We often think of confidence as something innate: You’re either born with it, destined to walk through the world with big steps and chest puffed out, or to be a wallflower who avoids the spotlight and lacks a sense of self-worth.
But while there is plenty about our personality and outlook on life that is rooted in either our DNA or early development, there is also much about it that is shaped by the way we behave every day, from one hour to the next.
Our habits, even the subconscious or seemingly small ones, contribute to our sense of confidence and faith in ourselves. We might not even realize that certain patterns of behavior are eating away at our sense of personal conviction, but they are. Here are 15 things you might be doing that are hurting your confidence—and that you should stop doing as soon as possible. And to help achieve some newfound positivity, check out these 70 Genius Tricks to Boost Your Confidence.
Phone at Meals
You know by now that scrolling your phone while at a meal or in a conversation is rude, but it can also hurt your own sense of confidence. “When you’re on your phone, scrolling social media or texting, while at dinner or even relaxing, you send a message to those you’re with that they are less important than what you’re doing,” says Fiero. “Worse, you are missing a chance for real, authentic connection for a glimpse at a curated reality of someone you might not even know.”
Losing the opportunity for deepening a real-world connection chips away at your wellness and compounds your sense that the online world is important and something you can’t live without. Cut the surfing and give the person who is actually there your full attention—you’ll feel better for it. And if you’re looking for great ways to engage with others, check out the 30 Best Compliments to Give People Over 30.
Saying “I Don’t Know How”
Nobody can do everything—not even The Rock and Beyonce. But the difference between those bursting with confidence and those who wilt in the face of difficulty is often how they think about things that are unfamiliar.
“Whether you’re wanting to learn a new language, start a business, or meet new people, eliminate the phrase ‘I don’t know how’ from your vocabulary,” advises Shane Simmons, founder of marketing firm S.S. Consulting Firm. “When you tell yourself this, your subconscious will believe it and cause more problems for you when this idea crosses your mind in the future.”
Instead, you can reframe this negative self-talk with more positive phrasings, such as, “how can I do this?” or “Where should I start?”
“The questions we ask ourselves can completely change how we view the world around us,” says Simmons.
Few people are innocent of occasionally putting off for tomorrow what you could do today, but procrastinating can prove to be a confidence-corrupting habit. It gives you the sense that you don’t have control over how your time is spent or whether you can complete things in a timely manner, creating a vicious cycle in which you blow a deadline, lose confidence in your ability to stay on top of things and do them on time, and then blow the next deadline.
But don’t despair. Simmons explains: “It’s actually an easy fix once you force yourself to take action on the tasks you visualize. I like to write down everything that I want to achieve for the day, and then reward myself for each task I’ve completed. For example, if I need to read more, I’ll write down in my notepad, which I keep on my all throughout the day, that I need to read 50 pages from the book I started before I can go to bed. Make a game of it.”
By focusing on the small tasks, you’ll break that procrastination habit. And for more great tips, here are 20 Daily Confidence Boosters for Getting Ahead at Work.
Setting Unrealistic Expectations
Setting and accomplishing goals is vitally important for anyone looking to improve themselves and gain a strong sense of confidence. But this needs to be done with caution. Giving yourself ambitious and unrealistic goals—whether in your career, relationships, or health—is likely to set you up for failure and disappointment.
“For example, losing 50 pounds in two months is not only very difficult but very unhealthy,” says Bodybuilding.com TEAM athlete Katie Chung Hua. “When we aren’t reaching our goals we tend to lose motivation and self-confidence. Setting short term goals is the best. You feel that satisfaction of achievement and keeps you motivated to move forward.” Setting unrealistic goals is also one of the Bad Habits You Should Stop by Age 40.
Saying “Yes” to Everything
We often think of confident people as those who embrace all that life has to offer and are happy to say “yes” when others pull back out of fear or nervousness. But just as often, agreeing to everything can leave you with a sense of lacking control or that you are doing things for the benefit of others without considering your own priorities.
“When you say yes all the time you get scattered, distracted, frustrated and stressed out,” says Matthew Levy, a peak performance coach. “With so much on your plate, you can’t do everything well—quality goes down, deadlines slip, customers complain. Your confidence takes a beating.” If you’re feeling overwhelmed in the office, we’ve got the ultimate hack for you. Just read this: I Left My Out-of-Office on Permanently and I’ve Never Been Happier.
“Comparing someone else’s highlight reel to your reality is a recipe for low self-confidence and never feeling good enough,” says lifestyle expert and holistic nutritionist Rebecca Fiero. “Most people only put their best on social media and even the girl with the perfectly curated feed and Insta boyfriend that takes Vogue-worthy photos has bad days.”
If you can’t cut social media out of your life completely, at least get into the habit of taking posts with a grain of salt—reminding yourself that those friends living their best life are probably having their share of crappy days, too.
Fiero also suggests download the News Feed Eradicator plugin for Firefox.
“This will replace your Facebook feed with a motivational quote, so if you are online, you can engage purposefully instead of being sucked into the feed rabbit hole,” she says.”
Not Breaking a Sweat
A good workout or even a quick run can send a rush of endorphins into your brain, heightening your sense of satisfaction and relaxation, while also conveying a sense of confidence. Not only does regularly exercising give you an immediate feeling of stability, it can create a long-term sense of accomplishment and fitness. Bonus: It’ll also help you in the bedroom.
Resting Sad Face
Like exercising, smiling can lift your mood and raise your level of confidence over the long term. Getting into the habit of scowling or just having a generally unhappy expression on your face can hurt your self-esteem and keep others from seeing you in a positive light. Check your expression before you enter a room and throughout the day—if you aren’t smiling, turn that frown upside down.
You Rush Things
Similar to saying “yes” all the time, the habit of trying to do too many things and do them quickly can chip away at your sense of confidence.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” explains Levy. “You are so busy that you rush through your decisions. Knee-jerk reactions are going to backfire.”
He suggests making a practice of meditating, journaling, and other habits that force you to stop, slow down, and really think about what you are doing.
Dwell on the Past
A confident person tends to keep their eye on what’s next. They can learn from mistakes and celebrate victories, but don’t dedicate a lot of their life to reflecting on what happened yesterday or years ago. Likewise, letting previous experiences dictate new decisions can end up debilitating you.
“When considering something new, people spend a large chunk of their time going over how things went for them when they tried to make positive changes in the past,” says Ruth Kent, the director of Sunrise Well, a mindful wellness center. “They can spend so much time feeling a sense of failure, self-blame, or regret for what might have been, ‘if only I’d done this my life would be so much better.’”
She adds that rather than seeing this as a fresh opportunity to change their lifestyle, the average person will get stuck in a pattern of thinking based on a past failure, and often don’t even begin to try this new thing.
Constantly Comparing Yourself to Others
This is hard to resist, especially in these days of social media. But seeing your successes and failures and general progress in life can seriously undercut your sense of confidence and self-direction.
“We are all on our own journey, with our own unique life experiences, lifestyles, bodies, families, cultures, and so on,” says Kent. “What works for me, won’t necessarily work for you, and vice versa, yet people spend a great deal of time comparing themselves to others, whether it be in a yoga class, at work, on Instagram, or other social media.”
Wanting Something But Not Trying to Get It
If you want something, try and get it. Having free-flowing desire but not following through on it will hurt your sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.
“The No. 1 thing that kills confidence is believing that endless stream of self-talk and not taking action on what you DO want,” says Deb Boulanger, founder of The Great Do-Over Inc. “Confidence comes from DOING things we are scared of or haven’t done before. Self Esteem comes from the inner belief that ‘I am worthy.’”
“When we slump over, it gives the impression that we are feeling down and unmotivated,” explains Alison Marsh, a pilates instructor. “It also restricts optimal energy, which perpetuates the issue of feeling down and unmotivated.”
She suggests instead that you conscientiously stand up tall and take up space when you walk, moving with bold steps and a straight back.
Telling White Lies
Keeping secrets from others or telling (seemingly) harmless lies can chip away at your feeling of confidence. You will become used to telling only partial truths and have to second-guess or self-edit what you say. Distrusting your own assertions will lead others to distrust you as well. (And we know you’re lying, because there are at least 40 Lies Everyone Tells on a Daily Basis.)
“Once you start to keep a secret, you are bound by that secret,” says Trent Heppler, a life coach and author. “Secrets also multiply themselves, almost mysteriously. Be genuine, open, honest, and share with those that you love and are not malicious, and you will gain confidence and stronger connections.”
Giving in to Fear
Everyone feels fear at some point, whether nervousness about trying something new or a bit of terror when taking a new job or making a change in their life. Fear can be healthy, but getting into the habit of letting these fears dictate your decisions can eat away at your sense of self-direction.
Heppler points to a Tibetan proverb that says, “Worry is fear turned inward, and anger is fear turned outward,” observing that “When you are angry or worried, look deep and identify what you are really afraid of. This is half the battle, you can then overcome that fear, because if you look at it closely you will notice that it is usually based on something that is from the past, or in the future.”
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