9 Things I Wish I’d Known about Confidence When I was Younger and Struggling

I’ve struggled a lot with low self confidence at certain times in my life. Particularly when I suffered from the skin condition eczema as a student and then again in my 30s.

Here are some things I wish I’d known about confidence when I was younger, as I battled myself and my misery. thought bubbles each containing words associated with things I wish I'd known about confidence

Nearly all of these 9 elements can apply to you if mindset and low confidence are getting in your way when you speak in public.

So I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts with you on how I built my own levels.

  1. Self-talk. My endless and negative self-talk was simply trying to keep me safe; trying to protect me from going out into the world or doing anything new in case I was mocked or humiliated – particularly about my appearance. And that talking kindly to those mean, harsh voices was a great balm and antidote to that type of internal criticism. Self-kindness simply can’t be overstated – it was, and still is, that important.
  2. Judging others. That every time I criticised or judged someone else I was also holding up a mirror and judging myself most of all. That desperate need to shore up my self-esteem by judging others: it just made me feel worse about myself. That’s no way to build self-confidence. So when I heard myself, I tried to catch it and stop it in its tracks. This didn’t always work, but it helped.
  3. Contribution. Looking to contribute and help other people, despite feeling so bad about myself, did far more to build my levels of confidence than putting other people down (see #2!).
  4. Searching. Constantly searching for new courses, new books, new support…it often seemed never-ending. That desperate search for something – anything – that might help. There was certainly a place for new supports, but ultimately nothing would change until I started to attend properly to how I saw myself and took action to change that. It really was mainly an inside job!
  5. Courage. Finding courage to act despite my fear was far more important to build my confidence than trying to “fake pep-talk” (i.e. I didn’t believe a word of it) my way into feeling confident. Note: talking kindly to yourself is showing yourself authentic support – it’s not the same as fake pep-talk!
  6. Accepting ‘reality’. To stop fighting what I saw as reality and instead, just sinking into the reality of my current state was a really helpful starting point. Note: Accepting is not the same as being resigned, slumping and just giving in. Accepting – sometimes that needed to happen on a daily basis felt like “well here I am. This is how it is. And… it doesn’t have to stay this way”. This created a different space and a different opening to possibility, allowing me a foundation to work from. Or it certainly did for me.
  7. Self-worth was available. Self–worth, which is at the root of self confidence, was always available and accessible to me, like a well of fresh water. It was just buried under layers of algae and dead leaves (my limiting beliefs and negative talk). I didn’t actually have to do anything to feel worthy of love and connection. This is a paradox – because ultimately it was through doing something that my self-confidence began to grow. These two things can co-exist.
  8. Separating external appearance from self-worth. I needed to put more focus into separating how I looked with severe eczema (dreadful!) from my self-worth. Just because I looked unattractive didn’t mean that I was an unattractive person. This one was really difficult. Every time I looked down at my body, or at myself in the mirror, it reinforced how little I thought of myself. It was really hard work to turn this around. Talking to myself as if I were a wounded animal (which in a way I was), was powerful. And visualising internally what I hoped for – clear skin – was also a major factor. To do this, I had to block out how I actually looked, even if I could only do it briefly.
  9. Keeping my word. Following through if I said I would do something by the end of the day, and actually doing it – that made a big difference to my confidence levels. Keeping my word to myself, even more than doing it for other people, made a big difference to my self-esteem.

These 9 areas really shifted the dial for me. It was hard to embrace some of them, I can’t pretend it wasn’t – but focusing on, and working with one at a time made a big difference to how I saw myself.

And I hope it can do the same for you: to maybe trigger a new idea or possibility. I hope this list of things I wish I’d known about confidence will help you if you struggle with your own confidence levels.

Best wishes with your speaking goals – and with your confidence!

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Comments (4)

  • Sonja Reply

    I identified with a lot, maybe most of this. Just the negative self-talk could fill a page. I had a friend who, when I’d share some of my dour thoughts, would say “self pity isn’t much but it’s all you can really count on in this life.” That got me thinking. Was I really full of self-pity? After all, I though all my ideas about my low prospects were rational.

    I began to try to observe more closely: When I said “That will never work,” I would stop and think: would it really never work? Did I just think it wouldn’t work? How much chance was there that I was selling the idea short? I would consciously observe to see if the thing worked, and if it did, I’d say to myself, ‘look at that, you underestimated that idea, just like you underestimate yourself.’

    Or how about this experience: “You look like an idiot with those shoes,” I’d think to myself as I passed a reflective glass door. And then, moments later, someone would say “Nice coat.” Stop. I’d think. Somehow they didn’t see the shoes. What’s more, apparently I don’t look like an idiot to them.

    Which leads us to number 8, separating appearance from self worth. The same friend would say, “don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” Appearance doesn’t always reveal what’s inside. I knew this because I could and did get totally put together and then still feel awful. In fact, for a while I stopped making the effort to look nice because it was so jarring, to look sharp and feel awful.

    Thanks for sharing. This blog really touched me.

    September 23, 2020 at 3:49 am
    • Sarah Denholm Reply

      Sonja, thank your so much for your thoughts, so beautifully written: what you say resonated for me too. The appearance thing is a killer, isn’t it? It’s so much part of the Western culture, and not feeling worthy. I love the reminder of “don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.”

      Thanks for sharing, I appreciate you.

      September 23, 2020 at 3:40 pm
  • Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss) Reply

    Thank you Sarah for sharing so openly and generously. I’m glad these steps have made such a difference.

    September 28, 2020 at 8:02 pm
    • Sarah Denholm Reply

      Thanks Craig, I appreciate your words.
      Sarah

      September 29, 2020 at 2:46 pm

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