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The 5 Hidden Warning Signs That You Have Low Self Confidence (And HOW to Fix It!!)

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I became a Confidence Coach for two reasons: firstly, I feel completely alive when I coach people because I am living my purpose, and secondly, I don’t want others to have to suffer through low self-confidence like I did. Like myself, many people are not even aware that they have major confidence issues, but they are aware that ‘something is wrong’.

If you have core beliefs that undermine your self-confidence, you have probably felt like something has been missing your entire life. It’s a feeling that takes the sweetness out of success, and emphasises the heartbreak of failure. It’s a vague, guilty doubt, always there in the back of your mind, and sometimes in the front when you lie awake at night.

I’ve come to believe that this feeling is the small remaining part inside of you which knows you could be confident. It’s the part of you which smacks its head in despair every time you avoid something, or make excuses, or pretend you don’t want something you secretly desire.

For years I searched for confidence without even knowing that’s what I was searching for. All I knew was that I wanted better from myself and I was sick of being held back by fear. It was only a few years ago that I realised the issue was all to do with self-confidence.

The warning signs were always there – I just didn’t see them because I thought they were normal. I figured everyone either felt the same or else they were simply born differently and weren’t afraid. In a way I was both right and wrong. Yes some people felt the same as me, but that didn’t mean it had to be this way.

So if you are feeling like something is holding you back in life, if you’re frustrated by the sense of missing out, then have a read through this list of warning signs you could be overlooking. Then consider my solutions to these, as tried and tested methods on how to overcome these barriers to inner confidence.

1. You feel compelled to check your phone when left alone in social situations

I see this all the time. Two people are at a bar, restaurant or shopping mall and one needs to go to the toilet. The other person quickly comes to the realisation that they are now alone in a public setting. The first instinct is to go to the phone… checking for non-existent text messages or scrolling through Facebook. This is simply to alleviate boredom until the other person returns, right? Wrong!

I guarantee the reason most people do this is because they feel like they are being judged by the public when they are out in a social situation by themselves. We are terrified by the thought that other people can see that we are by ourselves without a good excuse. This relates, in my experience, to a basic fear of disapproval by others. While in reality nobody even barely cares that you’re by yourself (they’ve got their own fears to deal with!), you feel as if you are the centre of attention.

Solution:

You need to prove to yourself that being alone in a social situation does not have any negative consequences. You can only achieve this by actually going out alone. Start small, like having a latte at a busy café by yourself. No checking the phone, no reading magazines, just no distractions whatsoever. Take your time, hey people-watching can be great fun! Once this harmless event is conquered, move up to dining, shopping, movies and bar-hopping alone. Being able to do these things despite the fear will make you more socially confident than 80% of people out there.

Super Challenge:

For those of you with mighty balls/ovaries, try going to a party, concert or nightclub alone, and initiate conversations with at least 5 strangers. I predict only about 1-5% of the total human population can do this without alcohol or a firearm pointed at them, so here’s an opportunity to place yourself among the elite of self-confident.

2. You’re unable to leave the house looking like crap

This one also relates to being judged by others, but is more specific to our fear of looking unattractive. I was recently in the Gold Coast in Australia and was saddened by the materialistic focus of the locals. Everyone seemed to be as polished and perfect as they could be. They obviously spend hours getting ready, even just to walk to the shops. Must be exhausting!

Looking good for yourself and looking good for others are two completely different concepts. Trying to win the approval of the fickle public with your appearance is a race you are always going to lose, because everyone has different tastes and eventually you will get old and ugly, no matter what. Wouldn’t it be better to not care what others thought of your appearance before that happens?

Solution:

In brief, discover your identity and match your ‘look’ to that. Focus on pleasing yourself with your ideal view of what you wish you were, rather than what other people think you should look like. I see myself as leader and an artist, so I like to combine business-wear with tattoos and jewellery. I can look at myself in the mirror and think “You’re looking badass my friend” without caring how others perceive me. I used to wear what people I envied wore!

Super Challenge:

Want to end your fear of public humiliation based on appearance for life? Don’t shower or groom yourself for a week. Do not use a mirror or allow yourself to see your reflection for the whole week. Go out in public at least once a day, wearing your worst clothes, such as tacky gym-clothes or mismatching items on purpose. No make-up, accessories, hats or shades (unless they are embarrassing). Yes, you will be judged, but nothing bad will happen. After a week like that, a quick trip to the shops in your PJ’s won’t seem like a big deal.

3. You tell ‘white lies’ to keep the peace, avoid conflict, or keep your job

Fear of conflict keeps many people from making improvements in their lives, because it robs them of integrity. Try to imagine being in a position where you have absolutely no secrets and nothing to hide. How would that feel? At first this concept terrified me. Now, I can’t see any other option, because total truth is pure freedom. You’d be amazed at how accepting good people are.

Trying to maintain a conflict-free environment can only be done through dishonesty for most people. It’s hard to build self-confidence when part of you constantly feels guilty about manipulating and lying. Yes, a small white lie to avoid conflict is a manipulative deception, don’t kid yourself about that! Self-confidence and self-belief requires the basic view of yourself as being a ‘good’ person. You need integrity to achieve this state.

Solution:

This one is a tricky one isn’t it?! It can seem impossible to be completely honest. The secret is to start small and learn how to deliver the truth safely. In one of my previous articles, I talk about using the BEID model for delivering feedback (see my addicted2success article on Living With Integrity). Using models to safely deliver messages will work as training wheels helping you build up to full disclosure. So start by making a commitment to catch yourself out when you’re about to lie to avoid conflict, and instead try to state your truth in a non-confrontational way.

Super Challenge:

Letting people see your weaknesses is the key to overcoming your fear that people will abandon you if you don’t play nice. That fear is what this ‘avoiding conflict’ is really about: wanting people to like you. If you really want to let go of your fear of conflict, you first need to let go of your fear that people will react negatively to the Real You, with all your flaws and vulnerability. If you want to flood this fear through exposure, try telling a safe person your biggest darkest secrets. Leave nothing out, including the things about yourself which shame you. If that goes ok, do it again with someone else. I’ve heard support groups are fantastic for this process.

4. Stressful situations have you reaching for substances or sex

How you cope with stress is a great measure of self-confidence. Those who face it head on and fight through the battle build confidence quickly. Those who use the distractions of mind and body are just avoiding conflict, pain and failure due to fear. The most common ‘crutches’ I’ve seen for avoiding facing fear are nicotine, alcohol, illicit drugs, shopping, and compulsive sexual behaviour.

There is a huge difference between blowing off steam vs. hiding from your demons. When you reach for a pleasure-enhancing tool to avoid the pain of a situation, you are confirming to yourself that you cannot handle it. That’s hardly going to build your confidence is it?

Solution:

The simple truth is that you CAN handle it. But like the social isolation fear discussed earlier, the only way you will believe you can handle stressful situations is by handling stressful situations! Even when it doesn’t work out in your favour you can still say ‘I survived’, and that’s the key to self-confidence: ability to rely on yourself. So next time you are feeling particularly down or anxious about a situation, make a promise to yourself that you will not use any ‘crutch’ to get through it; you will face it on its own terms until it’s done. Then just note how easy and pain-free it actually was compared to how you predicted it going.

Super Challenge:

Forsake all coping crutches for two whole months. No substances, no sex or masturbation as a coping mechanism (positive sexual experiences based on good emotions are fine), no hitting the boxing bag to ‘work out’ your anger. Just clean living and facing your issues head-on without flinching or needing anything. Using other people for support is fine, the more the merrier, but you should be able to do it without them too if needed.

5. You mind-read

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t do this? I doubt it. ‘Mind-reading’ is when you try to guess or assume what a person is thinking. This mostly comes from a negative place, where you are trying to avoid their disapproval, conflict, or you are hateful towards them and need to justify it. All of these reasons are fear-based. A truly confident person does not mind-read because if they want to know what someone is thinking, they will ask. If they don’t ask, it’s because they don’t care. Simple life right?

Mind-reading causes huge problems. You can spend a whole night lying awake, fretting over why your crush was so cold to you at work, without realising that they were simply distracted by a family crisis and didn’t even notice you. Or you can develop a raw hatred towards someone because you think they are condescending towards you, when really they just have a facial bone-structure that makes them appear haughty and they’re actually shy around you because you intimidate them.

Solution:

Stop mind reading! It really is that simple. But of course to get out of this habit, you can follow a process. Try this for a week: every time you catch yourself assuming what another person is thinking, try to imagine an alternative and opposite explanation. For example, if you think someone is judging you for being shy, try imagining that they are actually admiring you for staying calm.

Force yourself to keep doing this until you really start questioning your ability to read minds, because I have a newsflash for you: YOU SUCK AT IT! We all do. I’m a coach with a psych degree and more than 7 years’ experience in rehabilitating offenders, and I still don’t have the slightest clue what people are thinking most of the time. That’s why I ask and reflect.

Super Challenge:

Ask people what they are thinking every time you find yourself mind-reading. Be really honest with your assumptions and even tell them you are trying to break a mind-reading habit (they will totally identify with the problem because they do it too, guaranteed). You might say something like ‘Hey John, I noticed you look a bit down today, I’m starting to feel nervous that you’re mad at me about something’. Yes, this can occasionally cause conflict, but at least it will end in truth rather than miscommunication, bitterness and lost opportunities.

Conclusion

I have done all of these super challenges myself, some of which I live with to this day (like the last one). I would not recommend them unless I was sure they work. They’ve worked for me and my clients alike, some of whom gave me these ideas. If you really want that nagging voice of guilt and low self-esteem to go away for good, then working on building your confidence and facing your fears is the path you need to take. You could spend 10 years searching for it, like I did, or you can try to chip away at these warning signs and make much quicker progress. The choice is yours. Try asking yourself:

“What do I want to think of myself in 10 years from now? How much longer will I wait to put an end to my confidence issues?”

Dan is a lifestyle and success coach, with his own company The Inspirational Lifestyle Ltd. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and loves to share his advice and opinions on how to attain success. Make sure you checkout more of Dans articles at: TheInspirationalLifestyle.com

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43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. mimi

    Apr 21, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Great article!!!
    Unfortunaly i suffer from low self-confidence since i was a child. And now i’m trying to build my confidence. Your article is a lot helpful, i like the solutions you mentioned, thank you!!!!

  2. Lalala

    Mar 19, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    This is sooo accurate… It’s scary. Great article though!

  3. Emina

    Mar 17, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    Good post. I have all symptoms. It is really hard for me, because I just got out of college where I was constantly surrounded by people that I love, and now I got job, but I cant handle the feeling that everybody there thinks Im stupid. It is really difficult because Im a teacher. Sorry if my English is bad, not my first languge.

    • Dan Munro

      Mar 18, 2014 at 11:59 pm

      Hi Emina. Big life changes can really hit the self-confidence in all of us. I recommend you set yourself some goals for your social and work life, and then focus all your energy on achieving them. Most importantly, focus on measuring yourself based on your progress with these goals.

      Right now you are measuring yourself based on what you assume other people think of your intelligence. Change the measurement away from them.

      Dan

  4. Carol

    Mar 17, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Nice advice. Except #2, I couldn’t disagree more. How is not showering or grooming for a week and going out shopping in your PJ’s a self confidence boost? Complete opposite IMO. Fix yourself up and don’t be a broken window.

    • Dan Munro

      Mar 18, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      Hi Carol, thanks for the feedback. It’s not about boosting confidence, it’s about overcoming irrationale fear through proving to yourself that seeking the approval of others (through trying to look good for THEM instead of for yourself) is pointless.

      Any energy put into pleasing other people just to make them like you is wasted energy.

      I totally agree you should look your best, but it should be to please yourself and not others.

      Cheers
      Dan

  5. Anderson

    Mar 13, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Hi friend, I had gone through this post, and I found some interesting factors in this. Thanks for sharing these informations to us. And I had gone through the previous comment also.

  6. Zaira

    Feb 19, 2014 at 12:40 am

    What about making a decision knowing it is not good for you but you arw afraid to say no? What is that?

    • Dan Munro

      Mar 18, 2014 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Zaira, it’s about really digging into why you are afraid to say No. What are the consequences of saying No, and why are you afraid of those consequences? Odds are it’s one of the following:

      – trying to please others to avoid disapproval
      – trying to avoid emotional or physical pain
      – force of habit from being someone who tries to avoid conflict.

      The solution: starting saying No. It’s simple but also intimidating I know. Good luck!

      Dan

  7. Pheobe

    Feb 4, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Dan,

    I’ve just read your post, and found it very interesting. I am in a long term relationship, that is being destroyed by my lack of self-confidence, in particular the lies that I seem to unconsciously tell. I often find myself in a situation where although the truth would be fine, I choose to lie to gain a favourable outcome. My partner sees through this easily, which leads him to not trust me, and wonder if I am lying about things that are more important. It also makes him think that I am scared of him and his response. He is a good man, and doesn’t deserve this.

    I desperately want him to trust me, and know that if I am unable to change that our relationship will end. The only reason I can find for this is poor self-confidence, and your article has helped to support my belief. I need to change not just for our relationship, but for me.

    • Dan Munro

      Feb 9, 2014 at 11:26 pm

      Hi Phoebe, I’m impressed by your self-awareness and ability to recognise the need to make internal changes. Many people argue with me when I claim that a person can be entirely honest all the time, often stating that lying to make someone feel better is a good thing to do. I disagree, as it create mistrust and long-term issues, as you have so clearly identified.

      I wish you all the best with your journey and feel free to contact me for more discussion on this. Simply click on my name in the comment and you can find my details.

      Dan Munro

  8. Freddy

    Jan 11, 2014 at 10:28 am

    F$&king brilliant work Josh. I have read your work for the first time & I am hating how much I have deviated from myself & the beautiful world & all the wonderful creations in it. I love your work & am officially a big fan.

    • Dan

      Jan 19, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks Freddy, my name’s not Josh but I will take the praise anyway 🙂 Always feels good to know my work helps people

  9. Sam

    Dec 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Dan, Thanks for this great thread. I do however have an opinion about the Mind Reading section. I believe it is possible to know not what exactly people are thinking but how they are feeling through observing their body language. You might want to have a look into the body language of human beings, It has helped me a lot when wanting to know what people are thinking without them even saying a word. At the same time your technique can also go along side this one. Asking them how they feel and evaluating if you were right or wrong.

    • Dan

      Jan 19, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      Hi Sam, I totally agree. “Mind-reading” as a psychological term is not acutally about reading people, which is a different and totally valid skillset. Mind reading more specifcally refers to making negative and incorrect assumptions about people based on poor evidence.

      Reading body language can indeed be an accurate way to measure emotions and is part of the overall skillset of empathy. I read into my clients’ body language all the time but I also always reflect back to them what I’m seeing in order to ensure I am not mind-reading.

  10. ere walson

    Dec 28, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Great post…..

  11. rawbasil

    Dec 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    This post is great! It’s nice to be reminded of these little things and how to get out of that funk we can easily slip into.

  12. Nero

    Dec 19, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I think i have been depressed for a while reading this article really lifted me up,i know a lot of people don’t quite agree with certain recommendation here by Dan but..it’s changed my life.

    • Dan Munro

      Dec 20, 2013 at 3:09 am

      Hi Nero, I’m very humbled and excited to hear that. I hope this helps you transform 2014 into an amazing year

  13. Kabeer khan

    Dec 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Hey Dan,

    I never knew my self-confidence were low till you pointed out traits that I practiced in daily life and finally realized the problem. I’ve basically have 4 out 5 traits that you pointed out, and I feel that I’m ready to make a change about it. Thanks to you. I will start practicing the solution that you provided and will get back to you on the progress of my journey if you’re willing to hear. So once again, thank you so much for the advise.

    Cheers,
    Kabeer

    • Dan Munro

      Dec 20, 2013 at 3:08 am

      Hi Kabeer, very inspirational to hear and I definitely look forward to hearing about your progress. If you want to learn more about how I can help with that, please visit my site and get in touch with me.

      Dan

  14. AniK

    Dec 18, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Dan, thank you so much for the tips. This was an eye-opener especially the mind reading bit. I am going to try the solutions for sure but second one will have me kicking and screaming. I live in the UAE y’see, but I will try…

    • Dan Munro

      Dec 20, 2013 at 3:14 am

      Ah yes, cultural constraints. I forget sometimes about the context differences we all live within. New Zealand is a lot more liberal than most countries, sometimes I forget how lucky I am.

      Maybe wait until you go traveling before you try #2! Or, if it really bothers you, maybe it’s time to consider a change in scenery…

      Dan

  15. David

    Dec 17, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else.
    – Judy Garland

  16. vecinadeblog

    Dec 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    If you start conversations with random strangers at some bar they might think you’re hitting on them or maybe you’re a weirdo.
    It would be unhealthy not to shower for a whole week and you will smell like hell so it’s not a matter of pride, it’s about not caring that you’re a bad sight for others, including your partner.
    3 is more than a little tricky especially when “the boss is always right” even if you don’t sound a bit agressive when you tell the truth. 4 is also very hard in practice, though I agree no one should be substance or sex dependent.
    Mind reading is wrong but asking others what they think doesn’t guarantee an honest answer because a lot of people tell lies to avoid conflict. So unless you only have relationships with people that have high self esteem themselves, it doesn’t really work.
    Personally, I don’t think these super challenges would actually help raise self esteem, and I don’t even think that checking the phone when alone in social situations or leaving the house not looking like crap are signs of low self-esteem. So it seems like some solutions (not all) are meant for made-up “first world” problems.

    • Dan Munro

      Dec 14, 2013 at 8:54 am

      Hi mate, thanks for responding. I do enjoy a healthy debate and I’ve had a client reschedule so I have WAY too much time to respond – so this will be a long one!

      Basically I see a TONNE of unhelpful limiting beliefs within your comments which would like to discuss.

      1. Your first sentence says it all: “they might think you’re hitting on them or maybe you’re a weirdo.” This is mind-reading in action! You don’t know they are thinking that.

      I have personally approached hundreds (literally) of people in bars, on the street, in shopping malls and more. Some of them did think my approach was odd… until my confidence grew. Now, I can go and make new friends any day of the week. It took many rejections to stop coming across as nervous etc. but it was totally worth the journey.

      How many people have you cold-approached socially? You’ll need at least 50-100 approaches under your belt before you can say for sure how they feel about you approaching.

      You are missing out on hundreds of potentially rewarding relationships by not initiating conversations. How else do you think people meet each other? Why go to a bar at all if you don’t want to meet new people? Just drink at home and have the same friends you’ve always had… forever.

      This may be a little blunt, but to be honest you are like so many people – waiting for others to make a move. If no-one takes a risk and initiates conversation with others, what would happen to our society? Do you really want to be limited to only finding friends through work?

      2. It may be a little unhygienic to not shower for a week. I did it and survived. You’d be amazed at what the body can handle – we are not as fragile as you may have been led to believe.

      That point actually had nothing to do with showering – it was all about being outside of your comfort zone and challenging your beliefs about the importance of being accepted by others. If you live your life catering to what others want, you are trapped in a prison. This exercise is about breaking free symbolically, proving to yourself you don’t need to conform to societal expectations if you don’t want to.

      I’m about to post a video on my website of me walking down the busy main road in Auckland half-naked and dressed as a fairy. Just to prove that nothing bad happens when you don’t try to please others. Feel free to check it out!

      3. Not speaking up against your boss may secure your job, but what’s the real cost? That burning frustration and guilt you feel at not speaking your mind is far more painful in the long run. That lasts a lifetime.

      I’d rather die unemployed with integrity than rich and ashamed. This is a personal preference I guess. But worrying about keeping your job is a ‘scarcity’ mindset issue. If you believe in abundance you do not tolerate anything you believe is wrong. You only get to live once – will you be a victim or a hero?

      4. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it. The reason we turn to crutches is because they’re the easy way out. There is no long-term reward, only further weakness.

      Here’s my challenge for you: TRY THE ACTIVITIES.

      Try those challenges and then tell me I’m wrong. You came up with some pretty elaborate excuses not to try them – that is FEAR speaking, in my opinion.

      I never expect anyone to agree with me. But I do expect those who disagree to have grounds to stand on. Prove me wrong – I will welcome your feedback gratefully once you’ve tried them out.

      With deep respect,
      Dan

  17. AndrewN23

    Dec 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Don’t know where you were on the Gold Coast, mate. I’ve seen no shortage of casually dressed slobs on my visits there (myself included).

  18. nicole

    Dec 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks Daniel. This was great! I’m definitely guilty of these, but especially the mind-reading!

  19. Emmanuel

    Dec 7, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Great post , really helpful thanks

  20. Rich

    Dec 7, 2013 at 7:01 am

    I really disagree with #2. It’s my opinion that too many Americans have no pride in how they look – no need to make the problem worse. Put your best foot forward.

    • Dan Munro

      Dec 7, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      Rich I think you may have misunderstood – #2 is actually all about pride in your appearance, through not caring what other people think of your appearance. Subtle but significant difference. I think people should look as good as possible, but in their own eyes rather than trying to please others. I’m not talking about looking like crap forever, just a week or two to get over fear of public judgement

      – Dan

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