What is self confidence? If it is high, you are not self-conscious. If it is low, you are very self-absorbed, and in danger of putting others off in ways that further decrease self confidence.
To answer just what it is that seems so paradoxical, and uniquely human, is to begin to understand, that because we are creatures who often over think and keep abstracts in our mind, we affect our own self image. We often see our- selves as too fat, too clumsy, too incompetent at wit, or humor, or social grace. We are marketed to by our inadequacies. Stop it.
We list these shortcomings, often begun innocently in search of ways to improve, but they often get carried away and exaggerated in the mind. Our self confidence is hurt. But there are real ways to reverse this. We forget when we compare ourselves to others, that they are doing the exact same thing. Achieve higher self confidence not by rating accomplishments, but by acceptance.
Let us say someone innocently asks “Why did you wear that shirt?” or any other seemingly innocuous question. We start in critiquing, and sabotaging, our own self confidence. Doubts creep in. Although no one mentioned the shirt is ugly, inappropriate, or in some way incorrect, we find all finds of imaginary faults that highlight whether the shirt we chose makes us appear more fat, dull, incompetent at fashion, or even silly, offensive, or immature, all because our shirt “choice” feels in some way deficient.
A common response might come across as defensive, such as “What do you mean, don’t you like this shirt?” To which, caught off guard, the person asking the question will very quickly retract it. It is too late. You have already been down the road as to why that shirt is horrible, and although he or she simply responds. “Oh, nothing.” Or “I didn’t mean anything at all.” They are, in fact unconsciously defending themselves. The asker is wondering, “Why did I have to say that? Gosh, I‘m stupid for mentioning the shirt…” and so on. The shirt has not done anything. But it is all in your mind that the shirt is haunting you like some demon gargoyle hanging off your shoulders.
In this situation, let us say there is a red bird pictured on your shirt, and your cousin just happened to think of seeing some red birds in the yard an hour ago. The exchange, which has absolutely nothing to do with how either person involved is inferior, or should feel ill confident, has impacted a quality relationship for the worse. Humans do this all the time. It is as though we are hard wired to be hard on ourselves, and each other. Our confidence is constantly rated and berated.
Ways to reverse this are plentiful. First catch yourself when any critical thought creeps in. Who, or what, are you defending when you attach so much meaning to a comment, or a gesture, that may not be meant as negative at all? Catch yourself playing the negative mind tapes, or let’s call them DVD’s to update it. The DVD’s in your mind, and annoying self talk can be thought of as a Destructive Voice, Distracting you. You are immediately distracted and allowing your self confidence to suffer. You can control this, and boost your self confidence instead. See the slightest self insult as not the true you, but a fascist, harsh destructive voice in your head that wants to control everything.
We cannot control everything, but we can control our response to almost everything. This is the key to keeping self confidence. Rather than trying to always be the controlling and manipulating critical voice, allow yourself the luxury of knowing, instead you are not that important and all powerful.
Although at first this may seem like another paradox, it is not. By seeing yourself as no one special, the annoying and self critical DVD in your head will be cut off in annoying mid-mind flick. You will see you are only being self destructive when you find fault with your every choice, or casual remark. You will also recognize that to be on guard all the time is to be self-absorbed, that is selfish. If you know and accept you are not selfish, you will not be on guard trying to find all the ways “Its all about me!” You will be able to laugh at your self absorption, and realize a shirt is, most often, just a shirt.
Another way to boost self confidence is to push yourself just a tiny bit further in any social situation. If you can find something positive, but genuine, to say to someone, offer it. This takes you out of crippling self focus, and may even create a bridge to someone in a way that connects the two of you. Self confidence is created, because while still being authentic, you have stepped out of yourself, and turned toward another.
Self confidence can be thought of as creating bridges toward other people, places, things, and interests and getting out of your DVD self absorbed thoughts. If you notice someone’s car or home, or even shirt, is attractive in some way, say so. This also creates a space in which you are taking a small chance, but bravely offering something of yourself, and your opinion, which of course is at risk of being rejected.
You must recall that the other person has a DVD in their mind as well. They may hear your compliment to mean they are messy, or unattractive, except for this one time. Be sure to follow up your comment with a genuine and authentic, remark that captures something truly sincere. You might say, “I really do admire your ___” (car, home, hair, shoes, whatever it may be). Or tell them, just simply, I truly admire your skill." This cuts off any self looping DVD mind movie about who is inadequate and cuts straight to an authentic admiration.
Another tip, if you are greatly ill confident, is to do just one thing, no matter how small, that is outside your comfort zone. Change your hair, wear a hat, walk with a spring in your step, add new accessories, and conversation starters to your person, or work area. Invite thoughts, but prepare yourself to not assume any comment is meant to injure or insult. If a comment is openly hostile, be able to tell yourself the other person has an inferiority issue, not YOU. This is almost always the truth.
Getting out of your own mind is instrumental in getting you to be active, participating, and most importantly truly grateful for the wonders and gifts of others and the world. You will find yourself more animated, less “unattractive,” more physically happy, healthy, and active, and more alive.
Finally, a wonderful way to build self confidence is to share something remarkable, be it a spider’s intricate web, or a cloud’s moody color. Share a walk, or a river side, or a tree shade, or a great view on a picnic. Realize that you belong to the world. Earth makes air, water, food, and soil for you to be alive. Feel confident that the sustaining and healing world does not judge you. Animals, mountains, and trees will give, and not judge. Humans have much to learn from them. We are arrogant in our constant DVD movie of our self importance.
These natural gifts are abundant and plentiful. Humans are the ones most in need of self confidence because of our self inflicted separation from nature and one another. Only we can learn to connect to humans this way. We can create that much needed bridge that takes us out of our false and ugly DVD movie, and into a real living planet full of support and wonder to be shared.