By Warren Heggarty
“Low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence. Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered–just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better.” –Barrie Davenport (Economy, 2014)
Action is the key to developing self-confidence. Merely learning to think positive won’t help you unless you put those thoughts into action and do positive things. That way ‘you change yourself, one action at a time. You are what you do, and so if you change what you do, you change what you are.’ (Babauta, 2007)
So too, social anxiety is something we DO rather than just something we think. Social anxiety leads people to adopting ‘safety behaviours’ for when they DO eventually socialise. For example:
• Only talking to people you already know
• Avoiding eye contact, folding your arms, hiding in the corner
• Limiting the amount of interactions you have to avoid some imagined social ‘catastrophe’
Catherine Madigan clinical psychologist says ‘doing these safety behaviours sort of maintains the social phobia… So we try to get them to think differently, to not be so focused on what might go wrong and their own status. We urge them to think can I do something that might make somebody happy? Like how about if I go speak to the shy-looking person.’ (Pirani, 2017) Note the use of the verbs ‘can,’ ‘do,’ ‘make,’ ‘go’ and ‘speak.’ Confidence is a thing you do.
Justine Armstrong psychologist, founder of Fearless Speaking says: ‘What helped me overcome my shyness was firstly a decision to be happier. I felt dissatisfied and wanted something more for myself than feeling restricted so often…’ (Pirani, 2017)
Doing is believing
There are some small and simple things you can do that will make a difference. Pulling your shoulders back gives others the impression that you are a confident person. ‘Smiling will not only make you feel better, but will make others feel more comfortable around you. Imagine a person with good posture and a smile and you’ll be envisioning someone who is self-confident.’ (Economy, 2014)
Leo Babauta reminds us that wise generals get to know their enemies well before doing battle. If you are trying to defeat a negative self-image you need to get to know yourself well. Start listening to your thoughts. Write down the thoughts you have about yourself. ‘Why do you have such negative thoughts?
Think about the good things about yourself, the things you can do well, the things you like. If you think you have limitations, ask whether they’re real limitations or just ones you’ve allowed to be placed there, artificially.’ (Babauta, 2007)
Here are some tips for developing confidence, adapted somewhat from “Helping children overcome shyness’ by John Malouff, University of New England.
• Recognise the benefits of being outgoing
• Set goals for more outgoing behaviour
• Adopt models for outgoing behaviour (i.e., find someone who is outgoing and think about adopting their methods).
• Expose yourself to unfamiliar settings and people
• Interact more with others
• Reward yourself for outgoing behaviour (Pirani, 2017)
Babauta, L. (2007, December 9). 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self Confidence. Retrieved from Zen Habits: zenhabits.net/25-killer-actions-to-boost-your-self-confidence/
Economy, P. (2014, October 14). 5 Powerful ways to boost your confidence. Retrieved from Inc.: www.inc.com/peter-economy/5-powerful-ways-to-boost-your-confidence.html
Pirani, C. (2017, December 18). “Life’s too short to be shy,” The Australian newspaper.