Have you ever looked through your local gym’s timetable and thought you’d love to give that new class a go, only to say to yourself ‘I’m not fit enough’ or ‘I’ll embarrass myself if I try that!’, and in the end miss out on the opportunity to not only try something new but improve yourself?
In his best-selling book, The Confidence Gap, Dr Russ Harris asks readers to question how different their lives would be if they had more confidence. Would you go back and jump at those missed opportunities instead of giving up at the first hurdle; would you have pushed through many challenges even if it meant failure at the end?
The gap, which Dr Harris discusses, is our belief that we need to feel confident in order to act confident. Therefore, most of us who feel insecure in areas of our life – not smart enough, or fit enough, or wealthy enough for example – won’t reach for and achieve our goals because we are lacking the confidence to do so. Ultimately, we end up living life on the side-lines, never taking the steps and actions we need to. So how can you increase your confidence levels? What actions can you take to ensure that you reach your true potential, your goals and aspirations?
Here’s how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help boost your confidence today:
There are five main reasons why you may lack confidence:
Pinpoint areas in your life where you lack confidence, don’t generalise and be realistic – life is not the expectation which social media and Hollywood portrays.
In ACT, you are taught that true success comes from living consistently with your core values. Through identifying what these are, they can “play a major role in developing confidence and enhancing performance,” says Dr Harris. Values instil your life with purpose, meaning and inspiration to motivate you to achieve your goals. Knowing what your values are also allows you to set realistic goals aligned to these values, and consequently makes them more achievable.
Our human brains are conditioned to think negatively – this goes back to hundreds of thousands of years of evolution which has allowed us to keep safe in an otherwise hostile world. So instead of trying to turn off this evolutionary switch, learn to work with this aspect of your brain. When confronted by negative feelings, thoughts, emotions, self-doubt and fear, take a moment to acknowledge these thoughts and feelings. Be mindful and aware of how they are making you feel.
Now that you are aware of your negative self-talk or the fear stopping you from acting, engage with your present and decide what you can do, no matter how small the action, to reach your desired goal. Thoughts do not control our actions and, as Dr Harris states, “What holds you back is not fear but your attitude toward it.” In ACT, this practice is known as defusion – choose to break from these thoughts and feelings and instead select a response that will take you towards your goal. Ask yourself: If I allow these thoughts to guide my actions, will they help me to achieve the results I want? Will they help me to be the person I want to be or create the life I want to live?
Gaining confidence is not about going from zero to hero overnight, instead it is about taking baby steps, working daily outside of your comfort zone and being mindful about what your values are, acknowledging the negative thoughts and feelings that may arise, and practising at every moment to direct your action to where you would like to be, despite them. This is Dr Harris’ number one rule with regards to confidence: the actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.
ACT has not only supported my clients in improving their self-confidence and positive outcomes in their lives, but personally it has dramatically changed how I approach challenging situations and aids me to be more present in my everyday life. ACT helps me to be a mom, guided by my values, rather than striving for perfection and falling into self-criticism and the relentless mom-guilt which we all know too well. I also relate to myself differently and have redefined what confidence, success and happiness look like to me in the various areas in my life. ACT has taught me to be the type of mom, wife and coach, I truly want to be, free from others’ and societal expectations, and I therefore have the clarity to focus on the things that truly matter to me.
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