Discovering your confident self

Hello again! We had a great start to our comeback community events on 15 May at Chartered Accountants Hall. We kicked things off by exploring what we are good at; our strengths. We also thought about our goals in returning to work - and what a successful 2017 will look and feel like. Thanks to all who attended and got stuck in with enthusiasm and energy. Our last event of 2017: Getting out there and selling your value takes place on 9 October.  To book your place click here.

In this series of blogs and in the events, I’m talking about positive psychology and how science and a few simple tweaks to the way we view the world, and our contribution to it can make all the difference to our career and personal wellbeing.

Our next topic is confidence and mindset.

Everyone has a crisis of confidence now and again. Perhaps it is when we are trying a new exercise class for the first time, beginning a new job, meeting people at a networking event or making that all important presentation at work.  Some people seem to have an inner glow of confidence and appear to effortlessly move through life. How can we nurture and cultivate the confidence within us?

Positive psychology can help stoke that inner glow into a fire. Although it can be argued that confidence is innate, in fact that percentage is relatively small. By observing and changing our inner dialogue we can have tremendous power over the way we see the world and how we interact with others. So, what is your inner voice telling you when you face a new challenge? Are you even conscious of that chatter in your head? Psychologists call this constant narrative; ‘self-talk’ and it has a huge influence on our lives.

Without self-talk, we would probably be extinct as a species. Since prehistoric days our brains have constantly scanned the horizon for reward and threat. When danger looms, messages will be sent around the body in micro-seconds, arming us to respond. Similarly, we are drawn to situations, thoughts and activities that offer rewards like sustenance, warmth, shelter or procreation. Psychologists believe we are predominantly hard-wired for negative stimuli to protect us from harm. This is called ‘negativity bias’. Whilst negativity bias can serve us well, sometimes it can be less than helpful.

The great news is that we don’t have to accept negativity bias if we choose not to. The brain can be trained to adopt a new perspective. Studies of the brain show us that the brain is not simply a static mass of cells throughout life. When we learn new skills, change a habit or start a new one, there is new cell growth. The brain can change itself!

So how does this help us become more confident? Well, we can train this amazing flexible brain of ours to adopt new, more helpful thinking patterns. Banishing some of the negative chatter, we can replace it with empowering images, thoughts and beliefs which boost our confidence.

5 steps to confidence, starting today!

  1. Find a method of tuning into the chatter.

Finding a tranquil moment or two, adopting some mindful breathing or simply noticing the thoughts passing through your head.

  1. Adopt a curious and compassion attitude.

Resist the temptation to chastise yourself if you notice negative thoughts such as ‘I’m not going to be any good at this job, I don’t know what I’m doing’. Just watch the thought and note it.

  1. Make a conscious choice to change

If the thought is unhelpful and you decide it no longer serves you, take control and give yourself permission to try a new way of thinking.

  1. Replace the thought or belief with a rational helpful one

‘I am bound to be nervous about starting this new job, that is completely normal for anyone in my position. Anxiety tells me how important this job is to me. If I just take one step at a time I can do this’. You might like to try the ‘talking to my best friend’ technique; ‘what would I say to my best friend if she/he was feeling less than confident in this situation’?

  1. It takes lots of practice to build a habit

It has taken many years to build these patterns of thinking. Be kind to yourself as you make the decision to change. Whenever you notice that old familiar negative thought saying you’ll fail or you aren’t good enough, gently acknowledge it without anger, and adopt your new thought or belief. This is how habits are formed. It takes effort but change will happen!

Remember, thoughts are not facts.

If you’d like to explore your more confident self and learn techniques to banish unhelpful negative thinking, join us at the next Returners Community event on 20 June. Contact Samantha Brown at ICAEW to find out more;

  • It's so true - you need to "be kind to yourself" when it comes to making any significant changes in your life. Those 2 jobs I applied for and didn't get? Not failures, but stepping stones on the way to the next phase in my career. I am celebrating getting 2 job interviews, and 2 opportunities to get back into the swing of things.