MANY people lack self-confidence. This is a common phenomenon that varies in intensity and is often situational.
The good news is that if you examine some of the causes of a lack of confidence, they will illustrate that it is self-inflicted - and can be improved, if not eliminated, with a change of behaviour.
Here are some basic tips on how to start breaking down the barrier to a more confident and balanced life.
1. Fear of rejection
One of the most basic human needs is to be loved and accepted. Some people go to extraordinary lengths to fulfil this need.
People who excessively strive to be wanted, accepted and loved may be doing themselves more harm than good, because they do things to please others in the hope of "buying" their acceptance. They fear that standing up for themselves or for what they believe in will make others reject them.
On the contrary, standing your ground is the clue to getting other people to respect you. If the people you want to please only accept you for what you can give them, they are probably not worth your time.
Give yourself the chance to be with people who like you for yourself. Learn to see rejection as the opportunity to move on to better things.
Tip: Say to yourself that "perceived rejection" is only feedback. Not giving in to others who want to impose their will on you for selfish reasons will benefit you in the long term.
Negative self-talk creates self-doubt. This is when we convince ourselves that we are not good enough and it becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy.
Every single day of your life, the person you talk to the most is yourself. That is why training yourself to talk positively is so important.
An example of this: one of my clients - an entrepreneur -started to doubt his abilities when some of his prospects refused to buy his products. He soon came to realise, through positive self-talk, that these people were rejecting his products, not him. It was nothing personal.
Tip: Practise turning every negative thought into a positive - from a "cannot" to a "maybe"'. Eventually, you will acquire a "can do" mindset.
3. What will others think of me?
You are likely to ask this when you have to make a presentation or when you are expected to make conversation at a social gathering.
The root cause is self-consciousness. If you focus only on yourself or on possible negative outcomes (loss of face), sharing a thought or point of view becomes difficult.
In a social setting, try to worry less about being interesting and more about being interested in other people. Focus on your audience, not yourself!
If you are giving a speech, make sure you thoroughly prepare for it - that is the least your listeners expect from you. If you try to "wing it", you will not sound confident and will be more likely to worry about what others will think!
Tip: Focus less on yourself. You will be lifting a huge barrier in interpersonal communication.
4. It is situational
Your self-confidence can take a dive in certain situations.
If you are generally able to put forward your views confidently with friends and colleagues, why is it that you feel less sure of yourself when engaging in conversation with "important" people, such as your boss or a high-ranking client?
The answer lies in your aversion to risk taking - you want to make a good impression and become extra careful about what you say.
I am not suggesting that when addressing a Board of Directors you should treat them like buddies - that would be inappropriate.
The thing to do is to adapt your communication style to the circumstances - treat people with the respect that is their due but don't apologise for having opinions.
Tip: If you encounter circumstances where you feel uneasy, think of a similar situation when you felt totally self-confident.
Capture that positive situation in your mind with the feelings that go with it: your demeanour will follow in a positive way.
The key is to start your journey to more self-confidence in a small way. As the old adage goes: "A journey starts with the first step."
With increased self-esteem, a more balanced and purposeful life will follow.