How to build or rebuild your confidence

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Life, Mindset

Many women experience a loss of confidence in motherhood.

Psychology Dictionary Online defines self-confidence as an individual’s trust in his or her own abilities, capacities, and judgments, or belief that he or she can successfully face day-to-day challenges and demands.

A loss of confidence could be experienced in relation to a specific task or skill (e.g. presenting, setting boundaries, asking for help or parenting), certain situations or contexts (e.g. social interactions, participating in group exercise, parenting in front of extended family members, contributing to meetings at work), or a general loss of confidence in yourself and your abilities.

 

Why do I feel less confident now?

There are several reasons women feel less confident in motherhood.

Matrescence changes us inside and out. You may feel like you don’t know who you are anymore. You may notice that society and people in your lives see you differently, which might make you doubt yourself. You might feel led to try new things, change careers, or let go of old values and priorities to make way for new ones, all of which can feel daunting.

Mothering demands a lot of your time and attention. You may not have used some of your skills for a while, or rarely experience situations that you were once so used to.

Mothering also puts you in situations that the pre-motherhood version of you never had to face. It challenges you in new ways and often stretches you beyond what you thought possible. Without a manual, you need to take risks, experiment, and be prepared to fail to figure out what works. Strategies that created success in life before motherhood, may no longer work, leaving you to figure out a new way to succeed.

If you compare yourself to the myth of the perfect mother or the false mothering ideals on social media, you will feel that you are constantly falling short. Unsolicited critical feedback and opinions can also challenge our confidence.

What makes this harder is the lack of raw conversations before motherhood, to help women understand the personal challenges and changes they may face. Many of us feel blindsided by the reality.

A loss of confidence can also be fuelled by past experiences of failure or criticism, comparison to others, critical self-talk and beliefs, or a genuine lack of experience or knowledge in a particular area.

 

How to build or re-build your confidence

Fortunately, it is possible to build confidence. Our confidence is significantly influenced by our thoughts and actions. If we revisit the definition, we see that confidence is not about an individual’s ability to succeed, but rather an individual’s belief or level of trust in their ability to succeed.

But we cannot avoid situations in which we do not feel confident, or we will never feel confident. Confidence is built through action and proving to ourselves that we can succeed.

 

Here are 7 strategies to build or rebuild your confidence in any area of your life.

1. Embody confidence even if you don’t yet feel it

Social psychology shows us that body posture influences behaviour and perception. That means that changing your body state can change the way you feel through the messages your body sends to your brain, and it can also change the way others perceive you.

What posture do you adopt when you do feel confident? How does your body feel and move in those moments? Try to replicate this when you want to feel more confident. Smiling, tilting your chin slightly upwards and standing or sitting up straight with your shoulders back and down can help.

Alternatively, you could imagine a confident person you know and channel their confidence and courage. How would they hold themselves? What would they do?

Studies show that intentionally avoiding contractive poses, such as hunching over (essentially making yourself smaller) is important because these can have a stronger (negative) effect on your mood and behaviour than the more open, expansive poses that are associated with confidence.

 

2. Acknowledge and normalise your fear

When we try to face situations with low confidence, we are likely to experience fear or anxiety. Negative self-talk may arise. It’s ok to experience these things. It’s normal to feel less confident at times.

Ignoring or pushing emotions away, doesn’t make them go away. They simmer beneath the surface until we deal with them or until the pressure rises so much that we can no longer ignore them.  We need to process our feelings.

Try noticing and naming the emotions. Notice how they feel in your body. Notice any associated thoughts, for example worst case-scenarios, what ifs or negative self-talk. Allow the emotions and thoughts to be there, knowing they are trying to keep you safe from a situation that your brain perceives as a threat. This is your brain doing what it was designed to do. It is normal to feel this way. Try to let the emotions and thoughts just pass in their own time without making them the focus or the truth, knowing that you can continue with your life with them in the background (rather than running the show).  

Then, shift your focus to something that inspires you to be courageous. When we don’t yet have confidence, we need to lean into courage. What we focus on is amplified, so focus on what you would like to happen and the benefits of trying. This brings me to the next strategy.

www.moretomum.com.au build confidence

3. Visualise confidence and success

Visualisation is an effective tool for building confidence. Your brain doesn’t differentiate between doing something in reality and imagining it happening. The same neural circuitry is activated in both cases.

So, just like athletes imagine themselves crossing that finish line or scoring that goal, imagine yourself doing whatever it is you want to do successfully and with confidence. Imagine deeply believing that you will be able to succeed.

Our brains treat the unfamiliar as a potential threat which means that the more planning and practice (including mental practice) you engage in, the more familiar and less threatening the situation is. 

 

4. Have realistic expectations about the growth process

I often see people get discouraged when they don’t experience constant positive progress. We would like, and sometimes expect, progress to be linear. The reality is, though, that progress and growth are messy processes. We encounter setbacks and make mistakes as we step outside our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. We need to engage in some trial and error. We might feel like we are going backwards which is often necessary to go forward again.

What can you learn from the messiness? How can it deepen your understanding of the situation and yourself? You may realise that you can handle more than you thought or confirm that one approach doesn’t work for you, so you can move on to find a new approach. These are all valuable lessons.

We need to be willing to take risks, make mistakes and allow ourselves to be human.  

We can’t compare our journey to others’, because we all bring different starting points, motivations, strengths, and opportunities for growth. How can you leverage your strengths while building your confidence?

Having realistic expectations about what building confidence will look like, will help you stay motivated and feel positive about your progress.

 

5. Create stepping stones to confidence

Your first step is not the end goal. Confidence building takes time and you can set yourself up for success by creating stepping stones to the end goal.

You get to determine how big a leap there is between stones. It should be a little stretchy yet achievable, based on where you are at in your growth journey. At the beginning, your stepping stones may be so close together they are touching. As you grow in confidence, they may require a greater stretch. Along the way, you might realise that additional stepping stones are necessary. Your journey is your own. Every step is valuable and contributes to your success.

 

6. Celebrate progress and offer yourself compassion when things are hard

Research has shown that self-criticism doesn’t help us improve or encourage us to take risks and try new things. Self-compassion is the key! So, notice any negative self-talk without judgement and offer yourself compassion and kindness. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, that it is normal to have times when you don’t feel confident, and that you can build confidence over time with practice and effort. If you find yourself dwelling on the worst-case scenario, try to balance your thinking by also considering possible best-case or neutral outcomes. 

Celebrate your progress, including when you step outside your comfort zone and things don’t go to plan. The fact that you challenged yourself to try is worth celebrating and feeling good about each step helps you maintain momentum and build resilience. Plus, you may have learned something very valuable through that experience! Our brains are wired to focus on the negative more than the positive, so we need to be intentional about celebrating our progress.

 

7. Ask for help or encouragement from a trusted person

Many people struggle to ask for help due to fear of rejection or being seen as incompetent. Our society places a lot of value on self-reliance, which can discourage people from reaching out to others even though this is often a necessary part of working toward our goals.

Having a trusted person to encourage and cheer you on can be so motivating. You might like to find someone who can be there for moral support while you try new things or give you feedback. Lastly, if you know someone who displays the confidence you’re aspiring to, consider asking them if they can act as a mentor, sharing their own journey of building confidence.

Coaching can be a very effective way of supporting yourself as you build confidence. In coaching we set clear, compelling goals and create action steps (stepping stones) to get you there, teaching you strategies to identify and work through the internal and external obstacles and challenges that arise on the way. Your coach is your personal cheerleader who will always be on the lookout for reasons to celebrate and lessons to embrace while holding you accountable so you can stay the course and achieve your goal. If you would like to learn more about how coaching support can help you build confidence in a specific task, skill or situation, or in yourself more broadly, please reach out at louise@moretomum.com.au. I offer complimentary 30-minute online video calls so you can get to know me, talk about what you’d like to achieve and learn how we can work together.

 

 

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