1. Gauthier, Peggy MS, BSN, RN, CGRN

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Many people want to be, look, and feel confident, but what if you are starting with little or no confidence? What can you do when your self-confidence is at an all-time low? We all need a confidence boost at one time or another, be it professionally, personally, or spiritually. Whether you feel like you have never possessed self-confidence or something has happened which has affected your confidence level, you may have low-confidence beliefs that have a negative effect on you every day, sometimes in every way. These beliefs may surface as thoughts such as "I am no good at that," "no one likes me," or "I am not smart enough."

FIGURE. Peggy Gauthi... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE. Peggy Gauthier, MS, BSN, RN, CGRN, SGNA President 2010-2011

Confidence is a self-assured state of mind that at times is very elusive. Sometimes the remedy is as simple as changing your attitude and stopping those self-defeating thoughts that keeping running through your mind. Research on the topic of confidence and self-confidence yields literally thousands of resources. Let's take a quick look at common themes from the literature that address boosting and building confidence, which will be highlighted.


Confidence has its roots in valuing yourself. This is a tall order, as you may believe that other people's lives are more important than yours, they do more important things than you do, or even that they look better than you do. You need to accept that as an individual, you are valuable apart from your actions, accomplishments, and physical appearance. Confidence begins with self and has far less to do with what others think of you than with what you think of yourself.


There was a time when children were socialized to believe that confidence in one's self was a negative attribute. Words such as "conceit," "arrogance," and "aggression" were often used to describe confidence. Conceit is bragging about yourself, and confidence is the belief you can accomplish something. The difference between being arrogant or aggressive and being confident is the effect your actions have on the rights and hearts of others. Focus on your achievements. Identify successes. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small it may seem to be.


Confident people don't mind making mistakes. Making mistakes does not paralyze confident people. They assess the results, make the necessary adjustments, and move on to something else. Remember that no one is perfect; it is self-defeating to put unrealistic, superhuman expectations on you. Confidence comes from knowing both your capabilities and limits and functioning within these boundaries; however, it takes real courage when you try and stretch these boundaries.


Confidence is not about being larger than life. Confidence means being "right sized." Instead of making unrealistic or strict demands and feeling remorseful and even more insecure when you fall short, get clear with yourself about what you are truly capable of. Being realistic gives you room to grow. Almost all success comes about as a result of many attempts. Your first attempt may fall short. So might the first 10 attempts. With each attempt, however, if you learn from mistakes, you will feel better and better. Your confidence will naturally grow. Every person who has become good at something had to start at the beginning and make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes are good when you learn and grow from them.


It has been said that we can't achieve anything unless we visualize it in our minds first. We are not consciously aware of it, but before we do anything (even scrubbing the floor), instant pictures flash up in our minds completing the activity. If you want to increase your confidence, you have to consciously picture yourself as being confident. Try spending a few minutes each day, visualizing yourself as a confident, self-assured person. Picture yourself in a situation that would make you feel anxious, such as giving a talk in front of your peers. This may be difficult at first, but with a little practice, you will be amazed at how quickly you can see yourself as the confident person you know you can be. Growth in confidence takes time. Even those tiny steps that may seem small and insignificant have a big impact. Again, remember to celebrate these small steps. To quote Richard Evans, "Don't be discouraged. Anyone who got where he is had to begin where he was."


When you dream about what you want to accomplish in life, how confident are you that you will achieve these dreams? How confident are you that you will follow through and do what is needed to achieve your goals? How many times has something like this happened to you? You resolve that you will eat no more chocolate but then have some chocolate cake at work because it's someone's birthday. On the surface this does not seem like a big issue, but every time you say you will or won't do something, and then you do or don't do it, you damage trust in yourself. Every time you set a goal and quit before you finish, you lose a little belief and trust in yourself. More than likely, you are not even conscious of this happening. In order to be confident, you have to trust yourself.


So what is the solution? Don't promise anything to yourself (or others) unless you are absolutely sure you will follow through. Never break a promise. This too takes time and practice as well as a personal commitment to build confidence. Remember this Chinese proverb: Talk doesn't cook rice. Taking calculated (and sometimes not so calculated) risks gives one a chance to gain confidence significantly and quickly. Once in a while it is okay to do something that scares you. Why you are actually afraid doesn't really matter much. It is the confidence you get by pushing through that fear and proving to yourself that "you can" is the bonus. "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience that you stop and look fear in the face" (Eleanor Roosevelt).


Persistence is crucial to the success of confidence building. Persistence means never giving up, being like a "dog with a bone" in your actions, not allowing anyone to knock you off course. Anything worthwhile will have its share of challenges. You must acknowledge that there will be challenges and be prepared to mow them down in the pursuit of confidence.


A word of caution: as your confidence builds and is visible to those around you, expect criticism. You are becoming a different person, which may be anxiety producing to some of those around you. Part of gaining confidence is the ability to deal with criticism. Just remember, criticism is common and overrated. Criticism usually says more about the person doing the criticizing than the person being criticized. "Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic" (Jean Sebelis).


Accept compliments gracefully. Don't roll your eyes and say "Yeah right" or shrug it off. Take it to heart and respond positively. Smiling and saying thanks would be a good start. Prepare thoroughly for any task. With meticulous preparation, your confidence will show. Always smile and stand up straight. Set reachable goals and break bigger tasks into smaller pieces. On occasion, you may have to fake it!! Making yourself feel and look confident can make you believe that you are confident. More than likely everyone around will perceive you as confident. Finally, do not be too competitive or compare yourself with others. Be yourself and accept that life is not a race against others. Your confidence depends on you, your personal strengths, and how you use the resources you have.