As I was sitting down to write this blog, I very quickly started to doubt my abilities and worry whether or not I could do it well. Knowing I was writing for an audience of university students took me back to my own time at uni, a time when I was flooded with conflicting feelings and emotions about my level of self-confidence. Sometimes I felt confident and sure of myself when studying for an exam or submitting an assignment, while at other times I felt like I was never going to get through it (which I eventually did).
During the more difficult times, my Mum used to tell me to just keep thinking positive thoughts, which was pretty good advice from someone who had lost a son, a husband and a father in just three years. I took notice of that and started to appreciate just how important self-confidence really is, which is why I want to pass on my 5-point action plan for boosting your own self-confidence!
In order to be confident, you need to actually know what self-confidence is. My simple definition of ‘self-confidence’ is a balanced belief in yourself and your abilities, to the extent that your actions engender credibility, elicit trust and allow you to feel pretty good about yourself. Without that balance of belief, you’re at the mercy of a lack of confidence on the one hand or too much confidence on the other. Both of these extremes can lead to different problems and challenges, which is why a balanced approach is essential.
Having the balance of just the right amount of self-confidence means you are able to handle the circumstances that have the potential to make you feel lousy, such as over-critical friends, siblings or parents, or a disappointing grade or challenging course at uni.
Taking control of self-confidence takes effort, discipline and commitment, but once you’ve got it in check, you’ll be in a good place. Here is a 5-point action plan to help boost and support your self-confidence, especially throughout your studies:
In order to get some natural dopamine (the chemical in the brain that makes us feel great), create a new habit by finding a couple of minutes each day to just be with yourself and start listening to your thoughts. Don’t judge them, just notice them, acknowledge them, then let them go. Once you’ve let them go, think of something fun, positive or beautiful (nature is a good place to start) and catch yourself if a negative thought intrudes.
Try this for 1 minute a day, then increase to 2 minutes, then 5 minutes. You may be surprised by how much calmer, more balanced and happy you feel after just a few short weeks.
Take some time to audit your internal dialogue. Our self-talk runs 24/7 and if you’re saying unkind things to yourself, this can wreak havoc on your self-confidence. If you do notice a lot of negativity, work on transitioning those thoughts into a more positive style. For example, turn “I can’t” into “I can’t yet” then into “How can I?”. Be sure to watch your conversations with others as well. If you’re finding it difficult to work with someone, ask them “What do I need to do differently?” instead of putting the pressure upon yourself to resolve the situation alone. Also make sure you’re fuelling your brain regularly with nutritious foods and minimising your alcohol intake, especially in the 24 hours prior to an exam, study session or presentation.
Decide on a goal or an objective, set yourself a couple of small actions that you know you can achieve, then set about getting them done and crossed off your list. It’s a satisfying feeling! Then, set yourself a couple more actions and repeat the process until you reach your larger goal. Make sure you acknowledge your achievements along the way and celebrate the small wins.
Competence and confidence go hand-in-hand. Just think about it – if you become more informed about a topic, you then become more confident when you talk about, write about it or need to do something related to that topic. Arm yourself with knowledge, continue to learn, and your confidence will grow. See challenging courses or assignments as an opportunity to gain knowledge, increase your level of competency and boost your self-confidence!
It’s just no good for you or anyone else when you’re trying to live up to too much. You end up procrastinating, your self-confidence gets out of whack and you don’t end up achieving much at all or being happy with what you have achieved. Go for good enough and get it done. You can always improve on it another time.
Developing and maintaining self-confidence can be a challenge, but when you feel good about yourself and your abilities, you’re able to handle situations more effectively and achieve better outcomes, whether that’s in your workplace, relationships or study.
If you're looking for more advice on how to further improve your self-confidence, find out the 6 strategies Rebecca used to develop a sense of self belief and achieve her goals in this blog!