How To Build Confidence and Self Esteem

Do you ever struggle with your confidence or your self esteem? Do you have goals and dreams that you want to achieve? Discover how to build up your confidence and in doing so get closer to touching those dreams and reaching your goals!

What’s the difference between a dream and a goal? A plan. Atleast, that is how the saying goes. I would also argue that a fundamental difference is confidence and self esteem. Recently, Lewis-Manning Hospice Care held a special event with a former Royal Air Force pilot at the Parkstone Yacht Club in Poole. As part of this event, Mandy Hickson spoke about her 30 years of experience as a pioneering female fighter pilot. Hickson told the audience of her, “journey from dreaming of flying as a schoolgirl to breaking barriers as a female pilot in the air force.” The Daily Echo reported back that it was: “with determination, she fulfilled her ambition, eventually flying the Tornado GR4 in challenging missions, like patrolling Iraq’s ‘No Fly’ zone. Her philosophy is ‘Dream it, Believe it, Do it!’”. Reading this, it was the last six words that struck me most of all. Dream it, believe it, do it. It jumps out like a mantra. Hickson’s own personal motto that I can imagine her repeating to herself over and over until the saying came true. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz tapping her ruby slippers together and saying three times, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”. It wasn’t magic that made Mandy Hickson’s words come true but belief. Belief not in magic but in herself. A self belief achieved through hard work, grit and determination. If Hickson’s motto was a magic spell then the last two words are the secret ingredient, “do it”. Through actively doing things, through the experience of completing achievements, overcoming challenges and adversity, Hickson found the self belief to live out the dream. 

The RAF have a motto too, Per Ardua ad Astra or ‘Through Adversity to the Stars’. They believe that you can achieve your dreams by overcoming and enduring adversity. Afterall, it is the sky that aspiring pilots are striving to touch and the sky full of stars. Stars like the ones that come out at night and watch over us as we dream. Like dreams, adversity can come in many varied forms. There can be literal challenges and obstacles to overcome and there can be personal private ones too. In many people the biggest hurdle they have to overcome is a lack of confidence. Research has shown that in taking active steps to build your confidence you are in fact pathing the way and building the road to reach your goals and dreams.

To better understand the role it plays, let’s start at the beginning and discover what confidence really means. Very Well Mind, an online resource for mental health reports that the American Psychological Association defines self-confidence as: “a belief that one is capable of successfully meeting the demands of a task.” At its core, confidence is essential self-belief. Confidence and self belief isn’t something that appears in all of us. There can be endless reasons why you might live with a lack of it or see it ebb and flow during your lifetime. That’s the important part, confidence isn’t set in stone. An article in the Harvard Business Review observed, “the important thing to remember is that low confidence is not an inherent flaw, and it doesn’t have to define you. Confidence can be learned and practised.” In order to ‘believe it’ you have to ‘do it’. The doing is the learning and the actively practising confidence. As the article on Very Well Mind says it is, “something you have to maintain”. How do we build it and maintain it?

The advice is to start small and to set daily goals and lists of things you want to do that are ‘achievable goals’. In order to achieve the Big Dream, you are more likely to succeed by setting little manageable goals and achieving them. In breaking things down you create a more structured and managed path. By being honest with yourself about what you can control and what you can realistically do towards reaching your aim, you are more likely to conquer it. In conquering the goal and building up achievement after achievement (however incremental) you are also building up your self worth and therefore your self belief and your confidence. As Forbes magazine puts it, “confidence is built on accomplishment. If you achieve small and big goals, you’re going to feel much better about yourself.” 

Having a motto or talking to yourself is another way to build up your self esteem. We sometimes have patterns of negative talk in our own minds that keep us feeling anxious, low or self conscious. We can even have people around us who talk negatively to us or discourage you from your ambitions.  The research also shows the positive impact of removing yourself from a circle of friends or an individual who makes us feel burnt out or put down after spending time together. Instead, it is recommended to spend time with the people who energise you, uplift and encourage you. It sounds simple but loved ones can be critical or discouraging but with good intentions or protectiveness. Sometimes it is out of insecurity but often it can be misplaced guidance. It is why the NHS recommends setting boundaries with people and learning to “saying no” as part of their medical advice in building self-esteem. Other than a mantra you can boost your self confidence with your own ‘positive talk’. This can either be literally out loud, speaking to yourself in front of the mirror or by writing things down. Very Well Mind recommends that you, “keep a gratitude journal to better recall the areas in life where you are blessed.” By writing down a few positive things about yourself or your day, every day, you will start to build more positive mental pathways in your brain that will build up your self esteem and self confidence.

As well as your mind you can physically build more confidence by using your body. Exercise has been shown by researchers to reliably and consistently boost your self confidence. In fact, “studies consistently show that physical exercise boosts self-confidence.” Our bodies can also give us a mental boost too depending on our stance and poses. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, gave a Ted Talk that taught us to ‘power pose’ revealing: “our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves. Our bodies change our minds”. Cuddy’s research demonstrated that by spending two minutes in a ‘power pose’ (chest lifted, head held high, arms either up or propped on the hips), our bodies spike in the hormone that gives us more confidence. 

The most consistent advice of all, is to challenge yourself. From the NHS to Harvard Business School, to Very Well Minded and many more, challenging yourself was the consistent advice in building your confidence and reaching your goals. Just as the RAF believes that it is through adversity you reach the stars, it is through challenging yourself that you reach your goals. It is why days out at Dorset Adventure Park aren’t just for fun. Days out Dorset Adventure Park can also boost morale in work colleagues, create bonds with school children and build confidence and self worth in the people who visit. This is all because the day is spent exercising, literally tackling obstacles and overcoming challenges. Just because it is designed in a thoughtful, safe and fun way does not make it any less impactful. Hours are spent physically completing the obstacles on the mud trail and or swimming, jumping, running and leaping across the wibit inflatable obstacles atop the two lakes. By completing the challenges and conquering the obstacles in a positive environment that inspires fun, you can boost your confidence and build up your self belief. Dream it, Believe it, Do it! 

Words by Olivia Lowry

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