222 -Build your Confidence Muscle
Part of the human condition is struggling with self-doubt. But do we really have to suffer to succeed?
Deborah Goldstein, founder of DRIVEN Professionals, is a thought-leader with something to say. As I've gotten to know her, her message continues to resonate with me: Build Your Confidence Muscle.
Nix The Negativity: Building Your Confidence Muscle Through Positive Self-Talk
What’s the very first thought you have when you see yourself in a full-length mirror? You probably know where I’m going with this.
If you think, “I need to lose weight," you’re not alone. In fact, according to a poll, most American women draw this type of negative conclusion about their bodies, even the ones with ideal figures! What a revealing illustration of how imbalanced and deeply-rooted our beauty biases are in the U.S.
When I heard this report, it stopped me in my tracks for two reasons. For one, I had been preparing to deliver a workshop called Own Your Career: With Confidence, and I now had a huge case-in-point to add to the program.
By starting with this social confidence buster, then zooming the conversation out to a broader perspective, I planned to seamlessly explain what such negative self-talk is doing to the brain and how it’s directly related to sabotaging our confidence. After demonstrating how thoughts like “I’m not good enough to do that job” or “I’ll probably let the team down” can dilute our confidence at an alarming rate, I could then segue into ways to change those false outlooks and inspire folks to build their confidence muscles.
The second and perhaps more chilling reason I was dumbfounded by the study is that I knew they were talking about me. I’m one of those women who stare into the mirror in disappointment that I’m not 15 pounds lighter, whether it makes sense or not! The social dynamics of the study led to my realization that such negativity was a form of self-bullying, and had been holding me back in my life and career every single day. I weaved this personal disclosure into the workshop and invited participants to join me in building their confidence muscles right then-and-there by addressing their own self-bullying. Here’s a peek at what they learned, and how it played out for me. I invite you to take away some lessons and begin to build your own confidence.
A Vicious Circle
During episodes of negativity, our sympathetic nervous system snaps into action and releases cortisol into the bloodstream. This is the hormone responsible for our primitive impulse to “fight, flight or freeze." Aside from its detrimental long-term health effects (not to mention belly fat), cortisol fogs our minds, literally preventing us from thinking clearly. This prompts us to second-guess ourselves, leading to poor confidence and feelings of defeat, thereby looping us around once again to negative thoughts. The goal, of course, is to stay positive. But as nature dictates, that’s more complicated than we might realize.
A Product Of Our Evolution
We as humans come equipped with a negativity bias, which we have carried with us through evolutionary time spans. Think about it: Our prehistoric ancestors had to be vigilant in every situation or risk becoming dinner for a saber-toothed tiger. This programmed our modern brains to be extra sensitive to perceived threats, even when no threat exists (remember that mirror?). Once we get accustomed to this level of self-imposed negativity, it takes some serious mental energy to pull ourselves back toward reality. My advice? Stay conscious of your inner voice, monitor her negativity and push back the moment you detect self-bullying.
A Big First Step
We can’t necessarily change a tough situation, but we sure can adapt our response to it. Employing a growth mindset is the most effective way to build the confidence needed to cultivate that response.
Defined simply, a growth mindset is the belief that your talents and abilities can be further developed. Embedding this outlook can be likened to rewiring your brain to think positively and progressively. In this state of mind, instead of trying to immediately take command of a situation, you can relish your liberty in responding to that situation.
Apply this when you glance at your figure in the mirror tomorrow morning. Instead of defaulting to that predictable negative self-talk, choose to apply the growth mindset by seeing different possibilities for your future. Only you have the power to make a change.
Take it one step further and audibly commit to a specific action. “Today my intention is to eat healthy, exercise and drink a lot of water.” When you pledge to something out loud, your probability of following through increases. You’ve then given yourself permission to take care of yourself. Congratulations!
After you accomplish your positive intentions through your daily mirror ritual, begin to supplement it with an “atta girl” or a “good job eating healthy!” You’ll be strengthening that confidence muscle, since celebrating the tiniest successes inspires more success.
The nervous system can’t tell the difference between a small victory and a monumental triumph. Just a little internal thumbs-up will release enough oxytocin to make you feel expansive, empowered and motivated. Your body wants to find a way to replicate that, and it will.
I’ve since begun this internal change, and my life now seems full of possibilities. I strongly recommend you try it for yourself.
Deborah Goldstein's website: DrivenPros.com