The A.C.T. of Self-Confidence
3 Simple Principles of A.C.T.
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Have you ever doubted your ability to try something new?
Have you ever felt that you weren’t capable of achieving something great?
Have you ever debated about taking a certain action because of what others might think?
If it crossed your mind that you might be the only one to answer “yes” for each of these questions, you’re not! Almost everyone I’ve met and spoken to would say “yes” as well. That also includes me because, at some point in my life and career, I have doubted myself.
I’ve doubted if I could successfully conduct my first meeting with a room full of strongly opinionated, highly-positioned stakeholders.
I’ve also doubted if I could do pull ups at the gym during peak hour when there are line ups for everything. Let’s be honest, it can be quite intimidating trying to do a new workout with so many strangers around. Who know’s what others are thinking about my workout technique? They might secretly be judging the way that I’m doing a particular work out or is that all just in my head.
But does it matter what other people think?
Over the years, I’ve realised that the more frequently I put myself in an uncomfortable or difficult situation, the better I got at learning how to survive them.
Self-confidence is an essential skill that propels how you act and think, how you feel about others and how successful you are in life.
I’d like to share 3 simple principles that anyone can use to build their self-confidence. After all, we know from research studies that self-confidence is a skill that can be trained.
Principle 1: Awareness over ignorance
Did you know that if you said “yes” quietly in your head or slightly nodded your head to the questions at the start of this article, you’ve already taken a first step towards actioning on this first principle?
Nice work! (Give yourself a little pat on the back.)
A quick thought exercise:
Please take a few seconds to think about:
- a time you wanted to say something at an important work meeting…
- a time you wanted to undo the regret of making a certain decision…
- a time you wanted to ask for directions in a new city…
What did you think? How did you act? How did you feel?
Recognising how you feel and think in every situation is the first step towards improving your self-confidence.
Awareness is about recognising the situations which you feel confident or not, to make it easier to do the right things. This also includes taking credit for your hard work.
Our minds are a powerful tool which can make or break us. Research studies have shown that our thoughts influence our actions.
Principle 1 is about awareness of one self’s thoughts, feelings and actions.
Principle 2: Continuously improve
There is no single, easy way to build self-confidence. There is also no such thing as having “perfect” self-confidence.
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” — Mark Twain, a famous writer
Practice makes perfect
49,200 minutes was the time I spent practicing for my final piano exam.
I played piano for over 12 years and towards the end, I decided to do my Teaching Diploma with the Royal Conservatory of Music. For my final exam, I had to memorise 40 sheets of music and several different technical skills.
On top of that, I got nervous performing in front of people. And, the worst part of being nervous was randomly going blank in the midst of playing a song and then not knowing how and where to pick up.
Both my parents and piano teachers said that I just needed to practice, practice and practice some more. Of course, I told myself that they were being ridiculous and I could not possibly get better. I wasn’t seeing the improvements. But over the period of a year and a half, after playing at some recitals and 1.5 hours of daily practicing, it helped indeed!
Feedback and feeling defensive
Have you ever received feedback from a work colleague which made you feel defensive?
By default, we don’t like to be told that we’re not good at something or that we didn’t do as good of a job as we thought we did. It doesn’t feel good.
But what’s so important here is how you perceived that feedback and what actions you take next. Although the feedback was not “positive”, we still have a choice as to how we will interpret it. Not everyone is a good communicator and so feedback isn’t always going to be communicated in the “best way”.
The only way to grow is to continuously work on turning our weaknesses into our strengths. This includes reflecting on the intent of the feedback and working out a way for you to do better next time.
The power of not giving up
This is one of my favourite videos which actually combines all 3 principles of self-confidence. This little girl had awareness of her strengths and weaknesses, she was persistent at making that jump with countless attempts and she trusted in herself.
“Practice creates confidence. Confidence empowers you”
Principle 2 is about continuously improving yourself with persistence.
Principle 3: Trust in yourself
Do you ever have a hard time recognising, understanding or believing in your value and worth?
Have you ever engaged in negative talk or let your negative ego take control?
According to Google, trust is the “firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something”. The collection of our beliefs make up the type of mindset that we have. Would you say you more of a “can-do” attitude or “what-if” attitude?
Having trust in yourself will open doors to opportunities and growth in your own abilities and experiences.
Starting a new job
A friend of mine was promoted last year. He was all excited about working in a new area but then started question his abilities to do the new job well. He also wondered if he would measure up and if he would fit in with the new team members.
Here’s the thing, if you don’t trust yourself to do a good job, then who will?
Would you feel more or less confident if a work colleague was always saying negative things about every situation?
Research studies show that negativity contagious. But did you know that positivity just as contagious?
Get rid of the negative thoughts to make space for the positive ones.
As I mentioned earlier, you can only do this if you’re aware of your negative and positive thoughts, actions and feelings.
Getting a promotion
Nothing is guaranteed to go perfectly and undesirable situations arise from time to time.
A few months ago, my sister called me to share the news of an opening for a supervisor position at the hospital. She’s an occupational therapist back in Canada.
She asked “Should I take the position? Here are the reasons why I’d like to take the position and here are the reasons that concern me”. Note the list of concerns seemed longer but were they just issues she decided to overwhelm herself with?
Here’s the thing, she wanted to move up and be challenged and she had the qualifications and experience. But it was the known unknowns of learning new things and building new relationships that made her uneasy.
I simply reiterated back to her accomplishments to date from both her private work and her full-time job. My aim was for her to realise that she had every reason to trust herself in taking the step up.
Six months later, she’s been doing an amazing job in her supervisory position.
We go through thought processes but it’s important to be aware of the kind of picture we paint for ourselves shapes. No single thought process has only one picture. It comes down to our mindset and how we perceive the situations and events that come our way.
Principle 3 is about shifting your mind to trust in you.
The Best Of You Starts With You
“Challenge yourself. It’s the only path which leads to growth.” — Morgan Freeman
Self-confidence is one of those skills where we constantly need to challenge ourselves, whether it’s being able to trust a big decision that you’ve made was the best one given the circumstance or not allowing yourself to relive an adverse or traumatic past event.
Believe it or not, you need self confidence to make the simplest decisions like choosing where to take some out of town guests for dinner or what to wear for a job interview.
A quick thought exercise:
- Grab a piece of paper and write (or take a mental note) about the time that you shrugged off a compliment.
- Play that moment in your mind once again.
- Now imagine what would it have been like to instead, simply say, “Thank you.”
Accepting validation from others is also part of building your self-confidence. This includes giving yourself credit for the times that you’ve worked hard.
Building self-confidence starts with you
You are the only one that can:
- Be aware of how you think, act and feel.
- Be persistent at continuously improving your self-confidence.
- Trust in yourself.
Nobody said that you had to do it alone. Having a mentor is a great way to get started or get you motivated.
What are you waiting for?
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”
I personally challenge you to A.C.T. (Awareness, Continuous, Trust) now!
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Let’s celebrate wins together
What are some ways that you’ve grown your self-confidence? What’s worked well for you? I’d love to hear about it if you are comfortable sharing. Feel free to share in the comments below or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).