Boost Your Confidence by Avoiding These 7 Habits


Confidence is one of those things you can’t really get directly.

You can’t just try to be confident any more than you can try to be happy. In fact, sometimes this direct approach to seeking confidence can backfire: You’re so worried about being more confident, that you make yourself anxious and insecure — the opposite of confident!

Confidence is the key to leading a happy and successful life. Your personal and professional efforts can greatly benefit from confidence. However, some actions could gradually make you feel less confident.

This article will look at five behaviors you should give up if you want to feel more confident and lead the greatest possible life.

What if we need a completely different approach to building confidence?

What if becoming more confident is about what you should do less of rather than more of?

1. Comparing Yourself to Others: The Confidence Killer

Constant comparison to others, especially in the social media age, is a behavior that destroys confidence. It’s all too easy to become consumed with evaluating your life, appearance, and achievements in relation to those of your peers. Comparing your experience to others will simply make you feel inadequate because everyone’s experiences are unique.

Key Takeaway: Rather than continuously comparing yourself to others, cherish your individuality and concentrate on your own growth.

avoid habits

2. Worrying about things they can’t control

Worry is the flip side of rumination. Just like rumination is unhelpful thinking about mistakes or bad things in the past, worry is unhelpful thinking about potential dangers in the future:

On a primitive level, we believe that if we think hard enough and long enough and prepare ourselves for every possible negative outcome, things will be better — people we love will stay safe, disasters will be averted, etc. But more importantly, worry preoccupies our minds. It gives us something to do instead of simply feeling scared helpless or unsure.

The problem is, that the act of worrying trains our brain to believe that those imaginary bad things are real and likely possibilities, which keeps us anxious and afraid in the long run.

When we’re constantly anxious and afraid, it’s awfully hard to be confident.

None of us like feeling out of control. But it’s a fundamental truth of reality that we can’t control everything — especially the two things most worriers obsess about: the future and other people.

The key to undoing the habit of worry, lowering your chronic anxiety, and building up your confidence is to become okay with a lack of control.

If you can practice acknowledging and accepting how little control you actually have in your life, you’ll find your confidence will grow. And on top of that, you’ll have more energy and time to invest in the things you do actually have control over.

If you want to be confident, stop worrying about the life you don’t have and take responsibility for the life you do have.

Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create. — Roy T. Bennett

3. Getting Rid of Self-Talk That Isn’t Positive: A Path to Self-Compassion

Over time, self-criticism and negative self-talk may harm your confidence. This negative behavior is harmful, whether it involves criticizing your decisions, skills, or appearance. Instead of berating yourself, cultivate self-compassion and replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

Key Point: Be your own biggest supporter and speak to yourself as kindly as you would to a friend.

4. Accept Challenges for Personal Development

While avoiding problems may feel comfortable, it undermines confidence. Personal development requires stepping outside of your comfort zone and taking on new challenges. You miss out on important chances to learn and show yourself that you are capable when you avoid challenges.

confidence and challenges

Imagine a scenario:

Your alarm goes off, you roll over and see that the alarm reads “5:00 AM.” You glance outside, and while it’s still pretty dark, somehow you just know it’s cold out there — really cold. On the other hand, your bed is so toasty! This brings you to a decision point: Should you get up and go for that run as you planned? Or hit snooze, roll over, and hopefully hit the gym after work?

After a few back and forths with yourself, you decide that it’s just too cold out there, pull your blankets a little closer to your chin, roll over, and promptly fall back asleep.

You’ve made a decision based primarily on how you feel, rather than what’s most important to you. Your value was to start exercising regularly to improve your health (and physique, of course!).

Your feeling was anxiety over the discomfort of running in the cold and the relief of your warm toasty bed. Ultimately, you decided to stay in bed in order to avoid the discomfort of getting up early and going for a run.

When we consistently act in a way that’s contrary to our own values, we erode our trust in ourselves — and along with it, our self-confidence.

The key message is to view obstacles as chances for development and self-discovery.

5. Self-Validation: The Road to True Confidence

Relying on others for constant validation is a habit that can make your confidence fragile. While external validation may provide a temporary ego boost, true confidence stems from within. Learn to trust your own judgment and acknowledge your accomplishments without constantly seeking praise from others.

When you’re worried or afraid, nothing could be more natural than wanting reassurance that everything is going to be okay:

You’re worried about your son being safe on his road trip back to college, so you text him and his friends every hour asking if everything’s okay.

You’re anxious that you’re wife’s upset at you for something because she looks tense and irritable, so you ask her repeatedly if everything’s okay and if you’ve done something wrong.

You’re worried about blowing the big interview tomorrow so you spend the evening before calling friends and family members asking for tips and reassurances that it will go alright.

And it works!

Sort of…

When we feel anxious, ask for reassurance, and then get it, we temporarily feel relieved of our anxiety and fears. Like a fast-acting pain medication, reassurance is great at alleviating emotional pain and doubt in the short term. But just like all pain medication, reassurance is a Band-Aid that treats the symptoms, not the cause.

boosting confidence

Here’s how it works:

When you’re worried about something — an upcoming performance, what other people think of you, whether someone is safe, etc. — you feel anxious, which is an uncomfortable feeling.

And while extremely uncomfortable — painful, even — anxiety is not dangerous. It can’t hurt you, no matter how intense. But by seeking reassurance, you’re telling your brain that the feeling of anxiety is dangerous and needs to be eliminated. Or else something bad will surely happen.

So even though reassurance-seeking often makes you feel a little better now, in the long term, it’s only intensifying your anxiety and low confidence because it’s training your brain to be afraid of being afraid.

This means the next time something worries you, you’re going to feel even more anxiety and lack of confidence. Which means you’re going to want that reassurance even more.

Cue the vicious cycle…

The solution to this dilemma of reassurance-seeking and continually worse confidence is in a very subtle distinction when it comes to fear:

Just because something feels scary doesn’t mean it actually is dangerous.

If you want to be more confident, you must train your brain to believe that feeling anxious is uncomfortable but not dangerous. That it’s something you can handle. But your brain’s never going to believe you can handle your fear and insecurities if you’re always running to other people to get reassurance.

The next time you feel anxious, validate that feeling as scary and uncomfortable but remind yourself that simply being afraid isn’t dangerous.

Show your brain that you can tolerate feeling afraid without resorting to reassurance-seeking, and it will reward you with confidence in the future.

Key Point: Validate yourself by recognizing your achievements and believing in your abilities.

“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion

accepting failures

6. Accepting Failure as a Learning Experience

Your ability to pursue your goals can be hampered by a fear of failure. It’s critical to know that failure serves as a stepping stone rather than a reflection of your value. Consider failure an immense opportunity for learning rather than something to be hated.

Key Takeaway: Don’t let failure stop you; it’s a vital step on the path to success.

A strong asset, confidence can let you enter places you never believed were imaginable. You may develop and bolster your confidence by refraining from these five bad behaviors. Remember that confidence doesn’t require perfection; it only requires believing in your abilities and yourself.

Each time you say something’s important, and then act contrary to that commitment, you teach your brain that you can’t be trusted and that you’re not reliable. And the biggest reason we all do this is because our feelings tell us something different.

Begin in small ways to consistently follow through on decisions you’ve committed to, each time knowing that you’re building trust in yourself.

And when your brain really starts to trust that you’re the kind of person who goes after what’s really important — as opposed to what feels good or easy now — that’s when the confidence comes.

7. Dwelling on past mistakes

Rumination is a form of thinking where we repeatedly review and replay previous mistakes or negative events in the past even though doing so has no real benefit but does have the side-effect of feeling bad about yourself:

Lying in bed replaying the mistake you made at your presentation at work for hours. Thinking over and over about that conversation between you and your husband when he said you were being overly critical and you thought he was being insensitive.

Why does it feel so compulsive?

Like reassurance-seeking, rumination does kind of work in a superficial sense.

See, rumination is a form of thinking very close to problem-solving, analysis, and reflection — all of which tend to be helpful and positive. So when we ruminate, we often feel as if we’re doing something constructive — we’re thinking about it, and thinking’s always good!

Not really. Even if a fact is true — you did make mistakes as a father, you did screw up a portion of your presentation — continuing to think about it isn’t necessarily helpful.

overcome past

This is the key distinction:

Just because something is true doesn’t mean thinking more about it is helpful.

Even though rumination erodes our confidence and well-being in the long run, we easily get addicted to it because it actually feels good in the very short term. It makes us feel competent and proactive, which briefly alleviates the strong discomfort of helplessness.

Give yourself permission to live life going forward instead of keeping yourself a prisoner of the past.

When mistakes have been made, we can’t actually change them. Intellectually that may sound obvious, but experientially it’s a fact we avoid and deny like the plague because it feels so awful to acknowledge.

The key to undoing a habit of rumination and useless self-criticism is to realize what you’re getting out of it and how it’s not really worth it.

Is the temporary relief of helplessness really worth the long-term blows to your confidence? Is that brief feeling of “I can figure this out!” really worth a night of terrible sleep and sluggishness the next day?

“Give yourself permission to live life going forward instead of keeping yourself a prisoner of the past.” — Deepak Chopra

avoid habits of past dwelling

All You Need to Know

If you struggle with low self-confidence, a new strategy might be to approach it in reverse: Rather than trying to do things that will add confidence or make you feel more confident, work on eliminating things that are killing your confidence.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor Frankl

It’s hard to eat healthily, keep off weight, and lower your cholesterol (values) if you constantly decide to pursue the pleasure of a second bowl of ice cream (feelings).

It’s hard to finally write that novel you’ve been dreaming about (value) if you consistently decide to avoid the anxiety of starting a book and choose the easy relief and cheap excitement of video games (feelings).

On the other hand, when we regularly follow through on what we say is important to us, our brain trusts us more. This means, that the next time we’re faced with something difficult, your brain is likely to respond with confidence (Yeah, we got this!) as opposed to fear (I don’t know… Seems too tough.).

be confident

If you want to build confidence, you need to change your relationship with your emotions.

READ MORE: Lucid Dreaming’s Scientific Basis: A Doorway to the Subconscious

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