Life is a journey, and each of us is running our own race—a race filled with triumphs, challenges and self-discovery. Yet, as we navigate along our individual winding and weaving paths, it’s not uncommon to look around and perceive that everyone else seems to be miles ahead, exuding an unwavering confidence that we ourselves might find elusive. Thinking about myself, I recall so many times, looking at people who I had self-proclaimed to be “successful”, and long to be “like” them, “if only I could look like them, sound like them or have what they’ve got”, rather than embracing who I am and the unique tapestry of strengths and vulnerabilities that make us who we are.

Research from the National Confidence Index’s 2023 survey reveal a fascinating trend in confidence levels across age groups. The data illustrates that individuals in their teens and early twenties reported a confidence level of 45%, whereas those in their thirties and beyond exhibited a substantial increase, boasting a confidence level of 68%+. Interesting eh!? These statistics underline the dynamic nature of confidence, with age playing a pivotal role in shaping one’s self-assurance. If I overlay this to my life, this data aligns 100% to my own personal confidence. I often say that as I have aged, I have grown into myself, becoming happy and confident in who I am and belief in my choices and decisions.

The aging process really does allow for self-discovery and a deeper understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses. Life experiences, both positive and negative, contribute to the development of resilience and a more robust sense of self. As we age, we become less swayed by the opinions of others and more focused on embracing our authenticity. We tend to be less concerned about fitting in or being liked, and more occupied with getting to bed before 10pm and getting a good lie-in in the morning, or whether to go for the Brooklyn matt emulsion or the Melville silk for the lounge. No longer am I going to places that I do not want to go to, just because everyone else goes there. I’m not drinking a drink that I don’t like because everyone else does. In fact, in the nicest possible way, I don’t care if you like me or not, I’m me and right now I’m cool with that.

As someone who has personally battled with confidence issues, I understand the impact of feeling marginalised. Being a victim of bullying, dismissed by teachers, desperate to fit in, be liked and facing the limitations both society and I placed on myself for a long time have left lasting scars. These experiences made me believe that I had no future and that being myself was a hindrance rather than an asset. Being me just wasn’t good enough. It was almost like by putting on an act and being more like “others”, I had a safety net. Meaning that if I wasn’t liked or didn’t connect with someone whilst I was wearing this mask, I’d tell myself it didn’t matter as that wasn’t really me. Or at least looking back now that’s how I would best describe it. It seems silly now, but at the time it was my way of masking who I was and that got me by.

It feels somewhat ironic that at a time in our lives when we are making arguably some big decisions about our futures, we are at our lowest in terms of self-confidence. On one hand we are encouraged to forge our own path, decide what’s next, go get em’ and the world is your oyster! Yet internally we doubt ourselves and look for acceptance from others to feel valued and respected.

But what do the experts say?

Renowned psychologist and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck talks of the importance of adopting a growth mindset to cultivate self-belief over time. “Embrace the power of ‘yet.’ The mindset that success is a journey, not a destination, allows for the development of self-belief over time.”

Researcher, storyteller and author of “The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown encourages us to embrace vulnerability as a source of strength, fostering genuine self-belief. “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. That fosters real self-belief.”

Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Tony Robbins advocates for a solutions-focused mindset, urging individuals to concentrate on what they can control to build self-belief. “Identify your problems but give your power and energy to solutions. Building self-belief involves focusing on what you can control and taking positive action.”

Quotes like these make such sense now, but would they have done thirty years ago? I’m not sure, I doubt I’d even have picked up a book in the first place!

So, before I tell you what advice I would give my younger self, I must tell you that moments like these bring to mind the dulcet tones of Kat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) in 1970, or more my era, the 1995 cover by Ronan Keating and Boyzone singing the hit “Father & Son”. The song is like a musical heart-to-heart about a father and his son (hence the name). The dad’s saying, “Hey, learn from my blunders, and life will treat you better.” But the son’s all about doing things his own way, finding himself and living life on his own terms. For me, it’s lyrics capture the real feels of growing up, family dynamics and figuring out who you are. I think it’s a timeless story that hits you right in the guts, and would not at all be surprised if parents in one hundred years are thinking the same.  Anyway, back to my tips for cultivating self-belief!

  1. Acknowledge Your Strengths: Make a list of your achievements, skills and positive qualities. Reflect on them regularly to reinforce a positive self-image.
  2. Set Realistic Goals: Break down your long-term goals into smaller, achievable steps that you can measure against. Celebrate your successes along the way, no matter how small, to build confidence gradually.
  3. Embrace Failures as Learning Opportunities: Every setback is an opportunity for growth. Instead of viewing failures as roadblocks, see them as stepping stones toward success. If you don’t have failure, you can’t have success.
  4. Surround Yourself with Positive Influences: Seek out friends, mentors or role models who encourage you and make you feel good. A supportive network can significantly impact your confidence.

For my thirtieth birthday, my wife arranged a surprise meal in a restaurant. I thought it was just us and our then, only son going for an all you can eat lunch! However, as I walked in, every table in the restaurant was filled with friends and family, all of which had travelled significant distances to be there. The point of this story? There was one more surprise. During the meal, unbeknown to me, there was a book circulating around the guests with a photo of me on the front, in which people were writing messages about me. Kind of like what you get at a wedding, but themed around their feelings toward me. Later that day, when we were back home, she presented me with the book, it blew me away!  The messages inside chocked me up, was this really about me?! It lifted me more than you could imagine, and you know what? I still have that book now, over a decade on, and still have a read when I feeling low on confidence.

But what about if you’re someone supporting others who have low confidence and you want to help them on their journey? Well, I’ve thought of that too!

  1. Be Empathetic: Listen actively and empathise with their struggles. Sometimes, a compassionate ear can make a significant difference. Try to use language like “you must feel”, “that must be hard for you”, avoid “I”, really focus on them.
  2. Encourage Self-Reflection: Encourage friends or loved ones to explore their strengths and passions. Help them recognise their unique qualities and potential. Tell them what inspires or impresses you about them.
  3. Challenge Negative Narratives: Counter negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Remind others of their accomplishments and capabilities. Create a balance that they can reflect on at a quieter time when they are alone with their thoughts.

 

I don’t have the answers, but I do know that the journey to finding your inner confidence may be arduous, but it is a path worth traversing. As we grow older, we have the power to shed the shackles of societal expectations and embrace the authenticity that lies within. By sharing personal experiences, understanding statistical insights and offering practical tips, we can empower ourselves and those around us to cultivate the unwavering self-belief needed to thrive in a world that often challenges our worth.

To hear more of my ramblings, follow me on LinkedIn – Matt Sims, or check out my Blogs at Blog – Ever-So-Lean (eversolean.com)

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