6 building blocks to self-confidence

True self-confidence isn't an overnight achievement. Here's what you can do to become vibrantly confident

Self-confident ladyEveryone knows that self-confidence is the secret ingredient that catapults one to success, but do you unconsciously harbour the natural enemies that prevent you from developing this dynamic personality trait? If so, building up self-esteem can be done in many ways and only involves small changes to your thinking and lifestyle.

Before any confidence building measure, one must understand in-depth, the issues that prey upon one’s self-confidence in the first place and address these as quickly as possible. “Removing insecurities would be the first step to creating a lasting confidence,” says Bangalore-based counsellor Usha Menon. These tips will help you steer your way to security on all spheres.

1. Look ahead by setting the right goals

Both psychologists and career counsellors agree that nurturing well-defined, short-term goals [such as completing a long-pending project or enrolling yourself in a new fitness programme], are an important aspect of building self-esteem. This is because they help you look forward with hope, rather than looking into the past with regret. Everyone makes mistakes; take time to empty your heart, mind and soul of this unwanted baggage of regret and embarrassment. “Some people are too harsh on themselves, especially after a genuine lapse of judgement or a failure of any kind. Learn to forgive yourself and move on to greener pastures,” advises Menon. “Those who tend to dwell excessively on these mishaps are participating in an extremely negative and vicious cycle that will eventually rob them of every shred of self-esteem.” Put a goal-oriented plan of action in place every time you meet with a setback, so that you are propelled back into action and will find it easier to move on.

2. Examine and address your fears and phobias

Overcoming phobias are a natural part of growing up, but an inability to do so can leave you feeling like an emotional train wreck. Many of us aren’t even aware of our own phobias, until we are engulfed in them and the situation creates despair. Understand your weaknesses and accept them—this is a crucial step towards becoming a more confident person. It would help to talk to a close friend or confidante about your fears, no matter how trivial they may seem. (Read Let’s get your fears out of the way)

3. Improve your physical appearance

There’s no denying that one’s grooming plays a crucial role in building confidence. Although we know what’s on the inside is what truly counts, your physical appearance will be the first to create an impression. Often, people judge you, not by what you say or do, but by the subtle cues given by body language and of course, how professionally you’re dressed when you say it. So, sprucing up your physical appearance is not all about fashion or beauty. It’s about looking neat and well-groomed at all times. Pay attention to details that can otherwise detract from a pleasant appearance—such as dirty or chipped fingernails, crushed ill-fitting clothing, unruly hair and excessive make-up. Aim for the simple and elegant look by doing away with accessories that are too large or just don’t match and get rid of shoes that are less than respectable. Highlight the features of your face that flatter you and if you are carrying around excess weight, ensure that you take steps towards beginning a fitness programme without delay. Do everything in your power to look your best – even if it means scheduling a gruelling appointment with your dentist. And ensure that you always look this way—not just on occasions or at the office. Once you’ve perfected the art of appearing well turned out, you will notice a subtle and yet powerful change in your own body language and in the way in which others relate to you as well.

4. Improve your general competence

Are you known to be clumsy, careless or helplessly dependant on others? Perhaps you even thrive on this as in many cases, it is an attention-seeking gesture. However, experts warn that this reputation can prey on your self-esteem, since others too will see you as irresponsible and incapable. This can cost you the respect of your peers and even a promotion that would have otherwise been on the cards. In order to combat the damage, you will have to seek steps that reinforce a positive self-image, one that demonstrates how capable you actually are. “Find ways of tapping at your unexplored potential,” says Sheila Ramanan, Chennai-based psychologist and counsellor. “Start to establish a sense of independence – even in small issues. For instance, if you’ve always been chauffeured around, enrol in a driving class and work towards your driver’s licence. Try to make yourself as independent as you possibly can, for this will help you regain control of your life.”

5. Nurture intellectual growth

Intellectual growth not only enhances career prospects, but also attacks the ignorance that can stand between yourself and a healthy self-esteem. Perhaps you never did have the right opportunities while you were growing up, but now is certainly the time to reverse the situation. “With the advent of the Internet explosion, knowledge is free,” says Suresh Kishore, a consultant at a leading IT firm. “Even people who grew up with a crippling disruption in their studies can now equip themselves better and aim for a better life.” Read the newspapers, magazines, even fiction to be aware of current events and issues. Start with your areas of interest first—and remember, knowledge, regardless of the situation, is power.

6. Stay away from nay-sayers

Just as the right kind of friend can restore your strength, the wrong kind can sap it. Stay away from excessively negative people who tend to exorcise their animosity against the world in their close relationships. A friend, without exception, should be someone caring and sensitive, who makes you feel good about yourself, even while being critical. A lasting friendship can heal all wounds and can put you on the path to progress. Friends act like a mirror, reflecting your real persona, values and beliefs. Choose them carefully and watch your confidence soar.

This article first appeared in the November 2008 issue of Complete Wellbeing magazine
Kamala Thiagarajan
Kamala Thiagarajan is a Madurai-based journalist. Her writing interests encompass a host of genres including travel, health, entertainment and lifestyle. She is a full-time freelance journalist who works from her home in Madurai, South India. With 20 years of experience in journalism, she has over four hundred articles in print in leading magazines across the globe.


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