The low self-confidence habit - action steps

Low Self-Confidence is an accident!

It's not a psychological condition

Low Self-Confidence is not a 'psychological condition'. Nor a character aberration.  Nor a weakness.  It's an accident - a way of thinking which we slip into when we’re very young. It’s then maintained by how we use our imagination.  But we can use our imagination to turn things around and regain our natural self-confidence.

This is the second of two articles dealing with the Low Self-Confidence Habit.  In Part 1 we looked at how it develops - I would recommend reading that article first. 

Your best tool? Your imagination!

We’ve built and maintained the low self-confidence habit through using our imagination. How? We imagined future failures. We relived old setbacks and embarrassing moments.

This imagining and reliving ‘programmes’ our unconscious minds to maintain the low self-confidence attitude.

So the best way of replacing the habit is to use the mental tool we used to create and maintain it – our imagination!

1. Have a clear goal

Achieving something is easier once you have a clear goal. This goal or target acts like a beacon for your imagination – it points your thoughts and actions in the right direction.

How can you create the goal? Take a little while to decide how you will be going about your day when you have natural, easy self-confidence. It’s a sort of day-dreaming process.

Now get serious about it. Design and refine your goal by using the 6 PECSAW questions. Do this quite thoroughly – taking a day or two.

You will find that just doing this begins to create a belief that you can do achieve it – because you’ve taken a nice, fluffy dream and broken it up into its component parts.

(P) Positive:

Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want e.g. ‘I intend to be relaxed and at ease in the situations…’ rather than ‘I don’t want to be so nervous when talking with people’.

The positive version creates positive images which begin the positive attitude. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. The negative version ‘I don’t want to be nervous’ creates mental images of being nervous which leads to a nervous attitude.

(E) Evidence:

Detail how you will be acting differently when you’re in this new state. ‘I will be moving in this way, my voice will sound like this, I’ll be doing these things, etc.

(C) Context:

Decide where and when you intend to be more confident. Your immediate answer is probably ‘everywhere’ but it’s a good idea to begin by narrowing it down to one or two situations e.g. ‘at work’ and ‘when I am in this social situation’.

(S) Self Achievable:

This is where you check your self-belief: ‘Can I achieve this by myself? Or ‘Do I need someone to help me?’ And, since you’ve read this and the previous newsletter, you’re likely convinced that it is up to you.

(A) Advantages and Disadvantages:

What are the benefits and the downsides of taking action to achieve your goal. The benefits of working towards having greater self-confidence may seem self-evident but it’s still a good idea to make a list of these, since you will be reviewing your PECSAW-designed goal very frequently in the coming weeks.

And the disadvantages? Well, it requires work. And it requires a little bit of time every day. And it will, at times, be just a little uncomfortable since you will be moving outside your Comfort Zone.

(W) Worthwhile:

Why is making this change important to you? Which of your important Values will this fulfil? Once again, it’s probably self-evident but nevertheless it’s a good idea to make a list of these.

List your answers

PECSAW creates a mental image of what you are aiming for. As you go through these 6 questions, developing and refining your ideas, be sure to write down (or type in) the six responses so that you can refer to these frequently. And refer to them daily for the first 2 or 3 weeks.

Commit to your goal

Decide you’re en route to freedom – to being free from a long-standing way of thinking. Recognise that this will take a little time to achieve – but that each little freedom is life enhancing.

Learn from each set-back, too. Accept that there will be lots of moments when the old habit will kick in – after all it’s been around for a while. Be nice to yourself when you slip up: learn from these moments, so you benefit from them, and then move on.

2. Use your past… constructively

We unintentionally undermined our natural confidence by how we used our imagination: we imagined failing, being criticised, getting overwhelmed by problems, etc. Using our imagination in this way worked ‘successfully’ because we learned to let the doubts rule us.

So, if our imagination is this powerful, let’s now use it to regain the confident way of thinking.

Here’s how:

1. List good moments

Many of us overlook or ‘forget to remember’ the many instances of being confident and successful we have had throughout our lives.

And not remembering these good moments makes it seem we’ve never felt successful and confident. It’s as if we’ve always been this way.

To turn this around, begin listing all the positive, confident, and successful moments from your life! Small and large. That prize for spelling or handwriting when you were seven. The school sports event when you were nine. Getting your driving licence. And so on.

Do make this a written or typed list, rather than merely think about the moments, because you want to be able to revisit and relive these frequently (see the next step).

A great thing about this listing activity is that, once you begin, more and more memories will begin coming back to you. So be sure to add these to your list.

2. Relive these good moments

Do this daily… Stop what you are doing. Select a memory from your list. Relax so you can concentrate. Close your eyes if it helps. Now fully relive the sights, sounds and feelings of that memory.

Each time you do this you enhance the memory and you remind your body of the pattern of neurology and chemistry associated with that moment. Now the feelings of confidence become easier to reconnect with.

Do your reliving exercise for just a few minutes. And do it a few times a day if you have time – perhaps using a different memory each time.

3. Mental rehearsal for little successes

Next, use your imagination to achieve, and build upon, many small wins. Create a list of small areas where you intend to be more confident e.g.

  • Talking to strangers or to superiors at work
  • Making important phone calls
  • Ending a conversation with someone you find boring
  • Going to new social venues
  • Speaking up in a work meeting

Put these into a hierarchy ranging from fairly easy to daunting. Your aim is to make doing each of them quite easy over the next few weeks or so.

Now, one at a time, use the following simple mental rehearsal method to build your confidence in handling each one:

  1. Prepare for a scenario. Imagine yourself being effective, at ease, and successful in this one scenario. Do it as if watching yourself on a screen. Add lots of detail to make the scenario more realistic. Do this a couple of times each day for about 3-5 minutes. Only one scenario at a time, until you can imagine being at ease in this situation.
  2. Do it in real life: When you can imagine yourself being comfortable in this scenario go and do it in the real world. Do this as soon as possible, before the old Doubting Habit kicks in and undermines your new confidence.

Move up your list, stretching a little more every few days or every week. Your aim is to build your confidence through lots of small successes – in bite-sized chunks!

4. Additional techniques

Daily Stretch Zone excursions

Excessive planning is a symptom of low confidence: we do it to stay in control and to avoid surprises and risks.

To counter this habit of timidity, venture into your Stretch Zone  – frequently.

Get into the habit of being a little more spontaneous – of frequently doing little things without planning. Each day challenge yourself in some small way; spring a little surprise on yourself that takes you just a little bit into your Stretch Zone:

  • Take a new route home from work.
  • Have a different snack for lunch.
  • Chat with a few work colleagues and discover their favourite sport or hobby.
  • Dress slightly differently.
  • As you walk about look around you at things above eye level – rather than at the ground.

Your aim is to have lots of small but different experiences - lots of mini excursions, rather than major expeditions, into your Stretch Zone – to make doing different things the new norm.

Breathe shallowly

Shallow, even breathing is best for confidence. Avoid deep breathing or rapid breathing. Both of these tend to reduce carbon dioxide creating a more hyper or agitated state of mind and body.

Walk tall

Avoid shuffling, or walking with your head down and looking at the ground. Walk with a swing from the hips and a little bounce in your step. (Experiment with this for just one day as a convincer.)

Use soft eyes

Soft Eyes is a great technique for feeing relaxed, especially in company. And it is great in stressful work situations.

Loosen up – physically

The mind and body affect one another. Use physical exercise to support your mind work – it will loosen you up mentally as well as physically. Aim for a mix of cardio-vascular, stretching, and strength-training.

(See these tips, too:

Low Self-Confidence is an accident!

Remember robust selfconfidence is our natural state.

Low Self-Confidence is an accident. We acquired the habit at a time when we were too young to think for ourselves and when others were in charge.  Although that’s how it is for most of us, it can easily become ‘that’s how it was’!

That said, it’s very hard to ‘get rid of’ a bad habit. In fact, this is why so many New Starts in personal-development don’t succeed.

Instead of trying to get rid of a bad habit replace it with a new one which you practise until it becomes the new norm. This way it’s relatively easy to change a habit, however long it’s been around.

Put the above tips into practice for four to six weeks and savour the difference...



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