How to Gain Self Confidence and Destroy Limitations

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Remember those cartoons we used to watch where the angel would poof and appear on Bugs Bunny’s right shoulder and the devil would poof and appear on Bugs Bunny’s left shoulder, and have a conflicting conversation?? Have you ever experienced that – the angel/devil conflict before?

“You’ll never be able to do that,” “You can do it,” “You’re not smart enough,” “You can do anything you set your mind to,” “People aren’t attracted to people like you.” Chances are you’ve had at least one of these thoughts creep through your mind at some point in your life.

We all experience both positive and negative thoughts about our self image, but how do we “tame the critic within?” What does that mean exactly – to tame the inner critic? Of all of the challenges of life; this one is one of the toughest nuts to crack! Who doesn’t want energy to run their own life? We all do. When we have self-confidence we have the ‘fuel’ to take on any challenge that comes our way.

By nature our minds are non-judgmental, goal seeking machines, ready to lock in on any target as instructed. Our job then becomes to develop a self image that will pass on the correct instructions to our machine. So how do we do this?

The bad news is many of our beliefs about ourselves we developed in our childhood before we really had the ability to understand what we were believing about ourselves! The good news is you can raise your self-confidence to a healthy level, even if you’re an adult!

Unshakable self-confidence is built by changing the way you think – about yourself and your life. Here are 5 steps to help you build your self confidence. As you go through these five steps, consider jotting down your thoughts, experiences and observations in a journal to help you use these steps more effectively.

Step 1: Identify troubling conditions or situations
Think about the conditions or situations that you find troubling and that seem to deflate your self-confidence, such as dreading a business presentation, frequently becoming angry or always expecting the worst. You may be struggling with a change in life circumstances, such as the death of a loved one, job loss or children leaving home, or a relationship with another person, such as a spouse, family member or co-worker.

Step 2: Become aware of beliefs and thoughts
Once you’ve identified troubling conditions or situations, pay attention to your thoughts related to them. This includes your self-talk — what you tell yourself — and your interpretation of what the situation means. Your thoughts and beliefs may be positive, negative or neutral. They may be rational — based on reason or facts — or irrational — based on false ideas.

Step 3: Pinpoint negative or inaccurate thinking

Notice when your thoughts turn toward the negative. Your beliefs and thoughts about a situation affect your reaction to it. Negative thoughts and beliefs about something or someone can trigger physical, emotional and behavioral responses, such as:

• Physical responses. These may include muscle tension, a sore back, racing heart, stomach problems, sweating or changes in sleeping patterns.
• Emotional responses. These may include difficulty concentrating, or feeling depressed, angry, sad, nervous, guilty or worried.
• Behavioral responses. These may include eating when not hungry, avoiding tasks, working more than usual, spending increased time alone, obsessing about a situation or blaming others for your problems.

Step 4: Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking
Your initial thoughts may not be the only possible way to view a situation. So test the accuracy of your thoughts. Ask yourself whether your view is consistent with facts and logic or whether there might be other explanations for the situation.

You may not easily recognize inaccuracies in your thinking, though. Most people have automatic, long-standing ways of thinking about their lives and themselves. These long-held thoughts and beliefs feel normal and factual to you, but many are actually just opinions or perceptions.

These kinds of thought patterns tend to erode self-confidence:

• All-or-nothing thinking. You see things as either all good or all bad. For example, “If I don’t succeed in this task, I’m a total failure.”
• Mental filtering. You see only negatives and dwell on them, distorting your view of a person or situation. For example, “I made a mistake on that report and now everyone will realize I’m not up to this job.”
• Converting positives into negatives. You reject your achievements and other positive experiences by insisting that they don’t count. For example, “I only did well on that test because it was so easy.”
• Jumping to negative conclusions. You reach a negative conclusion when little or no evidence supports it. For example, “My friend hasn’t replied to my e-mail, so I must have done something to make her angry.”
• Mistaking feelings for facts. You confuse feelings or beliefs with facts. For example, “I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure.” No matter how strong a feeling is, it isn’t a fact.
• Self put-downs. You undervalue yourself, put yourself down or use self-deprecating humor. This can result from overreacting to a situation, such as making a mistake. For example, “I don’t deserve anything better.”

Step 5: Change your thoughts and beliefs
Once you’ve identified negative or inaccurate thinking you can replace it with accurate thoughts and beliefs. This can enable you to find constructive ways to cope, and give your self-confidence a boost.

It takes time and effort to learn how to recognize and replace distressing thoughts with accurate ones. Thoughts often occur spontaneously or automatically. They can be hard to control or turn off. Thoughts also can be very powerful and aren’t always based on logic.

With practice, these steps may come more easily to you. You’ll be better able to recognize the thoughts and beliefs that are contributing to not having self-confidence. Because self-confidence can fluctuate over time, you may want to revisit these steps, especially if you begin to feel down on yourself again. Keeping a journal or daily log can help you track trouble spots over time.

Achieving a balanced, accurate view of yourself and accepting your value as a person can help you feel happier and more confident. And that may rub off on others too, including your children, family and friends.

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