Today is the day—that big interview that could get you the job of your dreams.
You’ve done your homework, practicing answers to most-likely questions, researching the company, and even watching yourself in the mirror to ensure you look relaxed and capable. There’s just one problem—that nagging voice in your head which tells you you’re not going to get the job.
The Problem Starts Early in Life
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Most adults experience a lack of self-confidence at some point in their lives, but for some that problem can be debilitating, affecting their performance, social skills, and job prospects. For most, the problem starts early. Consider, for example, these head-turning statistics:
- More than 70% of girls from 15 to 17 will avoid normal daily activities (including going to school) if they feel unattractive that day
- About 1 of every 5 teenagers in the U.S. experiences substantial depression before they reach adulthood
- Almost half of the girls and 15% of the boys, worried about their appearance, are on diets at any given time
- 75% of girls have such low self-esteem that they engage in self-destructive acts, including cutting, smoking, drinking and eating disorders
You Need to Change the Narrative
Among the principal problems with lack of self-confidence is that it’s self-confirming—in other words, burdened with the view that they’re not good enough, people who struggle with self-confidence tend to fail more often. That leads to a further eroding of self-confidence, setting up a vicious cycle of repeated failures, and increasing self-doubt.
Fortunately, there are ways to get to the heart of the issue by altering that internal dialogue, by in other words changing the internal narrative which tells you who you are and what you’re capable of. Here are 7 smart strategies to get off the merry-go-round and build your self-confidence over time:
- Visualize your ideal self: how you see yourself isn’t static—it can change, and you can affect that change by imagining yourself as you want to be and then adjusting your behavior to align with that idealized self-image. Going back to that job interview, for example, instead of envisioning the moment the hiring manager says you didn’t make the grade, imagine him saying you just knocked it out of the park, and that you got the job.
- Practice self-affirmation: self-confidence, and the lack of it, doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it’s grounded in the internal statements you make about yourself every day. For people with self-confidence, those statements are generally positive, like “I’m competent,” or “I’m a good person who cares about others.” For those without self-confidence, internal statements are routinely negative, like “Nobody likes me,” or “I can’t seem to win no matter what I do.” To build self-confidence, create a list of affirmative statements (yes, actually take the time to write them down)—return to that list every day and practice repeating the affirmations.
- Do the things you’re afraid to do: what tends to scare people more than anything else is the fear of failure (who likes to fail, after all?). Unfortunately, when you don’t attempt the things you’re afraid of, it reinforces the belief that you’re incapable of doing those things. Make a list of the things you’re most afraid to do—it could be public speaking, being assertive with a manager or co-worker, or taking on a challenging project at work. Make a resolution to do one of these things every day. Even if you’re not entirely successful, your self-confidence will increase simply because you made the attempt.
- Start small: if you’ve just started running, you’re probably not going to win a marathon after 2 or 3 weeks. One of the problems people who lack self-confidence have is that, because they can’t accurately gauge their own abilities, they set impossible goals for themselves. One way to correct this problem is to begin by setting achievable goals for yourself. In other words, get some easy wins under your belt, and gradually move to more challenging goals.
- Take the focus off yourself by helping someone else: lack of self-confidence typically entails an inordinate focus on oneself, and on one’s fears. You can mitigate that obsessiveness by doing things that help others, like volunteering at a local hospital or helping a friend out of a sticky jam. In addition to taking a potentially self-destructive focus off yourself, you’ll feel better about yourself for the good work you’re doing.
- Learn to say “no:” when you lack self-confidence, you tend to think you don’t have the right to be assertive with others—but learning to set personal boundaries is critical feeling in control of your life, and to build that self-confidence. When someone asks for a favor, know that you don’t need to respond immediately. Tell them you’ll need some time to think it over. If, after carefully weighing whether this is in fact something you want to do, know that you have the right to gently but firmly say “no.”
- Remind yourself that you’re as good as anyone else: no one is perfect, including you, and including everyone you know. The fact that you have faults doesn’t mean that other people are better than you are. It’s important as you grow in self-confidence to remind yourself that, despite personal shortcomings, you also have strengths, and that, although some people can do some things better than you, there are plenty of things you do better than just about anyone else.
Almost everyone has some degree of self-doubt, something about themselves they don’t like, and some fear of failure. The trick is in learning that, far from making you “different” or, worse yet, “lesser” than other people, what they really make you is human. When you grow in self-confidence, you not only help yourself but also those around you. If feeling better about yourself is important to you, take the time to create a proactive plan that includes the elements above, and resolve to stick to it over the long haul.