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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!