In the past few years, a lot has changed in my life. A lot. And I’m not just talking about graduating from university, getting a job, and then changing jobs. I’m not talking about moving from Spain, getting my own place, and living through COVID. I’m talking about all of the internal stuff that has happened behind the scenes, in the background of this all. I’m talking about my sense of myself: my confidence.

As a child, I was always the shy one. I was always the awkward one. I never drew much attention to myself, and that was fine with me because I was always the uncertain one. I wanted to have a purpose and to make a difference in life, but I was convinced that I couldn’t. I was sure that I didn’t have the skill, the expertise, and the bravery. I was lacking the confidence.

As I said, a lot has changed. Not from one day to the next, but a lot has changed nevertheless. I now walk through life with my back straight, my head held high, and an air of bad-ass. And I want to share with you how I got there – it wasn’t all just fake it ‘till you make it (though that was definitely part of it). Confidence isn’t a light switch and it requires a little more work…

Whilst visualisation and manifestation have worked wonders, the key to my success has been my mindset – changing the way I think about things, interpret experiences, and how I respond. Being kind to myself has been crucial.

So let me reiterate my biggest tip: I changed my negative thoughts. Yes, really. I’m not here to tell you to think positively all the time, nor am I telling you to drown yourself in affirmations. But changing your negative thoughts to more helpful ones can make a world of a difference. It is often second nature to interpret things through a negative lens (these thoughts and thought patterns have been hardwired over years!), and if we can change this, well, that does a lot to our confidence! Because even when life does knock us down (or tries to), changing our interpretation of these events gives us the resources to get right back up.

But if it’s not that easy, how do we do it?

Step 1 would be to notice your thoughts. You have to be aware of your thoughts to challenge them. Ask yourself: which thoughts are you having that may not be serving you? Which of your thoughts are unhelpful? Then, it’s time to challenge them, one by one. Here’s how:

The 8 steps to changing your negative thoughts and building your confidence:

  1. Notice your thoughts. Keep track of the negative ones, and of any thought distortions. If you don’t know you’re having the thoughts, you can’t go about changing them, so don’t skip this step!
  2. How do the thoughts make you feel? Label the thoughts, and identify how strong your feelings are (0-100%).
  3. Consider the following: what is the evidence that the thoughts are true? Write this down.
  4. Next, ask yourself… and what is the evidence that they are not true? Write this down too!
  5. If you friend were in a similar situation, what would you tell them? Would you think about the situation differently? Imagine this scenario to get a more nuanced view, and then…
  6. Ask yourself the following: is there another way of looking at the situation? Once you generate an image of this alternative interpretation, consider how much you believe in this alternative (on a scale from 0-100%).
  7. After considering the evidence and generating an alternative explanation, how have your feelings changed? If you were 90% worried before, has this now changed to 40%, or 30%? If you were angry before, has this changed? Give your feelings a new rating.
  8. Lastly, consider: Is there a proactive solution? If there is, tackle it. If not, let it be.

 

By going through this exercise and writing down your responses along the way (on a regular basis, and whenever you’re flooded with doubt if possible) you can change the way you think about things. Your brain is malleable, and you can train it to interpret things in a much more adaptive way. So let’s give it a go with an example:

  1. My friend Sarah has cancelled Friday’s dinner plans. My automatic thoughts have been that ‘she doesn’t want to spend time with me’ and ‘she doesn’t consider me a good friend.’ Also ‘the rejection means she doesn’t value our friendship’ and ‘maybe I’m not good enough.’ I have written these thoughts down in my journal.
  2. These thoughts make me feel upset/sad. It is not devastating, but I would give it a 70% because it really impacts my sense of self-worth.
  3. What is the evidence for my thoughts?
    1. She has cancelled the plans
    2. She cancelled last week’s plans as well
    3. She used to be really good at sticking to her plans in the past
  4. What is the evidence against my thoughts?
    1. She is still friendly with me
    2. She’s never said that she does not like spending time with me/that she thinks I am a bad friend
    3. I have not changed
    4. Other friends tell me they like spending time with me, so it is very unlikely that there is something inherently wrong with me
  5. If a friend was in this situation and had these thoughts, I would point them to the fact that Sarah has been very busy lately, and that she has just started a new job. This is probably why she has cancelled the plans, and not an inherent character flaw. I would also remind them that they have cancelled plans themselves in the past, and that this was not because they didn’t want to spend time with the other person or disliked the other person, but just because other things go in the way.
  6. An alternative way of looking at the situation: the fact that Sarah cancelled Friday’s plans probably has more to do with herself and her busy schedule than it does with me and my qualities as a friend! I believe in this thought 80%.
  7. After considering the evidence and generating an alternative explanation, my worry and sadness have decreased. In fact, I don’t think I’m sad anymore at all (0%)!
  8. The next step would be 1. to relax, and 2. to rearrange to meet up at a different, more convenient time! I could also ask Sarah why she cancelled if I wanted to, but I realise that it probably has nothing to do with me so I don’t think I will. However, I may ask her if there is anything I could do to help her out!

 

Over time, this change in your thinking will become your new second-nature. You will no longer interpret rejection as personal, nor will you interpret uncontrollable outcomes as your fault. This in and off itself can make a world of a difference… pair it with some of the fake it ‘till you make it and you’ll be unconquerable!