Self Improvement Thursday: 3 tried and tested tips for keeping self belief alive

There's an interesting discussion planned for the Vivid festival in Sydney next month. It will ask the question, 'Is your business bravery burning you out?'  The discussion will focus on the stresses that professionals and business start-ups put themselves under to do all, be all and achieve all (and I'd include the self employed, the bloggers and those doing the side-hustle here).  

Our world moves fast and we want to keep up. We want to get ahead. We want to be involved in the latest and the newest and the most exciting initiatives and ideas that are popping up all.the.time. If we don't keep moving we'll get left behind. I can squeeze an extra hour in here. I'll get by okay without that extra sleep. I'll answer those emails while I get dinner.  I'd better read up on that new research, new tool, new technology. I'll add it to the to-do list.   

The ebbs and flow of self belief

The go-go-go is addictive and when you're 'on' you're invincible.  But sometimes you're not 'on'.  Sometimes your mojo goes AWOL.  That positivity that infused your heart, body and mind last week is nowhere to be seen and this week your head is filled with, 'Why did I think I could do this?' 'Who am I kidding?' 'This is a waste of time', 'I'll never make it' 'This will never work.' 

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Self-belief, self-confidence, self-efficacy (the psychological term for it) can be a moving feast. You can't always rely on it to be there when you're looking for it.  There are however a few things you can do to ensure that it's there more often than not.   Or to give it a boost when you feel it begin to fade.

1. Draw on past successes

'The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experience behind you.' William Jennings Bryan, lawyer, politician, 1860 - 1925 

So you're struggling to feel like a winner today? Stop what you're doing, take a pen and paper and jot down everything that has challenged you in the past and you've succeeded at, or overcome. A new job, a massive project, a family crisis, a difficult period, a habit or lifestyle change. List as many achievements as you can, review it and I bet that winning feeling will creep back in. If you've done it before, you can do it again, bigger and better. 

2. Turn ANTs into PETs

'Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up.'  Ann Bradford, author.

We all have a little voice in our head that likes to taunt us with negativity at times. Sometimes the volume gets turned up and that little voice gets bigger and louder, drowning out the positive thoughts. When we've lived 20, 30, 40 or more years with that negative voice, those thoughts can become automatic. We're not even aware that we're thinking them. Psychologists calls these 'Automatic Negative Thoughts' or ANTs.  

You have the choice to turn these ANTs into PETs, Performance Enhancing Thoughts. Your first step is to become aware of the ANTs. If your self-belief is ailing, listen to the voices in your head. What are you telling yourself? 'I'm no good,' 'I'm hopeless,' 'I'm not smart enough, hard working enough, funny enough, outgoing enough to do this.'  Pay attention to the negative thoughts and ask yourself, 'Are these thoughts helpful?' 'Are they realistic?' Go on, challenge them. 

Your next step is to replace these thoughts with PETs - more helpful and realistic thoughts; thoughts that boost your mood and your performance. 'I can do this,' 'I have done harder things before,' 'I am smart enough, hardworking enough, funny enough.' (Tip: think about those challenges you listed above, what you overcame and the winner that you are).  The more you practice this the more likely the positive thoughts will win out and become the automatic option.

3. Look after yourself

'Caring for myself is not self-indulgence.  It is self-preservation'.  Audre Lorde, feminist writer and activitist

How's your self-belief when you're tired? Or unwell? Or stressed?  Have you noticed that when you're not at the top of your game physically or emotionally it's harder to find that inner oomph that you need to keep up the hustle?  

We need to take care of ourselves to maintain our resilience, to stop the negativity from creeping in and to give ourselves the push we need to keep growing, learning and trying.

  • Ensure you get good sleep. For most of us that's at least seven to nine hours per night (and no you can't catch up with additional sleep on the weekend).  If you're consistently getting less you're unlikely to be at the top of your game.  If you can't get more or better sleep for some reason don't expect too much of yourself.  Take it easy and forgive yourself for lapses in self confidence.  
  • Get moving and get outside.  There are great benefits to your health and wellbeing in both physical activity and exposure to nature.  If you're tired, distracted, listless or cranky go for a walk.  Twenty minutes is all it takes to lift your mood and attack those challenges with a fresh mind.
  • Eat well.  Clean, vegie, paleo, macrobiotic, whatever floats your boat.  Just swap the muffins for fruit and the chips for vegies and you'll feel and therefore think better.  
  • Cut yourself some slack.  If the mojo's gone and you just know it's not coming back today no matter what you do, take time out.  Do something different. See a movie, catch up with a friend, craft, rest or go for a run.  Don't beat yourself up. Time out focusing on your well being is time well spent, not wasted. Sometimes a distraction and a little patience is all  you need to get your self-belief back on track.

Next time you feel your business bravery and self belief burning out, try these and let me know how you go.  In the meantime tell me, what you do to recharge your confidence?