One of the things that held me back from pursuing my dreams, for many years, was fear of failure … and the lack of self-confidence that I needed to overcome that fear.
As far as Irish dancing was concerned, I was afraid of what other people thought of me. I wasn’t afraid I didn’t have the actual skill to perform well, I was much more concerned about what I would look like as an adult Irish dancer. People tend to trash talk about adults, you’ve heard it I’m sure, and it was a source of discomfort to me.
It’s something we all face I think. Adults or otherwise. So how do you overcome that fear?
Working on your self-confidence and self-esteem
It’s nearly impossible to make time for your dreams, to break free from the traditional mold, and to truly be yourself, if you have low self-esteem and self-confidence. Without really thinking of it in those terms, that’s what I’ve been doing over the years, and that’s what helped me overcome my fears, and finally pursue my dreams.
I still have those fears, don’t get me wrong, but now I know that I can break through that wall of fear and come out on the other side. I’ve done it many times now, and that success will fuel further success.
As an aside, I know that some people make a strong distinction between self-esteem and self-confidence. In this post, I use them interchangeably, even if there is a subtle but perhaps important difference … the difference being whether you believe you’re worthy of respect from others (self-esteem) and whether you believe in yourself (self-confidence). In the end, both amount to practically the same thing, and in the end, the things I mention below give a boost to both self-esteem and self-confidence. So it’s all good.
Taking control of your self-confidence
If you are low in self-confidence, is it possible to do things that will change that? Is your self-confidence in your control?
While it may not seem like it, I strongly believe that you can do things to increase your self-confidence. It is not genetic, and you do not have to be reliant on others to increase your self-confidence. And if you believe that you are not very competent, not very smart, not very attractive, etc. … that can be changed.
You can become someone worthy of respect, and someone who can pursue what he wants despite the trash talking of others.
You can do this by taking control of your life, and taking control of your self-confidence. By taking concrete steps that improve your competence, your self-image, you can increase that self-confidence, without the help of anyone else.
Below, I outline 15 things that will help you do that. None of them is new or revolutionary, none of them will do it all by themselves. The list certainly isn’t comprehensive. These are just some of my favorite things, stuff that’s worked for me.
And you don’t need to do all of them, as if this were a recipe … pick and choose those that appeal to you, maybe just a couple at first, and give them a try. If they work, try others. If they don’t, try others. The point is, try.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Photoshop your self-image. Our self-image means a crazy amount to us, more than we often realize. We have a mental picture of ourselves, and it determines how confident we are in ourselves. But this picture isn’t the end of it. You can change it. Use your mental Photoshopping skills, and work on your self-image. If it’s not a very good one, change it. Figure out why you see yourself that way, and find a way to fix it.
2. Think positively. One of the things I learned almost three years ago, was how to replace negative thoughts (see next item) with positive ones. With this tiny little skill, I was able to completely change my diet and my health within a year. It sounds so silly, but giddy aunt this works. Seriously. Try it if you haven’t.
3. Kill negative thoughts. This one goes hand-in-hand with the above item, but it’s so important that I made it separate. You have to learn to be aware of your self-talk, the thoughts you have about yourself and what you’re doing. When I would practice, sometimes my mind would start to say, “This is too hard. I want to stop and go watch TV.” Well, I soon learned to recognize this negative self-talk, and I learned a trick that changed everything in my life: I would imagine that a negative thought was a bug, and I would vigilantly be on the lookout for these bugs. When I caught one, I would stomp on it (mentally of course) and squash it. Kill it dead. Then replace it with a positive one. (“C’mon, I can do this! Only a few counts left! Your trebles are sounding great!”)
4. Get to know yourself. Get to know yourself well. Start listening to your thoughts. Start writing a journal about yourself, and about the thoughts you have about yourself, and analyzing why you have such negative thoughts. And then think about the good things about yourself, the things you can do well, the things you like. Start thinking about your limitations, and whether they’re real limitations or just ones you’ve allowed to be placed there, artificially. Dig deep within yourself, and you’ll come out (eventually) with even greater self-confidence.
5. Act positively. More than just thinking positively, you have to put it into action. Action, actually, is the key to developing self-confidence. It’s one thing to learn to think positive, but when you start acting on it, you change yourself, one action at a time. You are what you do, and so if you change what you do, you change what you are. Act in a positive way, take action instead of telling yourself you can’t. Be positive. Talk to people in a positive way, put energy into your actions. You’ll soon start to notice a difference.
6. Be kind and generous. Oh, so corny. If this is too corny for you, move on. But for the rest of us, know that being kind to others, and generous with yourself and your time and what you have, is a tremendous way to improve your self-image. When you act with the Golden Rule in mind, you start to feel good about yourself and to think that you are a good person. It does wonders for your self-confidence, believe me.
One important key to success is self-confidence. A key to self-confidence is preparation. – Arthur Ashe
7. Be prepared. It’s hard to be confident in yourself if you don’t think you’ll do well at something. Beat that feeling by preparing yourself as much as possible. Think about getting ready for a performance or competition: if you haven’t practiced, you won’t have confidence in your abilities to do well. But if you practiced your butt off, you’re prepared, and you’ll be much more confident. Now think of life as your performance/competition, and prepare yourself.
8. Know your principles and live them. What are the principles upon which your life is built? If you don’t know, you will have trouble, because your life will feel directionless. For myself, I try to live the Golden Rule (and fail often). This is my key principle, and I try to live my life in accordance with it. Think about your principles … you might have them but perhaps you haven’t given them much thought. Now think about whether you actually live these principles, or if you just believe in them but don’t act on them.
9. Stand up straight and tall. I have great posture, that happens when you spend a few years in a back brace, but I still have to think about holding myself up tall. When I remind myself to stand straight and tall, I feel better about myself. I imagine that a rope is pulling my chest toward the sky, and the rest of my body straightens accordingly. Your dancing will improve by leaps and bounds as well. See what I did there? “Leaps and bounds…”
10. Increase competence. How do you feel more competent? By becoming more competent. And how do you do that? By practicing. Just do small bits at a time. If you want to be a more competent Irish dancer, for example, don’t try to tackle the entire profession of dancing all at once. Just begin to dance more. The more you dance, the better you’ll be. Set aside 30 extra minutes a day to dance, and the practice will increase your competence.
11. Set a small goal and achieve it. People often make the mistake of shooting for the moon, and then when they fail, they get discouraged. Instead, shoot for something much more achievable. Set a goal you know you can achieve, and then achieve it. You’ll feel good about that. Now set another small goal and achieve that. The more you achieve small goals, the better you’ll be at it, and the better you’ll feel. Soon you’ll be setting bigger (but still achievable) goals and achieving those too.
12. Focus on solutions. If you are a complainer, or focus on problems, change your focus now. Focusing on solutions instead of problems is one of the best things you can do for your confidence and your dancing. “But Brooke, I’m fat and lazy!” So how can you solve that? “But I can’t motivate myself!” So how can you solve that? “But I have no energy!” So what’s the solution? I can go on all day here…
13. Be grateful. I’m a firm believer in gratitude, but I put it here because while being grateful for what you have in life, for what others have given you, is a very humbling activity … it can also be a very positive and rewarding activity that will improve your self-image. Read more.
14. Exercise. Gosh, this one seems to be on almost every list. But if I left it off this list I would be doing you a disservice. Exercise has been one of my most empowering activities in the last couple of years, and it has made me feel so much better about myself. I’m talking beyond Irish dance practice. Yes, that’s exercise, but it only hits certain muscle groups and not in the most effective way. Unless you dance with Rinceoiri. There’s a reason we use #BensKickButtGym… But I digress. All you have to do is take a walk a few times a week, and you’ll see benefits.
15. Clean out your dance bag. This might seem like a small, simple thing (then again, for some of you it might not be so small). But it has always worked wonders for me. If my dance bag starts to get messy, and the world around me is in chaos, cleaning out my bag is my way of getting a little piece of my life under control. It is the calm in the center of the storm around me. Here’s how.
Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable. – Walt Disney
My hope is that you can gain better self-confidence and improve your self-esteem. If something above has worked for you, tell me about it in the comments below.