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Psychology’s Six Tips for Killer Confidence (and A Story About A Book)

Posted By Ellen Jackson 28th of July 2016 Be Productive 0 Comments


By ProBlogger Expert Ellen Jackson.

Believe you can and you’re half way there

Theodore Roosevelt, allegedly.

Once upon a time I decided to write and publish a book. I wasn’t a writer. I had no experience. I had no contacts in publishing. I had no idea really. I just really thought it would be great to write a book.

Fast forward two years and I held in my hand not one copy of my co-authored self-improvement book, but three. One published in the UK and Australia. Another published in the US and a third published in The Netherlands. In Dutch.

The path to get to that point was challenging – at times torturous. For months during the writing process I could not enter a bookstore due to the anxiety it provoked surrounding my own ability to pull this task off. But I did it and it felt good.

Recently, Mr ProBlogger himself asked the question: ‘What is your biggest challenge as a blogger?

He produced a wordcloud and these are the responses that stood out to me:

  • Fear
  • Hopeless
  • Hard
  • Overwhelmed
  • Unproductive
  • Enough
  • Blah

Readers, writing, audience, traffic, content and ideas were in there too but it was these emotions that struck me. Our biggest challenges are our feelings. I know them well.

It’s a conversation you hear over and over again in Facebook groups, in blogging and entrepreneurial circles, anywhere you find people with big goals and big plans. We can do tech. We can do the words. We can do the ideas and the numbers. We can do the work.

It’s the feelings that bring us unstuck – and most of those feelings boil down to confidence. Or not enough of it.

A lack of confidence holds us all back at times. We’re human. We worry about failure. We worry about others’ perception. We’re scared of rejection. We second guess ourselves. We procrastinate.

Even the biggest issue identified by Darren’s readers – time – is underpinned by confidence. We don’t feel we have time to do what we want to do, but scratch the surface and you’ll find that if we’re confident about our path to success our priorities quickly reshuffle to find that precious time. Confidence = time.

Why is confidence so hard?

For starters it’s a slippery concept. What is it exactly?

Psychologists rarely talk about confidence as a thing. It’s many things. It’s hope. It’s optimism. It’s self belief and it’s self-efficacy – the degree to which you think and feel your actions will achieve results.

When these things combine we believe that we can achieve our goals and we get on and do it, but the path to getting there differs for each of us.

So how do we build our confidence?

Here are some tips:

  1. Start small. Don’t try to conquer the mountain in one leap. Take it a step at a time. Focusing on a big end point is overwhelming and anxiety inducing. Smaller tasks are manageable. Don’t set your sights on producing the most popular blog that ever there was. Just write a blog post and share it. Then plan the next one.
  2. Make conscious comparisons. We all compare ourselves and our abilities to those around us. Upward social comparison is the tendency to compare our efforts and achievements to those we feel are ‘better’ than us in some domain. The desire may be to look to others who are more skilled and successful in order to learn from them. The effect, if we don’t have the skills or experience or tenure to match their output just yet, is crushed confidence. Look at what others are doing. Learn from them, but be realistic in your comparisons and remember to run your own race.
  3. Get happy. Your mood makes a difference. The ‘broaden and build theory’ from positive psychology tells us that positive emotions broaden your sense of possibility and open your mind to new options and ideas. We’re more likely to take chances, to experiment and to get creative when we’re feeling good. This in turn builds our skills and resources and the end point is greater confidence. If you’re struggling with a task or goal, park it, engage in something that puts you in a good mood and then try again.
  4. Know your strengths. We’ve all got skills, talents and strengths that give us energy when we use them. Yours might be a love of learning that drives you to research topics and ideas that you can share with readers. You may possess great social intelligence, ensuring that you quickly engage and build an audience. Being clear on your strengths and what you bring to the world and then using those strengths in your blogging not only helps to build your confidence but it’s great for your wellbeing too!
  5. Draw on past success. Here’s an exercise to try. Sit for a moment and think back over the past 12 months. What have you achieved? Bring every little win to mind, no matter how small. It might be publishing your first blog post, or launching on online course? Maybe it’s the first few dollars earned through your blog or establishing a brand new business? Focus on those wins. Feel the strength and confidence that comes from knowing that you can do it.
  6. Manage your mind. Our minds are riddled with ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) especially when our confidence is low. ‘I can’t do it’ ‘This is hopeless’ ‘This idea will never fly’ ‘It’s too hard’. Pay attention to those ANTS and turn them into PETS (performance enhancing thoughts). ‘This is hard but I’ve done harder things before’ ‘This feels hopeless right now but if I take it one step at a time I reckon I can do it’ ‘This idea will fly, I just need to persevere’ and ‘I can do it. I will do it!’ This is a strategy that psychologists have taught for years and years and it works to get you out of that negative slump.

If a project is new and exciting and challenging it comes hand in hand with moments of self-doubt – often downright struggle – but it’s the struggle towards our important goals that brings the sweetness to your success.

Work on your confidence and keep going. If I can do it, you can too.

About Ellen Jackson
Ellen Jackson from Potential Psychology is a psychologist who does things differently. She writes about people and why we do what we do. She coaches, she teaches and she helps workplaces to do the people part better.
  1. Hi Ellen,

    This post is timely because I’m dissolving a few confidence-related blocks to expand my reach online.

    Have you ever tried EFT tapping? It’s brilliant. We are all energy. Our feelings, thoughts, all of it. When tapping on certain points of the body, repeating phrases to ourselves stating our true feelings on some topic, we get to feel the pain, and then, the tapping gradually eases the pain energies over time. As the lower energies fade you can then tap on higher energy, confidence-boosting statements.

    I’ve done tapping on my anxieties around making enough money over the past week, and it’s been brilliant. I feel much better, saw an instant increase in income and beyond that, my email list grew 200% more this past week then it had been growing. And even if none of this stuff happened I’d not have carried the same worries around money because I tapped a chunk away.

    The flip side; awesome practice, but it will bring up anger, rage, grief, and repressed energies and incidents from childhood which are freaking intense. But hey, you can’t get over something that’s still in ya. Gotta tap it away to dissolve it.

    As for the comparison thing I know the Monkey Mind craves comparing but I intend to move away from it completely. Comparing, and competing move one from being OK with life and grateful and happy to a place of tension, stress and intense judgment. I’ve built the greatest confidence by not comparing, but by learning from others’s successes, and by realizing we all have different, brilliant stories and paths.

    I may not have 300,000 active followers like fabulous Pro Blogger does but Darren has not circled the globe as a pro blogger for the past 5 years like I. We all do brilliant things, that we either intend to do or that we wind up doing thru some wacky means, and by realizing this you can reduce all comparison related anxiety and replace it with awe, wonder, appreciation, and a knowing that you are awesome too. Note; Darren is brilliant, awesome and I am in awe of his 300 K followers ;)

    On the publish/ship point I vibe with you. I advise new bloggers to publish posts a bit more frequently because even if the posts are short and a bit thin, the simple act of hitting a “publish” button does miracles for a blogger’s confidence. You go from having a cyber diary to being a real blogger, sharing your thoughts with the world. Exciting, and a massive confidence builder.

    What a neat post. Confidence is a primary ingredient to taking inspired action because without the faith you’re staying on the sidelines. Kudos to you Ellen for sharing these powerful tips.

    Thanks much.


    • Hi Ryan, I haven’t tried EFT tapping but I have heard a bit about it. Glad it’s working so well for you!
      You’re absolutely right, regular blogging and having the courage to hit that publish button makes a big difference to our confidence. It’s all those small steps to big success.
      Thanks for your thoughts and feedback. I really appreciate it. Great to connect!

  2. Amazing tip to build a confidence, Ellen :)

    You are right on blogger’s biggest challenges. I must agree with fear and hopeless. This post is very important for current season because many of one are facing with such challenges which is affecting their productivity of business.

    I think, all this problem arises due to lack of confidence and building a strong confidence is only one remedy to get rid from such challenges. Being happy and knowing our strength are the best way to build and show our confidence and are fruitful also.

    So, having self confidence is a powerful weapon to fight with any types of problem and challenges, arises in our life. Glad to read such informative post to build a confidence in problematic situation.

    Thanks a lot. :)
    – Ravi.

    • Glad you like it Ravi. Happiness, well being, using our strengths and confidence are all inextricably linked. It’s just a matter of teasing out each of the components and working on them in a systematic way. Thanks so much for your thoughts. I really appreciate it.

  3. Self-confidence is extremely important in almost every aspect of our lives, yet so many people struggle to find it. Sadly, this can be a vicious circle: people who lack self-confidence can find it difficult to become successful.
    Positive energy leads to positive outcomes….

    • You are absolutely right John. It’s a personal quest of mine to spread the word of positive psychology and how it’s tips and techniques – and a bit of hard work – can help us all to be a little more confident and a little more positive. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. To this post I remember a quote from Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba “Today is difficult, tomorrow is much more difficult, the day after tomorrow is very beautiful, but most die tomorrow evening”

  5. I think this is helpful for outside blogging as well. I’m doing some app testing and the moment, and need to find random testers, which I’ve found really hard. This list is helpful.

  6. Hi Ellen,

    Great post, it really grabbed me… such an important subject.

    I’ve found that I’ve had the greatest confidence in my life (not counting when drunk @23) when I have been working in areas of passion and at time when I have been very well-prepared.

    How do compare passion to confidence? When I am passionate, I literally forget myself?

    • Hi Geoff,

      Sorry for the slow reply. You make a great point (not about being drunk at 23, I think we’ve all done that!) but about the importance of passion for our confidence and our sense of satisfaction and wellbeing with life. Have you heard of ‘flow’? Athletes call being ‘in the zone.’ It’s a concept studied by psychologists and it happens to each of us in those moments in which we are totally engrossed in a task that is challenging but not too challenging and in which we’re using our strengths. It gives us that sense that times stands still – like forgetting yourself, as you say – and it’s associated with intrinsic motivation, happiness and wellbeing. I think this is probably what you describe as ‘passion’. It’s so engrossing that you forget all of your anxieties – and as a consequence you feel more confident.
      My challenge to you is to work out what you’re doing – and what strengths you’re using – in those moments when you feel that passion, and then do more of it as it will make life better. I can guarantee it.

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