Where does our confidence come from? Some of us seem to be born with oodles of the stuff, enabling us to sashay through life with – seemingly – all the ease and grace in the world. By contrast, others seem to doubt their every move, question what’s right or wrong in each situation, or worry about what others think of them. And of course, most of us are somewhere in the middle: feeling OK on most days but occasionally knocked by a comment or look or situation.
But what happens when our confidence is well and truly knocked out of us? Bullying, redundancy, illness, family circumstances can all pay their toll on how we feel, and sometimes, their effect is more than temporary. What’s one to do when that happens? And what’s the best way back into the groove?
The first step is to accept how we’re feeling. It’s just that: a feeling. OK, so this particular feeling may seem to have taken over everything else just at this time, but in fact we have lots of feelings, and this is just one. It doesn’t (have to) define us. So, step one: locate other feelings and name them, write them down, wallow in them, celebrate them, remember when we had those other feelings, and dwell on the effect of those other feelings.
Losing confidence can act as a nasty virus because the very nature of confidence acts like a filter through which we see the rest of the world. Often, losing confidence in one field of our lives (say professionally) can make us feel like we’re not being a good mother or partner or whatever. It saps energy. And when emotional energy dips, so does creative energy and our ability to think ourselves better.
So, step two: don’t feel rubbish at yourself for feeling rubbish.
Many years ago, the catchphrase of a delightful friend of mine was: ‘Good I’m glad’. In even the worst of circumstances, she would repeat this. She admitted that on occasion, she said it but didn’t mean it. But as things did indeed get better, she was able to look back and then mean what she had said. She could see some benefit of having gone through the bad period or situation. (And for the record, I have certainly used this phrase for my own situations on occasion and found it really helpful. You don’t need to mean it in the moment, you just need to keep repeating it, it somehow works.)
This reminds me of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, ‘Fake it til you make it’. In this, she proposes that getting into a power stance for a couple of minutes (perhaps best done out of sight!), is a way genuinely to feel more confident and not just look it. That our body language shapes who we are is not a new theme, but it is something over which we have power, and importantly, choice. We just need to be reminded about how we can help ourselves.
And I’d probably add one final step for now: connect with others who value you. Take the time to reach out and spend even small chunks of time with those who are outside the situation that has zapped your confidence. You don’t even need to reveal your innermost fears and anxieties, but just enjoy reflecting in their version of who you really are. Soak in their validation of you, lap up how they see you, and reflect on that version of yourself that you experience in your relationship with them.
Remember: in time, all things (good as well as bad actually) pass. And so will any dip in confidence. Just believe it. Really.