A mindset is like your default way of thinking about things.
- If you have a growth mindset, you tend to see abilities and traits as things that can be improved and developed, which leads to more optimism and flexibility.
- If you have a scarcity mindset, you tend to view other people’s gains as your losses, which leads to a lot of fear and resentment.
Mindset work is key to nearly every aspect of our emotional health and wellbeing, but it’s especially helpful if you struggle with anxiety and self-doubt and want to become more confident.
The following 4 mindset shifts will help you move from a fear-based mindset to a confidence mindset.
1. Shift your expectations from idealistic to realistic
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
— Alexander Pope
Expectations themselves aren’t a problem. The problem is that we rarely examine or update our expectations…
This is especially true of idealistic expectations which, because we want to believe the best in ourselves and other people, can easily become grossly unrealistic and therefore problematic.
- Suppose you have an expectation that your partner will “do their fair share of the work around the house.”
- And yet, historically, your partner has never done a significant amount of housework.
- The result is that, because your expectations are unrealistic (note that doesn’t mean they’re good or bad…) you constantly feel resentful, frustrated, and disappointed in them. But because of all that difficult emotion, you feel a lot of pressure and anxiety about speaking up and being assertive with them about doing more of the work, which means you tend to avoid asking and continue feeling more and more resentful and frustrated.
- On the other hand, suppose you adjusted your expectations to be more realistic… “I would like him/her to do their fair share of the housework, but he/she never has, so it’s unlikely to just happen.”
- Because your expectations are now aligned with reality, you’ll feel less surprise and outrage every time your partner doesn’t do some housework. And because you’re less upset overall, you stand a much better chance of mustering up some courage to be assertive and ask for what you want. And the more that happens, the more confident you will feel doing it in the future.
That’s just one small example of how unrealistic expectations actually fragelize you and how lowering your expectations can surprisingly lead to more confidence and peace of mind.
So, anytime you find yourself getting frustrated or resentful, use it as a cue to check in on your expectations, and if at all possible, update them to be more realistic.
2. Shift your judgments from moral to mechanical
Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances.
— Vincent De Paul
When you’re in the habit of judging things—including yourself—in moral terms (right vs wrong, good vs bad), it’s easy to end up moralizing about things that aren’t actually moral. This results in an extra layer of guilt or shame that’s both unnecessary and confidence-killing.
- Let’s say you tend to struggle with anxiety and chronic worry.
- And you’ve got this habit where, anytime an especially negative or scary worry pops into mind, your self-talk pipes up with something like “Ugh, I need to stop having bad thoughts like this.”
- Well, automatic thoughts aren’t moral phenomena because they’re not something you can control. But if you assume you should be able to control them, and blame yourself for not being able to, you’re inappropriately moralizing and judging yourself, which will lead to a lot of guilt and shame on top of your anxiety (and feeling ashamed of feeling anxious tends to just make you more anxious).
- Instead of judging your worries or negative thoughts morally, you could judge them mechanically… “Huh… that’s strange that such a negative thought popped into mind out of nowhere. But then again, if you think about it, the mind does all sorts of strange things…” Your brain is a very complicated machine, not a person.
- This mechanical judgment triggers curiosity rather than shame. And because your overall level of painful emotion is lower, you’ll be more confident letting it go and moving on with less anxiety and self-doubt.
There’s a time and place for moral judgments. But if you want to feel more confident and resilient, be careful not to moralize things that aren’t actually moral.
3. Shift your criticism from people to actions
Not judging is another way of letting go of fear and experiencing love. When we learn not to judge others – and totally accept them, and not want to change them – we can simultaneously learn to accept ourselves.
— Gerald G. Jampolsky
Like expectations, criticisms are not necessarily bad. In fact, we all need to be critical in order to grow, improve, and be better—both for ourselves and the people we care most about.
But criticisms are dangerous because they easily slip from healthy and productive to unhealthy and hurtful. And one of the ways criticism, especially self-criticism, is unhealthy is that it makes us anxious and insecure.
- A good friend says something you find offensive or insensitive.
- You’re about to respond and give them some (hopefully) constructive feedback.
- But before you do, some negative self-talk in the form of self-criticism pops up: “Don’t be that person who’s always nosy and telling other people what to do.”
- Now, for a variety of reasons, this bit of self-criticism is probably unhealthy and unproductive—mostly because it criticizes you as a person rather than some specific action. But notice what happens if you’re in the habit of doing this… Not only will you feel bad (guilty, afraid) but you will chronically avoid being assertive and giving tough but important feedback to your friends, which will make you far more anxious and insecure in the long-run.
- On the other hand, what if your self-talk looked like this: “Be careful of being overly prescriptive with other people… Remember that one time when you gave your brother feedback that was misinformed and it caused a huge blow-up? If you’re going to give feedback now, be thoughtful about how you do it.”
- Notice how in this version you’re still being critical of a specific action, but you’re avoiding criticizing yourself as a person.
- As a result, you’re much more likely to be assertive and to give the feedback well, both of which are likely to make you feel more secure and confident in the future.
In short, be careful with criticism, including self-criticism. One simple way to distinguish whether your criticism might be helpful vs unhelpful is whether you’re criticizing a specific behavior or action vs an entire person. In other words, don’t overgeneralize with your criticisms.
4. Shift your focus from thoughts and feelings to behavior
If you’ve never looked within, you should probably start. But if you look within all the time, maybe you should try picking your head up and looking around instead.
— Max Nussenbaum
Here’s a counter-intuitive idea about dealing with fears and insecurities and building confidence:
The solution to internal problems is usually behavior change.
- It’s very difficult to think your way out of worry and anxiety… analyzing your worries usually just leads to more worry, and as a result, more anxiety and insecurity.
- If you’re racked with imposter syndrome, you can tell yourself that you’re smart and capable until you’re blue in the face, but it’s unlikely to change how you feel.
- If you constantly feel anxious around other people, you can analyze your past and how terrible it was that your parents didn’t love you enough, but that’s not going to make your social anxiety go away.
On the other hand, when you commit to make small, but meaningful changes in your behavior despite how you think and feel, good things tend to happen:
- When you commit to going to the gym despite worrying about what other people will think of you, you’ll find yourself feeling more confident the next time.
- When you speak up and share your idea despite feeling less than around your coworkers, you will find yourself increasingly confident speaking up despite feeling inadequate.
- When you commit to attending small social events despite feeling nervous, you give your brain a chance to learn that maybe you’re not quite as socially awkward as you keep telling yourself—and as a result, get a little more confident.
While it’s good to be aware of your thoughts and feelings, and to periodically reflect on them, most people who are anxious and insecure spend WAY too much time thinking about how to feel better and far too little time doing confidence-building things despite how they feel.
So here’s the mindset shift:
- Instead of: “If only I felt X, I could do Y.”
- Try this: “I can do Y despite not feeling X.”
All You Need to Know
Use these 4 mindset shifts to boost your confidence:
- Shift your expectations from idealistic to realistic
- Shift your judgments from moral to mechanical
- Shift your criticism from people to actions
- Shift your focus from thoughts and feelings to behavior