Psst: Contrary to popular belief, confidence is not an emotion.

I used to think that confidence was feeling cool and sort of, well, unemotional. But confidence is not so much how you feel but how you think about a problem or challenge.

Confidence is the skill of predicting, with reasonable accuracy, the outcome of your actions.

I learnt this concept a long time ago, strangely at a time management workshop.  Learning about what confidence really is – well, that changed everything for me! (However, sadly, I continue to struggle with time management.) Once you get your head (and heart) around this, a lot of life’s challenges fall into place, especially managing conflicts and difficult relationships.

It’s a skill that anyone can learn. Like any skill, it takes time and practice to improve….but some people are working on the wrong set of skills. Too many people are trapped by rehearsing negative confidence! Confidently predicting they can’t succeed at things they really want, avoiding conflicts, and feeling trapped and unhappy with their relationships. Let’s drill down a bit:

Positive Confidence: That’s when you say to yourself, “If I do this and this, I can be reasonably sure that things will work out well and the way I hoped.”. You still might feel nervous, tense, may have worries; however, you have a plan to move forward that has some reasonable evidence that it works well. That’s the key – the right evidence for success. Your emotions don’t lead you. More on that later.

Negative Confidence: Now that’s the trap! That’s when you say to yourself, “If I do this and this, I can be reasonably sure that things won’t work out. I predict I’ll fail again, just as I planned.” You’ll still feel anxious, worried; worried about judgement, other people’s thoughts about you and your actions.

Before I understood positive confidence, I was rehearsing and predicting reasons why things wouldn’t work out. Like an actor, I had a script worked out, but it was going in the wrong direction. I was either over-planning the situation or reacting.

Perhaps you rehearsed these movie scenes too? You can see all the steps that lead to your mistakes and potential embarrassment. You’re reasonably sure you’ll get it wrong. There’ll be another argument. Another reason not to speak up, to stay hidden. You keep quiet about something important and feel worse afterwards. Best not try, because you will definitely be misunderstood.

Let’s change that! Here are 3 important secrets to developing positive confidence.

1. If you’re going to predict, you need the right evidence

Many people struggle with seeing the evidence of their potential for success. It’s right there under your nose, but without help you can’t see it or reliably use it. You’re mistakenly rehearing fear-based predictions and seeing unreliable evidence that confirms those defeated feelings. Negative beliefs and critical self-talk will hold you back and block your efforts to forge ahead.

Remember, you’re after ‘reasonable accuracy’ – Perfectionists take note! Perfection is impossible. Telling yourself mistakes are failures, and “prove” that you have no ability or are doomed or (insert your own words here), you are likely to continue to see the wrong information, resist new challenges and miss opportunities to succeed.

Watch what is actually working, even if it’s just making slow step-by-step progress. Tell yourself: “I can manage my discomfort and unease, I will work towards doing well, not perfection.” (Yes, I had to learn this and still have to remind myself regularly!)

If you want more confidence, replace the self-criticism with practicing more self-compassion. Self-compassion, as summarized by Katy Kay and Claire Shipman in The Confidence Code, “is a safety net that actually enables us to try for more and even harder things. It increases motivation because it cushions failure.” Notice your small successes: “I stuck with this task even though it was first time and I achieved 50% of what I wanted.” Build on these. “Next time I’ll know what to do and get closer to my goals.”

2. In stressful situations, what are your triggers? These could become your assets!

Knowing your triggers and vulnerabilities are your best friends, turns a sense of being ‘on guard’ and defensive, into assets you can use to enhance your confidence. Sounds crazy – but it’s true! If you learn to love your vulnerabilities, care for your ‘soft spots’, you can stop hiding, being fearful or reactive. We’re all struggling with something.

When I’m stressed I really want someone else to solve my problems for me. There were times when I was young that I didn’t have anyone to turn to for help, and really needed it. As I got older, I used to get too involved in other’s problems, because I care, and because I was uncomfortable with their discomfort. If I could fix it, I’d feel better, but that wasn’t really being helpful. It’s been hard to learn to balance these two competing impulses. But I can now listen for my self-talk that drives this and recognise it. I give more generously, because ably because I recognise I’m vulnerable to rescuing others. (An essential lesson to learn when you’re a therapist!) I’m most compassionate when I set clear boundaries for myself first.

You are not as alone as you think with your struggles. If you share your vulnerabilities with empathy, you will increase your insight into other’s struggles, and your connection to them. You will not feel so isolated because you can share with deeper understanding. As well, you will be able to create richer relationships by choosing to respond with generosity to others, rather than react and risk being misinterpreted again.

3. Is it a Relationship Green Light or a Red Light?

How do you interpret first impressions, that small voice that whispers in your ear? What’s the difference between intuition and impression?

If you had early experiences with difficult, chaotic or demanding people, perhaps in your family, at school or an early relationship, it’s likely you have learnt to read the wrong cues. In other words, initial impressions are sometimes very inaccurate. Many of these messages are learned habits. Because it’s hard to read other people accurately, and you may get triggered, it can be easy to re-create unhappy relationships or situations without realising what you are doing.

What do you do with that uncomfortable gut feeling, you know the one, which you’d like to ignore, but which later one proves to be accurate? That short moment you say to yourself: hold on that’s not quite right… Learning how to turn down the noise on that often insistent, immediate attractions, judgements or reactions will help you see other options more clearly. So, reflecting back to the previous point, if you know your triggers, you can better manage the difficult people or challenging situations. You can confidently take your time to look for the evidence that you need to work out for best options.

Getting Help

Sometimes, you just need to invest in learning better thinking and emotional skills, rather than going around the same old circles. Constructive, positive and practical thinking skills help you to overcome challenges and reframe old barriers to move forward. Managing strong and difficult emotions is important to you can calm yourself in order to think clearly. Optimism, confidence and pragmatism are essential skills to build the best attitude, so you can make decisions that are right for your life. With some counselling or coaching guidance, you can shift your gaze and see a whole new perspective.

If you’d like to know more about how I can help you increase your confidence skills, contact me on +61400219120

You can find lots more resources at www.elizabethwilliamsonsolutions.com

Be more comfortable with who you really are!

Because (as they say) you’re worth it, baby!

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