This is an edited extract from Confidence Pocketbook: Little Exercises for a Self-Assured Life, by Gill Hasson
Identifying and acknowledging your strengths
"Don’t push your weaknesses. Play with your strengths." - Jennifer Lopez
When our confidence is low, we tend to focus on what we’re no good at and the things we don’t do well. But there are always going to be things we can’t do. Being preoccupied with what’s ’wrong’ and trying to fix it is an uphill struggle. A more positive approach is to identify what we do well – our strengths – and improve what we are doing right.
Confident people focus on developing their strengths and managing weaknesses. They don’t have many more strengths than other people but they have learned to utilise them efficiently in a range of situations.
Your strengths are the personal qualities, abilities, knowledge and skills you already have. Strengths are things that, at the very least, you are competent at – you have sufficient skill, knowledge and experience in. But more likely, your strengths are the things you’re good at and that you do well.
When you’re doing things that you’re capable of and good at, you’re doing things that come relatively easily to you. Knowing what your strengths are, you can look for ways and opportunities to use those abilities and qualities and you can also look for ways to build on and develop those strengths.
When it comes to confidence and self-esteem, developing your strengths makes far more sense than trying to become better at things that are not your forte. Focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot.
"Build upon strengths, and weaknesses will gradually take care of themselves". — Joyce C. Locke
Identify your personal qualities. Put the words ’positive qualities’ into a search engine. You’ll find words such as patient, reliable, caring, organised, adventurous, persistent and loyal. Tick any that describe you and then narrow it down to the five words that you think most describe you. Then, for each word, write two or three sentences describing how and why you know you have that quality. For example, if you felt that compassion was one of your qualities, you might write, ’I do what I can to help someone if, in some way, they’re having a difficult time.’ Your example might be ’I recently drove my neighbor to visit his partner in hospital.’
Identify your skills. Think of the skills you have – skills you’ve acquired through work, study, hobbies and interests.
Ask yourself questions to help you to write about your good qualities and skills. Ask yourself, how has this quality or skill helped me in my work or day-to-day life? What challenges have I overcome by having this quality or skill? How have I helped someone by having this quality or skill?
Feel good about yourself; create your own personal affirmations. By identifying your qualities and skills and writing out how, why and when you have each quality, you are creating your own personal affirmations; positive truths about yourself.
Build on your strengths. Think of something you want more confidence to do. What strengths – what skills and personal qualities – do you already have that could contribute to developing your ability in that area? For example, if you want the confidence to network with others, what relevant strengths do you already have? Maybe you’re open-minded and empathic? Draw on those qualities.
Coping with setbacks to your confidence
"Winners never suffer defeat, just setbacks on their way to victory." — Orrin Woodward
It’s easy to feel confident and good about yourself when things are going well in your life. The real challenge comes when something happens that severely knocks your confidence and self-esteem. Losing your job or getting turned down for a place on a course or a job can set you back.
So can financial difficulties, health problems, injury or a bereavement. If someone else lets you down badly, cheats on you or bullies you, you’ll probably suffer a setback to your confidence and self-esteem; you doubt yourself, your abilities, your worth and your place in the world.
When life knocks you down, it can be tempting to just lie there. It’s a natural response; feelings of sadness and disappointment are intended to slow you down and give you time to take in and adjust to what’s happened.
At some point, though, you’ll need to move on. It’s not easy to bounce back to where you were, but the longer you allow your thoughts to brood on what did or didn’t happen, the more likely your confidence
and self-esteem will ebb away even further.
"Turn a setback into a comeback." — Author unknown
Make a decision that you are going to bounce back. At some point after you’ve taken in and adjusted to what happened, you need to steer your mind in a positive direction and rebuild your confidence and self-esteem.
Look for what you can learn from the setback. Learning from a setback involves reflecting on what happened, what went wrong, working out what, if anything, needs to change and what to do to avoid similar disappointments and setbacks in the future.
As the interviewer Zane Lowe said to Kanye West – ‘You win or you learn, right?’ Sports participants know that whenever they or their team lose they can’t dwell on the setback for long. Instead, they identify what went wrong and what they can learn from what happened.
They then move on to think about the next game or race and what they need to do to get back on form. In order to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem you must do the same; make a decision that you are going to bounce back. It won’t happen automatically, you have to make an effort.
Rebuild your confidence step by step. In a situation where you want to recover from a setback to your confidence, first think about what you do feel comfortable and capable of doing. This is your starting point. Now think of something you can do – one small step you can take that will enable you to achieve and feel good about yourself.
If, for example, you were trying to recover your confidence to drive after a car accident, you might simply start by driving round the block. Then each day, drive a bit farther. Know that small wins help you feel in control, think positively and feel good about yourself. Small wins are the building blocks of confidence.
This is an edited extract from Confidence Pocketbook: Little Exercises for a Self-Assured Life, by Gill Hasson (published by Capstone, A Wiley Brand, July 2017)
About the author:
Gill Hasson is the bestselling self-help author of Mindfulness, Mindfulness Pocketbook, How To Deal With Difficult People, Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook, Overcoming Anxiety and Positive Thinking. Follow: @gillhasson