rewarding life free of guilt. If you have a hard time believing this about yourself, you’re not alone. What helped me was a form of meditation called loving kindness meditation, which I learned about from Thich Nhat Hanh.
Loving Kindness Meditation
This style of meditation requires nothing special and has no time requirements. However, consider where you’d like to practise it. Continuing with the idea of building confidence starting from the outside, choose a supportive chair or lie down on the floor to give you a physical representation of confidence.
Next, begin with deep belly breaths to help you relieve tension in your body and help you sink more into the support around you.
Then repeat each of the following sentences. Saying them out loud is helpful, but if that feels awkward, unnatural, or scary to you, say them silently. You can write them down when you first begin. I did.
- May I be free from inner and outer harm.
- May I be happy.
- May I be healthy.
- May I live with ease.
- May I experience love and joy.
- May I be free from pain and suffering.
At first I couldn’t complete even the first two thoughts without crying, and I would become flooded with emotion and unable to continue.
Whatever emotions you experience, know that they’re okay.
Meditating on Loving Kindness for Others
What moves me with loving kindness meditation is that it can be expanded to include others. For example, you might say this:
- May my spouse be free from inner and outer harm.
- May my spouse be happy.
- May my spouse be healthy.
- May my spouse live with ease.
- May my spouse experience love and joy.
- May my spouse be free from pain and suffering.
However, you can also use this meditation to help you practise loving kindness toward those who have harmed you. It’s a very loving meditation, as the name suggests. With continued practice, I could expand the meditation and believe I deserved everything it said. I could even include my ex-husband in the meditation. This was incredibly difficult at first: emotions flooded me and there were many tears. But it got easier as time went on and I began to see him as merely human, not purposefully hurtful to me.
Loving Kindness Meditation and Confidence
After practising this many, many times, I understood I did deserve all the things the meditation asked me to wish for myself. As I expanded the statements to make them about people with whom I had a difficult relationship, I found myself letting go of the anger and hurt that surfaced when I thought of them.
It’s hard not to have confidence when you acknowledge and believe you deserve those six experiences.
Other Ways to Build Confidence
Building confidence doesn’t usually happen overnight, and it rarely happens with a telltale scene like you see in the movies. Instead of waiting for confidence to magically appear one day, try taking action in other areas of your life. Here are a few ideas:
- Dress in a way that boosts your mood and empowers you. Wear make-up, do your hair nicely, whatever boosts your morale a bit. Like smiling and standing straighter, this may seem superficial, but anything that makes you feel good in a healthful way will boost your confidence.
- Exercise. When your body feels strong and healthy, your mindset notices the difference and improves your confidence. There’s something to be said for taking stairs without complaining.
- Grow your positivity through things like practising gratitude and self-affirmations. Both of these techniques are proven ways to combat negative self-talk, which destroys confidence.
- Volunteer doing something that brings you joy and satisfaction. Giving your time generously helps you feel good about yourself. Both build confidence.
- Live in a way that supports your values/principles. This helps you to realize you are a good person.
- Keep your promises to yourself. This is perhaps the hardest and may require an accountability partner, but it will help you build momentum toward your goal. You’ll feel more like a person of action than a person who can’t accomplish things.
Set Small Goals
When our self-confidence is low, many goals may seem improbable. Yet you still walk to the fridge to get yourself something to eat, go when nature calls, and check your social media feed. In other words, you already set yourself small goals each day.
What’s the next step for you? Try any of these:
- Add five minutes of loving kindness meditation to your day.
- Rummage through your accessories to rediscover a necklace or scarf you’ve long forgotten about and wear an outfit to match the next day.
- Get off the bus one stop earlier to fit a few extra minutes of exercise into your day.
You can probably brainstorm dozens of ideas that can become small goals to work toward as you rebuild your self-confidence on both your inside and outside. Don’t forget to reward yourself in some way for taking these small steps to build your confidence.
Building Confidence When Action Isn’t Enough
Life throws you curveballs all the time, and your confidence can take a hit. This doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time. Has an athlete who trains daily wasted their time when they come in fourth? No. As humans, we will spend the rest of our lives learning about ourselves, and that means our self-confidence will sometimes be challenged.
When you’re down, channel your inner childhood role model, like I do Mary Tyler Moore. This role model can be real or fictional, human or cartoon. Keep the image close to you. Use a dream board, a journal, sticky notes with phrases, or quotes that remind you of that role model.
A friend of mine, for example, has one of those Walmart-bought photo collage frames filled with photos of people she looks up to. Most are real authors and actors who inspire her, but she also has a specific photo of Clark Kent and Lois Lane in the collage. (She’s okay that I share this with you.) The collage hangs behind the door to her office so that when she opens and closes the door, she always sees it. She says the people in that collage give her the strength to stick to her goals.
Behaving as if and believing that you have confidence boosts your mental state and tricks your brain into embracing this new confident attitude instead of the old self-doubter attitude. Add loving kindness meditation to the mix, and you’ll be strengthening your self-confidence on both the inside and outside every day.