- The year 2020 has given many of us a huge knock.
- Our self-assurance is made up of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy
- From meditation to lucky charms, to taking a social media break, here are some tips for a confidence boost
What with retrenchments, financial instability, break-ups and uncertainty about the future, 2020 has really knocked the confidence right out of many.
All your plans for the new decade going up in smoke might have left you questioning your ability to handle life. But once down, the only place you can go is up.
If you need a little nudge to improve your self-confidence, there are a few quick and less-than-quick ways to help you do so.
How we define confidence
But first, it's important to understand what confidence is. According to Positive Psychology, confidence is made up of three branches that differ a lot from each other: self-esteem, self-confidence and self-efficacy.
Self-esteem is your perception of yourself and the value you place on your general worth. This doesn't change overnight. It specifically relates to personality traits and what you present to the world.
Self-confidence, on the other hand, is the trait most people are familiar with. This focuses on your belief in your strengths and your ability to handle yourself in various situations.
This differs from self-efficacy, which is your confidence in your skill at completing a task. This is future-focused, whereas the other two are more present-focused, and can increase with practice. It also highlights how much you believe you can change a situation and influence events.
These three terms also don't necessarily link up. You can doubt your cooking skills but still be confident that you are a good host.
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Fighting imposter syndrome
One of the biggest detriments to confidence is Imposter Syndrome, an imagined belief that your successes are due to luck and that people will soon discover that you're a fraud.
It's the opposite of confidence and leads to serious doubt in your abilities without any real reason. It often strikes when you find yourself in a new environment like a job or party and you start thinking, for example, that you don't belong there.
Some of the ways to fight that internal dialogue is to refuse to let it affect your performance and to tell yourself that no one is perfect and that you fully deserve your accomplishments.
Research has shown that mental clarity gained through meditative practices can increase confidence. By quietening the mind, meditation reduces our negative emotions and increases concentration and memory.
You can spend 15 minutes at the beginning of the day to help clear all the clutter from your mind (e.g. self-doubt-inducing emotions). This can be done with the help of an app or just by doing breathing exercises with closed eyes in a quiet space.
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It's never a bad idea to turn to professional help, and short of hiring an expensive life coach, you can turn to the plethora of self-help books that focus on boosting self-confidence.
Finding the right one might require a little research, but the easiest place to start is to check if any of your favourite public figures or idols have written books on the topic or made any recommendations.
It's important, however, not to fall into the trap of comparing your life to theirs – rather see their advice as a guide that you can mould to fit your own needs.
People tend to lose their confidence when they find themselves in unfamiliar environments or situations, triggering Imposter Syndrome. Just like a first-time mother daunted by the idea of giving birth, the best way to combat this is by being prepared, whether it's for a job interview or the rigour of childbirth.
Knowing what to expect and how to react will lessen your anxiety, including the comfort of having a contingency plan in place if things take an unexpected turn.
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This is one of the most common tips for boosting confidence, and there's science to back it up. Not only is it great for your general health, but it can alleviate depressive moods that are deadly for confidence and it releases endorphins that make you more resilient to confidence knocks.
Sticking to an exercise routine also makes you feel like you're accomplishing a positive goal and you'll be able to see and feel the results for a longer-term mental boost.
Don't scoff at lucky charms and superstitious rituals. It might be a trick of the mind, but lucky charms have proven to really boost confidence, which in turn, improves performance. It might also prompt you to take more risks, yielding better rewards.
One study found people performed better with their lucky charms than their counterparts whose talismans had been taken away.
While it won't work every time, wearing your lucky underwear on your next first date might just be the subconscious cheerleader you need.
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A social media break
We know that all the beautiful lives painstakingly crafted on social media streams are largely imaginary – yet we still end up feeling inadequate as we scroll through our peers' shiny timelines.
If you're especially stuck in a funk, it's better to take a break from Facebook and Instagram and give yourself a chance to find a new perspective on your life and realise that everyone is travelling their own path.
According to career advice from Forbes, setting yourself daily and long-term goals has a massive impact on self-confidence. Start with small tasks on a day-to-day basis and work towards medium- and long-term goals that will help you achieve your dreams and improve your life.
However, it's important to remember that most goals aren't achieved overnight. Find a way to quantitatively monitor your progress to stay motivated and keep your confidence levels up, and don't be dismayed by failures. Failure doesn't break confidence; it's how you react to failure that breaks it.
Another way of achieving goals is by keeping your promises to family, friends and colleagues. Fulfilling a promise can have the same effect on confidence as achieving a goal, while helping someone else in the process.
Dress to impress
"Clothes make the man" is a popular saying which means that you can dress for success. Your clothes can definitely boost your confidence. In the book Mind What You Wear – an analysis of the psychology of fashion – students were asked to rate their abilities and self-confidence while wearing Superman T-shirts. Unsurprisingly, they were more likely to identify with being a superhero than participants in normal clothes.
In the pandemic, we have traded our power suits for comfy sweatpants, so maybe our confidence levels have also been affected. Try dressing up even if you're working from home, and you can still make power moves, albeit from your kitchen table instead of your Sandton office.
Confidence is a mindset and spending some time working on your mental health and focusing on goals can help you embark on a path of greater resilience.
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