Do you feel like you’re holding yourself back because of self-doubt? If yes, here’s how to develop your confidence and take control of your life.
A few years ago, I hit my 40s. I spent some time reflecting on my life. Was I where I wanted to be? Had I achieved what I had wanted to? In all honesty, I wasn’t sure.
I realized that lack of confidence had affected many areas of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t acutely unconfident. If you met me, you would probably say I was a confident person.
Deep down, though, I knew I had held myself back. I would often doubt myself, over-analyze, over-question, and seek other people’s thoughts or opinions.
My confidence has been up and down most of my life. Work confidence I found particularly difficult to pin down. A colleague once said to me he thought I came across as self-assured at work, which surprised me. Inside, I was often wracked with self-doubt and thought others came across as more confident than I did.
My body confidence had been pretty high during my life but had wobbled during and after pregnancy. I found it hard to adjust to a different body shape (being less taut and aging were both taking their toll).
Socially, I was pretty confident around friends and family. Though I was painfully self-conscious in front of people I didn’t know. Going to work functions where I knew only a few folks were particularly terrifying.
After all, would my wit and small-talk endure two hours with a stranger? I didn’t think it would. Thus, I would try various devious ways of getting out of attending the event.
What would you have done with more confidence?
I asked myself and some of my friends: ‘What would you have done in your life with more confidence?’ It’s a great question, because it really makes you think.
Would you have done things differently? Do you think you have chosen a different career? Would you have chosen a different partner to be with? Do you think you would have been less bothered about people’s opinions? Would you have traveled more? Left home earlier? Chosen different friends?
Take my working life, for example. Would I have asked for a bigger pay rise and more often? Could I have applied for different and more challenging roles? Would I have relaxed more in presentations? Could I have made more confident decisions rather than letting other people influence me?
Sadly, I think the answer is undoubtedly ‘yes’ to all the above.
When I asked friends, a few said they would have changed nothing. However, most felt there were definitely situations and circumstances they would have tackled with more vigor and less self-doubt.
I kept hearing, ‘I would have put myself out there more.’ I realized that confidence affects so many areas of our lives—careers, well-being, public speaking, friendships, health, and love. Most importantly, it affects the relationship we have with ourselves. Confidence can help you better take control of your life.
Take control of your life by making a choice
Suddenly, after 40 years, I realized I had a choice. I could continue my life with self-doubt and hold myself back, or I could live large. A life where I stopped fearing doing new things. One where I pushed myself forward. A life where I stepped out of my comfort zone more. One where I was less concerned about what people thought.
A life where I liked myself as I was.
I also realized that it was my right to love my body. Success in the workplace was something I deserved. I had the right to share my opinions. It was up to me to give love to someone who valued and respected me. I could talk to a stranger at a party without feeling hugely self-conscious.
It was my right. I feel good about myself no matter what the circumstances were.
Take control of your life by challenging yourself, your fear, and your mind
I became fascinated with the subject of confidence that I wrote a book (not yet finished) and blogged about it. Moreover, I needed to challenge myself – to push myself forward and step out of my comfort zone. It’s a cliché, but I was in a rut. I knew I had to shake things up a little.
I now try to do things I am a little scared of. I don’t mean climbing Mount Everest, but doing something that maybe I wouldn’t have had the courage to do a few years ago. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to start with. But once you overcome something you were nervous about, you’ll feel amazing. You’ll wonder why the heck you didn’t do it in the first place!
Taking action is key: make sure you don’t let your mind get the better of you. I realized that the fear I had was all in my mind. I was the only one saying to myself, ‘you can’t do that, you’re going to fail at that’.
You may doubt yourself, but don’t let this stop you from moving forward. Ignore the thought, laugh at it—whatever you do, take control of your life from now on. Try to swap out the negative thought for a more positive and nurturing one. You can do it; you’re amazing at what you do.
Take control of your life by starting small
Take small steps to start with. Taking action builds our confidence. Once you see yourself succeeding, you realize you can take control of your life, after all. As you take more steps forward, you’ll feel your confidence rising.
Pat yourself on the back when you have achieved something, no matter how small. Take some time to celebrate. All too often we move on to the next thing without taking a moment to say ‘well done!’
Remember: you can either sit and do nothing, wondering what life could have been – OR you can get busy and see where life takes you.
“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir