We all lean on other people to help us build a sense of confidence in ourselves. We thrive on compliments and supportive statements given by friends, family and strangers, and it builds us up. We feel secure knowing that there are people we can rely on when we need to get a pep talk or encouraging words when we’re feeling low.
And we’re taught to do that for other people from a very early age. Say nice things to people. Be there for them. Make them feel supported, accepted, believed in and loved.
But weirdly enough, nobody teaches us to do these things for ourselves. And so we don’t have any real practice in it – and it’s no wonder that we’re not that good at being nice to US. In fact, we’re astonishingly unkind to ourselves, dozens and dozens of times a day.
Coffee in one hand. Confidence in the other.
Is it any wonder we struggle with self-confidence?
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt you screwed something up. Maybe you’ve knocked over your must-have drink in the morning or your little ones’ milk? Or left the stove on unattended for too long? Or been so fatigued you left scolding hot tea where your baby can reach it? Or you can’t believe you just said (fill in the blank) to your kids?
When these things happen, we have these knee-jerk, instinctive reactions, and we say things to ourselves. Things like:
– “Damn it, that was so stupid!”
– “I can’t believe I did that again! It needs to be perfect!”
– “ I’m not cut out for this. I hate my life.”
– “You are a crappy parent!”
– “Oh great – You ruined it again. I never seem to get it right.”
Words like these flow so easily in our own head. Sometimes it’s because we’ve heard them from our parents or teachers. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid that’s how the world judges us.
But we would never say these words to another person.
Imagine saying these phrases to another person – a fully grown adult – when they make a mistake or are struggling with something. They burn dinner, or spill a drink, or have trouble focusing at work.
– “Damn it, that was so stupid!”
– “I can’t believe you did that again!”
– “Come on, focus already! What’s wrong with you?”
– “Get moving already! Don’t be so lazy!”
– “Oh great – now it’s ruined.”
You wouldn’t say these things to another person.
Because that would make you an asshole.
To build your self-confidence, reverse these habits.
You are a good, loving, kind-hearted person – and you know how to build confidence in other people. No new skills are required! All you really need to do is pay attention to your self-talk and speak to yourself like you would to anyone else. Remember that as a parent, you are the key in teaching, modeling, and reinforcing self-motivating behavior in your little ones.
It takes a little bit of time, but it’s a very small habit change when it comes down to it. When you talk to yourself, pretend you’re talking to a completely separate person who’s feeling the same way you are right now. You’ll know exactly what to do.
That said, here are 3 simple ways to start shifting your self-talk habit towards words that will build up your self-confidence.
1. Notice your “reflex statements” and replace them.
We all have a unique way of talking to ourselves, and we usually stick to 2 or 3 phrases when certain situations come up. So if we clumsily knock something over, we might say “That was so clumsy” or “I did that again!”. It’s a reflexive statement – we don’t even think about it. We just do it.
Practice noticing what you say to yourself when these things happen and start replacing them with phrases you’d say to someone else if you saw them do the same thing. Phrases like, “Don’t worry, it’s no big deal”, or “Into every life, a little milk must spill.” Lighten it up, and speak to yourself in a supportive, non-judgmental way.
2. Practice talking yourself through tough spots.
When you’re feeling uncomfortable, anxious, or depressed feelings, it’s easy to just bash yourself for having that emotion or being stuck in it. You’re likely to focus on how you shouldn’t be feeling that way, and that’s not going to help anyone.
Again, pretend you’re talking to someone else, and support “them” through the feeling. Something like, “Ok, so you’re feeling anxious and stuck right now. What’s going on there, and how can I help?” can make it feel okay enough to open up that internal conversation and let you support yourself through it.
This is also a good place to remind yourself that everyone has these feelings, and suggest baby steps that you could do to change your situation. Do the same gentle handholding that you know would help someone else.
3. Build the skill of complimenting yourself.
Because we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards – ones that we wouldn’t hold other people to in a million years – we have expectations for ourselves that we can never meet. And so it’s no wonder we don’t know how to compliment ourselves (or receive compliments from other people).
To reverse this, practice noticing moments where you’re succeeding, where you’re doing a good job, and give yourself the same honest compliment you’d give someone else. Catch yourself doing something good.
Simply saying something like, “That was a nice dinner you made for everyone – they really liked it”, can build up confidence where you don’t have it before. And if you do something hard, compliment yourself, too. It’s okay to say, “See? You did it! That was great!” – even to yourself. In my experience, you can even work your successes into a gratitude habit for extra punch. I find it’s the simplest, fastest and most effective habit to help you thrive other than smiling.
Do this, and your confidence will soar.
I’m not going to lie to you – this is one practice that can get some crazy fast results. From the very beginning, you’ll feel what it’s like to receive positive feedback, or to have the pressure taken off of an otherwise stressful situation. It’s like water in the desert. You’ll start drinking it up.
You don’t have to get great at this in a hurry. Just practice it when you can – preferably, at least once a day so that it has a chance to become a habit that puts its roots down.
Every day you do these 3 things, you’ll become a little more confident in yourself. You’ll feel a little safer and more resilient moving through everyday life. And you’ll get positive feedback about these changes from your family, which is only going to make you feel better and better about yourself.
There’s no upper limit here, so start today. You’ll thank yourself for it!
The Beauty of Being Engaged In The Present Moment