Confidence is often seen as a silver bullet: a cure-all mindset allowing us to feel our best in any situation, go toe to toe with any competitor, boss, or colleague – essentially being anything or anyone we want in any given situation.
Sounds amazing, no?
The problem, as with most states of mind, is how we get there. When asking the majority of those with an unshakable mindset how they achieved it, the response is often “just be more confident!” The reason is mainly that they have never experienced a true lack of confidence, whether due to their environment or biology. This, however, is a topic of discussion for another time.
You have a similar scenario when you tell people you are anxious. They might say, “stop being so anxious, then,” and expect your problem to magically disappear. They don’t understand this state of mind and the difficulty with changing it because they have no first-hand experience of it.
It may be difficult rebuilding your confidence once it is shaken, especially if you have not experienced something similar before.
As can often be the case, the issue is that we get stuck in habits or practices that hurt us rather than help us. The good news is that only a slight mind shift allows us to ‘claw’ back our confidence. I use the word ‘claw’, because, even though the shift is simple enough, the work that goes into it is by no means easy!
As Theodore Roosevelt said:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
There are 5 practices holding you back from unshakable confidence.
1. Your Inner Critic.
This is that insidious little voice inside your head, the one that pops up when things aren’t going your way. This usually occurs when you’ve made a mistake or let yourself and others down.
To shut that little bugger up you have to cultivate and practice of self-awareness – you need to catch yourself in the act of self-sabotage. You may ask why? I hate to tell you this, but if you don’t do something about it, it’s not going to stop!
Here are some examples of the things we might say to ourselves and how to change them in order to build a confident mindset.
You’re not good enough
This can pop up in so many ways and at such inopportune moments! We can doubt our abilities, our achievements, even ourselves. But when you really think about it, what is the evidence to back up these lies we say inside our heads? There is often no real evidence of their truth at all.
If the only thoughts bouncing around your mind are insecurities and negativity, accept that this is where you currently are and endeavour to change your situation. As soon as you make a move in the right direction, you begin to become good enough.
“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez
You’re too old
This is an excuse and we all know it, so stop bullshitting yourself, and everyone around you, for that matter. There are many who have done great things in the riper stages of life. So why can’t you?
He was 50 when he published On the Origin of Species in 1859, still the definitive text for biological science, even today. For a total of 33 years, on three separate voyages aboard the HMS Beagle, Darwin formulated his theory. His ‘overnight success’ took him over three decades to accomplish.
Samuel L Jackson
A man so cool he makes swearing sound like song lyrics. For most of his life, he was a blur of the person who frightened us with Ezekiel [25:17], in the cult classic Pulp Fiction (if you haven’t yet watched it, take the time, it has to be one of the best movie monologues, ever). He landed his role as Jules, alongside John Travolta, at the age of 46, as a recovering heroin and cocaine addict.
You’re a Fraud
This is when you feel that you are out of your depth, that others in your field are smarter and better equipped for the job than you are. This is just another example of your sinister subconscious trying to keep you in your comfort zone. Once you venture out of it you will be a novice at first, you will be a beginner. Get used to it! This is how we grow, develop, and add to our skill set. If you ever feel like a fraud, take it as an indication that you are headed in the right direction.
It is also helpful to remember that no one on planet earth is the same as you are. You are unique in every way, from the way you look to the way you think. Therefore, there is no one who can do what you do, the way you do it! Simply by being authentic and doing things your own way, you have an unfair advantage. So don’t bother trying to do things the same as everyone else. As Oscar Wilde said,
‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’
These negative thoughts are so often bred from past experiences, ranging from mistakes we’ve made, a scolding from a teacher or parent, or an epically embarrassing moment. There is no point in looking back at what happened in the past; not a month, not a year, not even a day ago. You cannot change anything. You can only change how you move forward.
- Don’t dwell on the past, look to forging your future.
- Don’t blame your circumstances, aim to change them.
- Don’t settle for mediocre, chase the impossible.
2. Celebrate good times, come on! (No matter how small)
Yes, that is a Kool & The Gang song lyric. No, I’m not embarrassed. It’s a great song and I hope you’re singing it to yourself right now!
If “action is the antidote to despair” then celebrating the small wins is the “complement to confidence.” Remember the last time you achieved a goal and how you felt? That is confidence.
Success breeds confidence!
But how can celebrating something, seemingly insignificant, help you maintain a positive mindset?
Re-emphasise the Importance of Goal-setting
I don’t really need to re-iterate the value of setting intentional and specific goals. However, it really is that fundamental, so I’ll do so again.
Goal setting is fucking important!
We all have a destination in mind, a company we want to start, a bank balance, a body type, whatever the goal is, it doesn’t matter.
What does? How are we going to get there? What are the daily actions we are going to take to achieve what we want?
When we celebrate our achievements, it shows our plan is working and allows us the opportunity to iterate, pivot, or continue as planned.
Promotes Work-life Balance.
Let’s be honest! Many of us burn out like a box shape BMW if we don’t force ourselves to take a moment. How do we do this? By celebrating a milestone or where you have achieved something (tangible progress) and you get to have a break (balance).
When you take the time to celebrate something you do exactly that, you take the time! You have to step away from the grind, to take a moment and pat yourself on the back. You can use the opportunity to give yourself a reward. Spend a day with your mates, have dinner with the misses, or join a basket weaving class. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s something you enjoy. This creates positive reinforcement, and who doesn’t want a little more positivity in their lives?
Starting small is important. Remember the Accretion Process?
It Creates Momentum
Momentum is by far one of the greatest motivators. It keeps you going when times are tough and spurs you on from one phase to the next.
But how can stopping to celebrate create momentum? It sounds counter productive, right?
When moving at light speed we become bogged down by the process. We go and go and don’t come up for air. The process becomes laborious and we stop enjoying it. What keeps our love for the process alive is progress. It’s accomplishment. It’s difficult to see progress when we don’t acknowledge it. So often we complete one task and power onto the next one without ever giving it the time of day or a toast with a whisky.
Slow down, take a break, and take the time. It will keep you motivated, help keep you balanced, and give you a good excuse to sip some great whisky.
3. You Ungrateful Bastard!
We all expect things to be exactly where we want them to be, exactly when we want them to be there (Wi-Fi, trains, planes, Uber). We live in a society of entitlement and ungratefulness. We take the marvels of science, design, engineering, and hundreds of other disciplines, for granted.
Just think about this for a second. The odds of you being alive are one in 400 trillion. Close to half of the world’s population survives on less than $2.50 per day. Over 1.3 billion live on half of that. The pure fact that you are alive, with the means to be educated, the ability to drive to work, and even live in a house, are things to not only be grateful for but astonished by.
There is always something to be grateful for! Don’t be an ungrateful bastard!
By cultivating the practice of gratitude, you begin to look for the good in pretty much everything, which yields profound results.
It Keeps you Happy and Positive
It’s difficult to be sad when you are constantly seeing everything as great. You begin to appreciate and notice things you didn’t before. This, in turn, makes you more observant. You begin to appreciate things you hadn’t before.
It Strengthens your Relationships
When seeing the good in people, the mistakes they made, the wrongs they committed, and the arguments you had, it all seems insignificant. You understand that they are human, the same as you. As Wendy Mass so eloquently put it:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Simply put, gratitude makes you more empathetic.
Focus on what Actually Matters
Money, cars, and houses are all just things and don’t actually add any real value to our lives. If this is all you are after I feel sorry for you. There is so much more to life than this. Gratitude keeps you humble by focusing your attention on the important aspects of life, relationships with family and friends, and moments of joy and happiness. Money might provide a mainline injection of happiness, but it doesn’t last and will never be enough!
When times are tough it’s difficult to see how we will ever get through it. The practice of daily gratitude reminds us of what we do have to be thankful for. The things we take for granted. Like running water, a roof over our heads, and a family.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, indicating the portion of the world population without the basic means of survival.
It’s quite sobering and humbling to realise that while we’re worried about the barista taking too long to make our soya milk decaf double-shot latte with cinnamon sprinkles and a touch of vanilla syrup, people are struggling to fulfill the most basic of human needs.
So, next time you think about losing your shit over a problem people in extreme poverty have never even heard of, you’ll consider a little restraint and resilience. Toughen up buttercup. It’s not all that bad!
Increases your ability to achieve goals
Looking for the greatness in all situations keeps you motivated towards your goals. You appreciate challenges as an opportunity to learn. This keeps you focused on your target. We all love to do what we enjoy doing, so the process of gratitude keeps us focused on the positive.
This goes back to celebrating our wins. When we celebrate the milestones it forces use to reflect on how far we have come and highlights the all-important progress. We are showing gratitude for the opportunities we have, for the people that helped us, and the ability to move forward with the next stage in our process.
Without gratitude, nothing will ever be enough. You will always be chasing an ever-shifting goal post, never stopping to appreciate what you have, where you are, and how far you have come.
4. A Lack of Learning
“Once you stop learning you start dying” – Albert Einstein
Truer words have never been uttered.
Dr. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset.
The Fixed Mindset is the belief that our abilities and intelligence are a constant (fixed) and cannot be developed. This is the same as the talent excuse, i.e. you’re given what you have at birth and that is what you live with for the rest of our lives. Essentially, people with this mindset, try their best not to say the wrong thing at the risk of looking thick.
The Growth Mindset is the belief that our abilities and skills are developed through our efforts, learning, and persistence. You don’t think everyone is or can be the same, but know that you can gain abilities and become smarter by working at it.
The belief that our abilities are resolute and cannot evolve promotes the very opposite of the confident mindset. Having a certain type of character requires you to prove you have a whole lot of it to escape inadequacy. Constantly trying to prove yourself to others stops you from focusing on what’s important to you. It also promotes vast amounts of anxiety, which, essentially, is the antithesis of confidence.
Conversely, the belief that everything and anything can be learned stimulates the confident mindset. Knowing that you are a constantly evolving means being open to opportunities to learn from people smarter than you and not feeling inadequate because you don’t know as much as them. It turns failures into lessons. Actually, their definition of failure is not pushing themselves to develop at all.
Having the growth mindset can promote confidence in a number of ways:
It Prepares You.
Remember leaving the exam hall after writing a test you studied for? Your head was held high and you walked with the swagger of Liam Gallagher. You were confident because you knew your shit! It’s the same in any other situation. If you are well read on a certain topic of conversation you’re eloquent, knowledgeable, and intelligent.
It Promotes Deliberate Practice
With the growth mindset, you are constantly stretching your potential to be better and learn more. You avoid stagnation. Simply put, deliberate practice makes you good. Being good makes you confident.
It Fuels the Creative Spirit
When constantly learning, our interests become wide-ranging and varied. We can think outside the box and make connections that we wouldn’t have before. This allows us to innovate and create something completely new and unique, something that no one has conceived of before. If that doesn’t make you confident, I don’t know what will! Remember Steve Jobs? He was a revolutionary innovator and was confident AF, actually bordering on arrogant AF!
5. Taking the Time to Recover
A knock to our confidence in our professional, personal or creative space can hurt like a mofo. It can leave lasting wounds. We need to give ourselves time to tend to those wounds, but not lick them!
Let me explain.
I took my pooch to the vet, to have his knackers removed – sorry buddy. After the operation, they gave me the cone of shame to put around his neck. Without this, he would lick his wounds and it wouldn’t get better. When I put the cone on he found it so uncomfortable he would freeze up, so much, it looked like he was taxidermied. After he went through the initial discomfort of looking like a schnauzer shoved the wrong way down a lampshade. He managed to get used to it and could still do dog things. The upside is his wounds didn’t fester, they healed perfectly.
It’s exactly the same with emotional wounds. We cannot let ourselves obsess over them by constantly thinking what we could have done differently. We need to put on our big boy pants and face the uncomfortable reality of what happened and move forward.
So how do we do this?
When we begin to wallow we tend to get lost down a pit of despair. Once we start down this path, recovery becomes difficult – it becomes an excuse for not taking action.
Your confidence has taken a hit and you’re not going to get over it lightly, our possibly ever. It will, however, become manageable, especially if we keep our head in the cone, so to speak.
It’s very important to continue with our routine and do the things that make us happy. Don’t stop going to the gym, don’t stop meditating, don’t stop spending time with family and friends, and definitely don’t stop those basket weaving lessons!
Another great way to healthily heal your wounds is to journal.
Erik developed a great system for getting stuff done by starting each morning with intention. It’s called J1G. This is perfect for when you are “living in rhythm”, i.e. living to your full potential, confidentially pursuing the life you want. The trouble is that when we fall out of confidence it’s difficult to get anything done, let alone live to our full potential.
So, off the back of the J1G framework, I have developed a morning journal system, designed to help you regain confidence and get you back to your best. It’s called JAAGG and it works exactly the same.
Journal – This is where you let your mind loose and let out all the negativity. You can write anything you want (just a few sentences). You’re the only one who is going to read it. Write how you feel as you wake up, how you slept, anything. It’s about uncluttering the thoughts floating around in your head in order to make sense of it all. The language we use when talking, thinking, or writing about ourselves is extremely important. Our subconscious absorbs everything. Stay away from self-defeating words and phrases. “I’m always…” “I never…” “I just can’t seem to…” rather describe how you feel, even if it’s not a great emotion. That’s the thing about emotions. They change. They never last.
Affirmations – Write a short list (4-5) of how you want to be, but preface each statement with “I am…” Your mind starts to believe you are those things and pulls you towards them like a magnet. This is the perfect opportunity to affirm the opposite of the negative thoughts you have been telling yourself and to counteract their effect.
Achievements – When our confidence takes a dip we forget how great we really are. This section serves as a reminder of what we have done, how far we have come, and that we are capable of. Write down a few of the things you are proud of (4-5), everyone has them. You just might have to dig for them. It can be passing an exam, being a great husband or father or starting a business. These are all achievements we forget about. Remember to celebrate the small wins!
Gratitude – I won’t continue to drone on about the importance of this anymore, even thought I could, for hours. Write down (4-5) things for which you are grateful. It’s really simple. It could include “your life”, “a roof over your head,” “family and friends,” and/or “your abilities” Gratitude for the simplest and smaller stuff makes you much more appreciative of the larger things.
Goals – I always find, during moments of uncertainty, that a great way to build resilience is to reassess what you really want. No matter what happened to you, the opportunity to start fresh is always there. Take this time to discover whether you are still heading in the right direction or whether you would like to pivot into something that might be more fitting. Look at your long-term goals and your short-term goals.
“Know what you want. Clarity is power. And vague goals promote vague results.” – Robin Sharma
Doing it all at once can be overwhelming, but just start with J. Do that for a week and move on to another the next. This shouldn’t be a burden as there is no right or wrong. Ease into it and take the time to recover.
Trial, tribulation, and tough times are the foundations that allow us to build greatness. What happens to us, and how we learn from it, shapes us into the people we become. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t want to listen to the man who has never experienced defeat, never tried and failed, never loved and lost. I want to learn from those gentlemen who have risked it all, fallen and got back up, given their all and lost only to get up again the next day, been to hell and back, been burnt, bloodied and bruised, yet still face the world with a smile on their face and a lesson learned.
I’ll leave you with a final quote from Winston Churchill:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
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