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How well do you trust yourself? Do you want to be more confident in your decisions?
A boost in self-esteem starts with the ability to trust yourself. When you’re surrounded by confident people with strong opinions, it can be easy to second-guess yourself. But with our strategies, you’ll begin to believe in your own instincts.
Learn how to trust yourself and why self-trust is important.
Why Trusting Yourself Is Important
According to Norman Vincent Peele’s book The Power of Positive Thinking, trusting yourself is important for a happy and successful life. Self-confidence leads to achievements and self-realization, helping you release your inner power.
But not everyone has the power to believe in themselves. Too many people are hampered by feelings of inadequacy, often called an “inferiority complex” or a lack of self-confidence. Inferiority complexes create barriers in our personalities, stopping us from achieving our full potential. They’re often the result of emotional damage done to us in childhood or may be the result of childhood circumstances. These reasons are why it can be harder to trust yourself as an adult.
How to Trust Yourself More
Are you ready to live the life you want? All it takes is some self-reassurance. Now that you know how important trusting yourself is, let’s look at a few strategies to help you learn how to trust yourself more.
1. Replace Negative Thoughts
Thinking negatively is one of the main reasons people don’t trust themselves. Discouraging yourself only makes you believe you can’t accomplish anything. To combat this, you have to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
To maximize the power of positive overthinking, Jon Acuff’s book Soundtracks says to choose positive thoughts that relate directly to your goals. As Acuff writes, choosing thoughts that pertain to your goals helps empower you to perform better in the most important situations in your life.
For example, suppose you have an upcoming presentation at work that you’re worried about. Thinking generally positive thoughts about work is good, but thinking more specifically about the presentation is better. If you spend the week beforehand reminding yourself that you’re a well-prepared and skillful public speaker, it’ll help you carry yourself with confidence into your presentation.
Acuff notes that when choosing positive thoughts, you should focus on finding solutions to difficult situations and not on the situations themselves. This can be especially helpful when dealing with a situation that’s causing you mental stress and anxiety. Focusing on solutions helps you avoid anxiety and stay on task, whereas focusing too much on the situation will only make you more anxious.
If you’re having trouble coming up with positive thoughts, Acuff suggests inverting old negative thoughts. This method can help you come up with positive thoughts that relate to any situation where you’ve previously struggled with overthinking.
For example, if you’re a distance runner, and one of your old negative thoughts was “I’ll never be able to run a marathon,” you could flip this thought upside-down. Your new line could be something like “I have what it takes to go the distance.”
In addition to inverting negative thoughts, you can borrow positive phrases from others. Acuff notes that positive thoughts can come from anywhere—friends, favorite books, even song lyrics. Coming up with your own positive thoughts can feel difficult at first, so it can help to outsource them, especially when you’re first getting started.
Build Positive Habits by Taking Action
According to Acuff, it’s important that you couple your new positive thoughts with action. As you take action toward accomplishing your goals and experience success, you’ll increase your confidence, which will help your positive thoughts work more effectively.
Acuff recommends coupling rituals with your positive thoughts to help get in the habit of taking action. Anything you can do to create a positive association with a difficult task will help spur you to continued action. For example, if you’re struggling to make it to the gym, in addition to creating slogans around working out, you can also create rituals by putting on your favorite workout gear, listening to energizing music, or taking a relaxing bath after working out.
2. Remember Your Achievements
Many people are self-deprecating, and it probably feels more comfortable than bragging. It’s dangerous, though—you’re spreading the message that you’re undeserving. This is bad for your confidence—you’ll be less likely to trust yourself to try new things and succeed at them.
You do deserve your achievements, so take credit for them, says journalists and authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their book The Confidence Code. If you have trouble taking a compliment, say thank you and tell the person you appreciate them saying it. Knowing your strengths can make you more confident.
You also need to remember your external achievements—you become confident when you remember there’s proof you’ve been successful in the past, and this realization is more powerful than any self-perception.
- For example, when Kay was reporting at the White House, she was afraid to ask a question during the question period because she worried she’d sound stupid. Most of the other journalists were men, and all seemed confident. However, Kay forced herself to ask a question, and she didn’t sound stupid. Now, anytime she finds herself in a similar position, she can remember that she’s asked questions before, so she can do it again.
3. Be Your Own Voice of Authority
When we make decisions aloud in front of others, we tend to make very different choices than we would privately. Furthermore, when groups of people make decisions aloud, their choices are much more varied than they would be if they were choosing privately.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely says this is because people feel a natural, but irrational, need to protect their individuality by making choices that are different from those already “taken” by others. Subsequently, those who make decisions in private are more likely to be satisfied with their choice, because they’ve made a choice based on preference and not a need to prove something. We make choices based on our need to project a certain image of ourselves, even if those choices are not necessarily the best or most rational choices for us.
But you want to learn how to trust yourself and your instincts in front of others. Don’t just be confident in the comfort of your own home, be confident in public spaces. People will ultimately have more respect for you if you trust your gut, rather than follow what everyone else is doing.
Trusting Your Voice as a Woman
Trusting your own voice as the authority in your life is a deliberate act, and it is the first block women should place on top of their foundation.
In Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis notes that throughout history, and across the globe, the vast majority of cultures have been patriarchal. This means that the voice of authority in nearly every government and community has been male since the beginning of time.
On a smaller scale, in many (not all) families, the father is the decision-maker. So for most of us, the voice of authority growing up was male, and this is now ingrained in our subconscious beliefs about leadership.
If you’re a woman, Hollis says you must rewire this subconscious belief system to trust your own authority without the need for male validation. This takes conscious effort. While civilization has long lauded male ambition, Hollis points out that society often views female ambition as a negative character trait.
Despite the many warnings against female ambition, particularly in social media, Hollis contends that ambition is acceptable for all people. Too often, society attaches qualifiers when discussing female ambition—for instance:
- It’s okay to be ambitious as a woman if you’re not married.
- It’s okay to be ambitious as a woman if you don’t have children.
- It’s okay to be ambitious if you have a traditional job, as opposed to working for yourself or trying to make it in the arts.
All of these qualifiers are unacceptable. As Hollis says, if rules about ambition are to exist, they should exist in the same way for all people in all seasons of their lives. So what can you do to embrace your ambition? To Hollis, ambition means putting extraordinary effort into your goals. Waking up early, working late into the night, asking for help when you need it, doing research, and taking initiative are all ways that she encourages you to embrace your ambition…unapologetically.
4. Use an Alter Ego
If the above solutions don’t help you trust yourself, you can try using an alter ego. According to Todd Herman’s book The Alter Ego Effect, an alter ego is a science-backed tool that lets you adopt the traits, behaviors, and demeanor of a person who excels in a particular realm of your life (like your career or your social life). In practice, when using an alter ego, you set aside your usual mindset and behaviors and instead take on the mindset and behaviors of your alter ego—though you still filter these through your personality, so you avoid “playacting” as your alter ego.
For instance, to excel as a businessperson, you might adopt the alter ego of Martha Stewart and negotiate shrewdly and confidently. If you’re a professional rower, your alter ego might be a graceful heron, and you might take on the heron’s single-minded focus and gracefulness to succeed.
When you use an alter ego, you intentionally choose which of your existing traits you’ll draw on to succeed in a given situation, continues Herman. Normally, people don’t consciously choose what strengths they bring to bear in each situation they enter, which prevents them from doing their best.
Many high performers make a habit of using alter egos to consistently give peak performances, writes Herman. For instance, a world-class piano player might always adopt the alter ego of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when performing to ensure they can always play at their best.
Herman clarifies that an alter ego simply lets you unleash traits, abilities, and strengths you already possess but aren’t currently harnessing. At your core, you’re a creative, motivated, curious individual with huge potential. The only reason you don’t use this potential all the time is because of learned beliefs and behaviors that limit what you feel you can do. An alter ego lets you circumvent those limiting beliefs about yourself because you’re not being yourself: You’re being someone with positive beliefs about the world and themselves.
The Steps to Release Your Alter Ego
There are six steps to bringing out your alter ego:
- Decide how you want to change. The first step of creating your alter ego is to determine what behavioral and mental changes you want to make in a particular realm of your life. You can do this by choosing a realm of your life to focus on, setting three types of goals for yourself, and determining your motivating purpose.
- Identify your inner nemesis and its forms. Your inner nemesis is a cluster of negative thoughts and beliefs that keep you from rising to the challenge in high-stakes moments. Your inner nemesis can appear in a single form or in a combination of forms to prevent you from doing your best: imposter syndrome, inner wounds, and self-created stories.
- Build your alter ego. You have to construct an alter ego that will rise to the challenge in high-stakes moments. There are four sub-steps to doing this: deciding on an alter ego, naming your alter ego, giving your alter ego an origin story, and attaching an object to trigger your alter ego.
- Turn on your alter ego. Do this by determining how specifically you’ll wield your object to turn on your alter ego. You must have a simple, repeatable action that officially signals the assumption of your alternate identity.
- Give your alter ego a hidden weapon. If your alter ego faces unforeseen challenges, give it a hidden weapon. According to Herman, your inner nemesis may even attack your alter ego, leading to doubt and the resurfacing of negative self-created stories. For example, if, when you’re giving a speech, your audience protests what you’re saying, even your alter ego Michelle Obama might allow the inner nemesis to sow seeds of doubt in her abilities.
- Practice using your alter ego. Now, put all the pieces of alter-ego creation together and practice using your alter ego in low-stakes situations, recommends Herman. Do this in familiar public settings (a restaurant, the grocery store, or the library, for example), when meditating, or when playing a game.
Now that you’ve followed our four tips on how to trust yourself more, you’re ready to unlock your full potential. You’ll no longer have to rely on other people to make choices for you because you’ll have more respect for yourself than you ever did before.
What are some other ways to learn how to trust yourself? Leave us your suggestions in the comments below!
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