Low confidence can cause us to turn down and miss opportunities, to put our dreams on hold, and to stay in unhappy situations because we don’t believe we can do any better.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way. Psychologist Dr Russ Harris, author of The Confidence Gap (Robinson Publishing, £9.99), portrays confidence as a skilful psychological game, for which many of us have been taught the wrong rules.‘Until now, you may have thought that you weren’t trying hard enough, or that you weren’t doing it properly, that you weren’t thinking positively enough or challenging your negative thoughts effectively,’ he says. ‘Our minds are reason-giving machines, cranking out reasons not to do things.’
Everyone suffers from this kind of negative self-talk, he continues. What matters is how we tackle it. Negative thoughts are the normal response to a challenging situation, but ‘there’s no need to fight or challenge them’, says Harris. ‘That can make them more potent. You need to take the power out of these thoughts. It’s only when we fuse with our thoughts that they become overwhelming.’
There are techniques and tools that we can use, particularly when it comes to muzzling our own negative internal commentary. Sometimes, imagining a life where you have unbounded confidence can kickstart your desire to take action now. Sit down somewhere quiet with a pen and paper, and answer these questions with as much detail as you can:
In a world where you have unlimited confidence:
■ How would you behave differently?
■ How would you walk and talk differently?
■ How would you play, work and perform differently?
■ How would you treat others differently: your friends, relatives, partner, parents, children and work colleagues?
■ How would you treat yourself differently?
■ How would you talk to yourself?
■ How would your character change?
■ What sort of things would you start doing?
■ What would you stop doing?
■ What goals would you set and work towards?
■ What difference would your new-found confidence enable you to make in the world?
Read Are you a secret moaner? by Vanessa Anstee on Life Labs
Read Overcoming pessimism and self-limiting assumptions by David Head on LifeLabs
Read Don't hug a tree by Jane C. Woods on LifeLabs for more on unhelpful and helpful thinking