Are you confident? What is confidence?

When people talk about confidence they talk about it like it’s a thing that you either have, or you don’t. Or something that you can gain. Whether it’s confidence in your abilities, body confidence, or just the ability to stride into a shop and confidently demand a return on that faulty item. We think that if you’re not confident you can work hard, learn, and gain confidence that we can then keep for all time.

In reality most of us find that confidence comes in natural ebbs and flows. We have waves where we’ll feel awesome, and then epic lows where we feel terrible. Sometimes these waves are prompted by outside factors, a terrible changing room experience can knock our body confidence, being criticised for a skill can send us into a spiral, but just as often it can feel like these waves come from nowhere. One day we’re riding high, confident in our abilities, and the next day we feel like we’ve taken 3 or 4 steps back and we’re back at the bottom of the ladder and we can’t put our finger on any reason for it.

The truth is if you are confident all the time you’re probably not growing or learning or changing.

Right now I’m in the middle of a big dip in confidence in my skating skills. I’ve been leaving practices feeling deflated, like my body isn’t reacting how I want it to react, and like I’ve got massively worse at Roller Derby. In my rational brain, I know that’s not the case. I’m working harder, pushing my skills to their limits and learning to get better. In that zone, sometimes, in our vulnerable moments, comes that swing in confidence. That feeling we’re just not good enough.

So how do we get our confidence back when we’re on that downswing?

I’ve been here before, and the key is to remember that’s exactly what it is, a downswing. On the other side is the upswing and all we have to do is ride it out, but there are some ways I can use to try and speed up the swing!

Believe in the process

I hate to get all Big Brother best bits, but life is a journey. There’s no ultimate destination for any of these things, there’s no “Hey, now I am the best at this and can always be confident”. We evolve and change, and the world evolves and changes and we just need to trust in the process and keep working and trusting that we can keep up.

If you’re truly confident, deep down, then a temporary blip in how confident you’re feeling doesn’t feel like a cue to give up. It can be a sign that you’re on the right path, that you’ve pushed through another barrier, and that what you’re doing is WORKING.

Trust in the process and keep going. So you got out of bed and went to the gym today, but while you were there you couldn’t even complete all the reps of your exercises at a weight that was easy 6 months ago? Instead of focusing on the “failure” and thinking “I’m so much weaker than I was.”, focus on the process. Today you went to the gym, next time you go back you’ll add more weight. Focus and trust in the process. That process got you to where you were 6 months ago it’ll get you back there, whatever the reason for your set back.

Learn to Critically Reassess

If you feel stuck in a rut and are lacking confidence, is it time to reassess that your goals actually align with what you want right now? Think about those LIFF goals. Do you need to change how you’re looking at things.

Body confidence is a perfect example of this. It’s January, lots of people will be joining Weight Watchers or Slimming World, they’ll lose a few pounds and they’ll twirl in front of the mirror like the women in the adverts patting their stomachs and feeling pretty darn awesome. But then maybe they’ll reach a plateau, or life gets in the way and they fall off the bandwagon and scoff some seriously yummy pizzas and then that confidence dip hits. I know it because I’ve done it myself a million times.

When this happens it’s time to take a look at your motivations. So you haven’t hit your weight loss goal, why did you even pick that goal in the first place? What’s the ultimate reason? Do you just want your clothes to fit better? Do you actually want to be fitter, not thinner? Body confidence is an internal process, not an external one, and really assessing why it is that you’re not happy is a key to finding it. Not being happy and wanting to change is perfectly valid, but the only way to find your happiness is to understand your WHY. You might find that all you really needed to change was your mind.

Celebrate the little things

When our confidence battery is low it’s easy to think EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE. Whether something has knocked your confidence, or you’re just on a bit of a low point, the tendency is to focus on our failures. Forcing yourself to switch it around and focus on the successes is a key to starting to rebuild your confidence and putting the big wins within reach.

For my skating skills this means not thinking about all the times that I tried a skill and failed, it means focusing on the fact that I even tried it, or that 1 time I succeeded, and it means thinking about those times in the past that I didn’t even know that skill existed, let alone be able to try it!

Each little win you celebrate stokes the fires of your confidence and helps you regain that feeling.

Fake it till you make it

I hate the phrase “Fake it till you make it”, partly because it suggests there is such a thing as “making it”, some ultimate destination, but in this instance, it has some application.

Positive self-talk and the way you act has a big influence on the way you feel and act (There’s a couple of great TED talks I’ve watched recently on this. Try this one, or this one.)

In situations like marching into that shop and asking for your money back, or even things like asking for a raise at work, you might lack confidence in that specific situation. You might feel like other people know more than you, or that you are going to be knocked back. Making yourself fake that confidence in those situations is the perfect way to give yourself a bit of control. Remind yourself that no one knows how you feel inside.

Hold your head up high and tell yourself you are awesome, and you might just realise that you really are.

How do you deal when your confidence is shaky?

Dealing with a Crisis of Confidence