Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence

How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence

To have negative thoughts is to be human. The story of humanity is the story of an epic battle with negativity.

This is perhaps the most important question in existence: How do you conquer negative thoughts that are stifling your confidence and bringing you down?

You’d be surprised to know the answer to this question is much simpler than it seems.

Yet even the simplest things can easily drown beneath the roar and constant cascade of negative thoughts that seem justified. If you could ignore that roar, what would you do? Pursue a new career? Make new friends? Go on a date and begin a relationship with a person who seems unattainable?

To read on is to know you can do any of these things, and more — but at the same time, this is a dare: to read on is to accept the dare and choose a confident approach to actions that terrify you.

This article will help you stop negative thoughts by teaching you strategies to cope with them in actionable ways. You’ll learn how to view your thoughts differently, how to calm your mind, and how to be confident in your actions. Most importantly, you’ll step away from the page empowered and ready to pay attention to the world around you in a non-judgmental way.

1. Uncover the Root of Negative Thoughts

Here’s a revelation: four different studies showed that people who are unskilled tend to grossly overestimate their abilities. The studies measured humor, grammar, and logic. Participants who thought they were great were in fact incompetent.[1]

This shines a light on the root of your negative thoughts about your own abilities. Your self-doubt is a result of your intelligence. Instead of assuming you’re good, capable, skilled, and born ready to tackle any challenge, you analyze yourself and the situation. Past failings come to mind.

You think — you don’t just act — and when the brain gives itself time to think, any number of unwanted thoughts tend to pop up.

Advertising

There’s a good reason why: early humans evolved in a dangerous environment. We had to think about what could possibly go wrong almost all of the time. We were threatened by wild animals, natural disasters, rival tribes, and competitors in our own camps. Our brains are hardwired to look for danger, and when a challenge arises, instinct tells us to either fight or flee.

You have negative thoughts because your intelligent brain is considering all of the possibilities. Although the challenges you face may not be anywhere close to the extremity of a wild animal attack, they’re challenges nonetheless, and a muffled version of your fight-or-flight instinct kicks in.

2. Value Your Emotional IQ

We’ve established that your intelligence is contributing to negative thoughts, the type of thoughts that can kill your confidence if you focus on them. But have you ever thought about your emotional intelligence?

Otherwise known as EI, this is a quality that goes a long way in the professional world, where it’s extremely important for people to possess it. In a survey, 71 percent of hiring managers said EI is more important than IQ, and 58 percent won’t even hire somebody with a high IQ and low EI.[2] The University of Maryland identifies the following important aspects of EI:

  • You recognize your emotions.
  • You register the emotions of others.
  • You can figure out what’s triggering your emotions.
  • You “manage emotional info,” meaning you don’t just react when emotions flare, you are able to control yourself.

We’re taught to value the intellect from a very young age. We don’t place very much emphasis on the ability to recognize emotions and use them in effective ways. It’s this lack of balance that leads many of us to stumble.

Negative emotions cause negative thoughts, and emotion is triggered by something you can’t control. Likewise, the internal verbalisation of an emotion happens almost instantaneously — you don’t even notice when it happens. You feel sad because you didn’t get invited to a party. Suddenly, you start thinking you’re inadequate, and then defensiveness kicks in and you think, “I don’t like those people anyhow.”

Instead of reacting to emotion negatively, cultivate your EI. Recognize the emotion and understand that an emotion of this type is likely to cause negative thoughts. Also, recognize that the emotion is natural — it’s not right or wrong, it’s just a feeling you have.

Be there with the emotion, give it a name, give it a color, find a way to express it externally. Be creative, and if your expression feels sad, that’s because it’s authentic.

3. Recognize Unhealthy Actions That Reinforce Negative Thoughts

We thrive on stimulus. Basically, this means you seek out things to help you feel good. A lot of times, when kids are very young, parents do them a disservice by offering a stimulus at the wrong times. This carries through to adulthood.

Advertising

For example, when you were a kid, you were sad because kids were making fun of you at school. Negative thoughts surfaced almost immediately, like buoyant objects on waves of emotion. Instead of sitting with you in your sadness and helping you express it, your parents gave you something to eat, sat you down in front of the TV, and then put you to bed.

What’s wrong with that? The first thing to provide comfort was an external stimulus in the form of food. The psychology of food[3] is such that,

“We can form unhealthy relationships with the thing that is supposed to aid in our well being.”

Food — especially processed, sugary food that delivers a dopamine kick — is a powerful substance that engages all of the senses. When you learn to turn to an external stimulus like food as a way to make yourself feel better, you create a negative feedback loop. Down the line, you develop a stimulus habit, and then when you indulge in the habit, you get down on yourself after the initial satisfaction is gone.

Identify unhealthy habits and remove them as an option. They’re confidence killers. Replace them with healthy habits such as exercise, art, journaling, and caring for a pet or visiting relatives and old friends more often.

4. Make Regular Deposits in Your Confidence Account

You need to do little things that increase your confidence. That way, when discouraging thoughts rear up, you have a reservoir of confidence to rely on.

Here are some confidence-building activities:

  1. Make a list of your strengths and things you’ve done (or are doing) that you’re proud of. Keep adding to the list regularly.
  2. Do a power pose every day. According to psychologist Amy Cuddy, simply standing in an open, broad stance with arms raised like you scored a touchdown will train your brain to develop confidence.[4] Do this for about a minute each day in front of the mirror.
  3. Challenge yourself with a new activity that isn’t out of reach. Take up yoga, learn how to sew or to cook a new type of food, memorize a poem or lyrics to a great song.
  4. Exercise and get enough sleep.
  5. Do the 100 days of rejection challenge. Jia Jiang, the owner of Rejection Therapy, desensitized himself to rejection and built courage by making crazy requests of people for 100 days.[5]
  6. Make self-affirmative statements in your mind and out loud. Use your list of strengths. Say, “I am a good communicator, I am smart, I care for other people.” When your inner critic speaks up, counter it with self-affirmation.

Doing confidence-building exercises regularly pays off in the long-term. You’ll feel better physically and mentally, and negative thoughts won’t have the confidence-killing effect they once had.

5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

This is a huge one. It’s incredibly easy to compare yourself to other people in today’s social media environment. A study showed that the more time people spend on Facebook, the more depressed they are.[6]

Advertising

People tend to share their achievements via status updates and post pictures that are flattering. It’s easy to compare yourself to your friends’ Facebook façade and come up lacking. Then, you decide to post an update that makes you look good, and if it doesn’t get a ton of likes and comments, you get the impression your Facebook friends don’t like you.

This applies a great deal to people who are in relationships as well. A study showed that when people are in a serious, dependent relationship, they tend to advertise it on Facebook.[7] Oftentimes, they do so because they’ve seen their friends do the same. If you’re not in a satisfying relationship, seeing someone’s positive status in the artificial environment of social media can be a serious downer. You end up comparing yourself to them without even realizing it.

University of Texas professor Raj Raghunathan recommends an alternative approach.[8]:

“Become a little more aware of what it is that you’re really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing.”

Focus on what you enjoy. There will be no room for negative thoughts. You’ll get closer to mastering what you enjoy most and you’ll be confident in your mastery.

6. Practice Mindfulness as a Way of Life

Our Western mode of thought frames things in terms of problems and solutions. It’s tempting to say, “If negative thoughts are the problem, mindfulness is the solution.”

Mindfulness meditation isn’t a solution and expectations for mindfulness creates frustration. All you can expect of mindfulness is to be mindful.

Mindfulness is a way of life. It’s the practice of paying attention, it’s the practice of noting phenomena and releasing phenomena in the same way the lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

How does mindfulness help you cope with negative thoughts? The mind takes note of the thought and then releases it.

Advertising

That’s all, there’s no magic here. There is the recognition that your brain and its thoughts are a functioning part of a phenomenal universe. At the risk of sounding cliche, a rolling stone grows no moss. The mind that releases thoughts and lets them go in the universe does not brood on them, therefore that mind remains fresh and ready for new challenges.

7. Judge Less, Do More

When we judge other people and gossip and make negative comments about them, we give negative thoughts power. We vocalize them and let them resound. Soon, this type of thinking becomes a habit, and it turns on the speaker. It’s like a dog biting an owner who trained the dog to bite people.

Don’t give negative thoughts about other people a foothold. Don’t make these thoughts an authority. Instead, practice loving-kindness meditation or something close to it. With loving-kindness, you sit and direct thoughts of well-being and unconditional love first to yourself, then to a friend, then to an acquaintance, and then to someone you don’t like.

Next, start writing down specific, achievable checkpoints, tasks, and goals for yourself. Write down dates and places and get as hyper-specific as possible. Make sure your checkpoints and goals revolve around what you enjoy doing. Keep a laminated copy of your to-do list in your pocket. Check things off: do more and enjoy the act of doing.

By focusing positive thoughts on yourself and others, and by focusing on your object of enjoyment, you’re training your brain. Soon, you are used to thinking positively and getting things done. Oh how good this feels!

The Bottom Line

Confidence is a habit. Like any habit, you need continual practice to build confidence. It’s easy to develop bad habits because you’re not thinking of some distant goal. You’re just engaging in an action repeatedly. Hand takes donut, puts donut in mouth, mouth chews, throat swallows, repeat. Why can’t positive habits be the same way?

Build your confidence by repeating routine actions that build confidence. Go to sleep with enough time for eight hours of shut-eye. Wake up, stretch, and hold a power pose for a minute while thinking self-affirming thoughts.

If you have time for exercise in the morning, exercise in the morning. Set a realistic goal to challenge yourself in some way that day. Then, with knowledge that you will tackle an achievable challenge, go through your day with mindful indulgence in each moment.

More Resources to Help You Stay Positive

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward for a Happier Life How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind How to Get Through Tough Times When You Are in Despair

Trending in Communication

1 How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home 2 Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion 3 18 Ways to Have Effective Communication in the Workplace 4 How to Make Changes in Life To Be The Very Best Version of You 5 Adapting to Change: Why It Matters and How to Do It

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 20, 2019

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

Possessing effective communication skills is a powerful tool to have. Effective communication skills are essential to success in many aspects and areas of your life. There are a lot of jobs that require you to be a good communicator.

Strong communication skills help you enjoy better relationships with friends and family. Being an effective communicator will give you advantages in more ways than you can imagine.

Conversely, being poor at communicating will negatively impact your life.

Let’s take a look at how to master effective communication skills at work and home.

What is Effective Communication?

Probably a good place to start is to paint a picture of what clear communication is.

Effective communication is defined as verbal speech or other communication methods to get your point across. Sounds pretty simple, right? It does but there’s more to it than that.

It’s really about how all of us interact and communicate in every aspect of our lives. It’s the ability to say something at the right time; to be able to get multiple people on the same page in a group decision. It’s how that one friend of yours who plans most of the activities is able to get everyone to the same place at the same time.

Non-verbal communication is key to being effective as well. It’s the ability to have your body language say the right thing so the person you’re speaking to knows your listening.

Effective communicators don’t react to situations with high emotion. It means not having to say something all the time in every situation. You are even being an effective communicator when you show up to pick your daughter up from the mall when you say you will. You are communicating to her that she can rely on you.

Are You a Poor Communicator?

Before we get too deep into how to be a master communicator, let’s take a look at your communication skills.

Advertising

If you find yourself agreeing with a lot of these, you might want to sharpen your communication skills.

  • You’re constantly interrupting – Hey, I know, we all want to be listened to. We all want to get our point across. Most importantly, we want to be understood. If you find yourself interrupting all the time you aren’t listening enough.
  • Doing too much – Many of us are master multi-taskers. It’s not good if you are communicating with someone. When you try to do too much while speaking with someone, you aren’t paying attention to what they are saying. Lack of focus is bad.
  • Rambling – I know of several people I work with who do this constantly. I honestly dread having to speak to them. The worst part is even though a lot of words are coming out of their mouths, they really aren’t saying anything. I’m more confused after they answer my question.
  • Not being direct – Nothing wrong with emails or reports. However, if you can convey the same information quickly and directly to someone, it is much more effective. Why write a 2 paragraph email when you can pick up the phone and say the same information in 2 sentences?
  • Always talking about yourself – Everybody likes to relate things to their own experiences. It draws us together and helps us create a feeling of sharing and community. If you are always coloring someone else’s conversation with a similar situation in your life, people will think you are making everything about you. Don’t be that person!
  • Using a lot of qualifiers – Qualifiers are fine for the most part. When you use them as a crutch most of the time when you speak, it’s not helping your communication. Sometimes, we do this to makes things seem “softer”. Saying things like “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but…” or “I know what you’re thinking but…” over and over doesn’t help you communicate.
  • Your ears don’t work – If you don’t listen well, you can’t answer someone correctly. In order to be an effective communicator, you have to understand what someone else is saying to you. If you don’t listen with purpose you will only have part of the picture.
  • Bad body language – The importance of body language is well documented. If you don’t look at someone when they are speaking, it appears that you don’t really care what’s being said. This makes people feel like you don’t care what they are saying and it’s not important to you. Other bad body language examples include always crossing your arms and not looking someone in the eyes.

What Effective Communication Can Do For You

Let’s take a look at how being able to effectively communicate can help you at work and in your personal relationships.

Work

  • Better client relationships – You certainly want a great communicator to be handling your client relationships. Strong communicators represent both the client and your company is the best manner.
  • Higher employee engagement – Pretty critical if you are a leader or a manager of people. An engaging and interactive communicator in a leadership position is wonderful for employees.
  • Getting better buy in from others – This is great whether you are a manager or individual contributor. Strong communicators tend to get people moving and working towards a common goal.
  • Helps mitigate conflict – Good communicators are able to help resolve conflicts quicker and easier. This helps smooth things over and keeps projects and initiatives moving forward.
  • Builds trust – You want to be able to trust who you work for and with. Effective communicators are good at establishing and building trust between people and groups.
  • Solves problems – Problems are solved by people with the ability to communicate clearly between groups and people. Those without good communication skills many times add to the confusion of a problem because they are unable to articulate their thoughts and ideas.

Personal relationships

  • Creates closeness – A good communicator is able to help foster a feeling of closeness with his or her partner.
  • Makes conflict okay – It’s actually better to fight with your partner from time to time instead of never fighting. We all have differences of opinion and points of view. When we don’t express these and bury it inside by not communicating, it just comes out later in a more negative form.
  • Provides support – It’s nice to know that someone cares about you and supports you. A strong communicator will ask how you’re doing and be a good sounding board for what you’re going through.
  • Expressing feelings – People who are not effective communicators tend to be not very good at expressing how they feel. This makes it tough to share your feelings with you partner.
  • Get the loving you want – In order to get the physical, mental, and emotional love you want and need, you have to be able to communicate clearly and appropriately with your spouse or partner. This is done through effective communication.
  • Eliminate mistrust, doubt, faithlessness, and insecurities – Many times these seeds are sown due to a lack of communication. If your partner rarely tells you where he or she is going, you will tend to start coming up with your own ideas. Often these aren’t true but how would you know if you aren’t told?

Can You Improve Your Communication Skills?

The short answer is yes, of course you can improve your communication skills.

Improving or changing anything in your life takes some work and effort but it can be done. You have to keep in mind your starting point and your goal.

If you are not a very good communicator now and you want to be able to give a motivating speech to a large graduating class, you’d better get working.

On the other hand, if you get along fairly well in general but want to be able to improve your relationship with your boss or spouse by being able to master effective communication, you may just need some guidance and practice.

Either way, if you want to master effective communication skills at both work and home, it will take a little work and effort. Doing so will benefit you in many ways.

How to Master Effective Communication Skills

In general mastering effective communication skills will help you at both work and home. Let’s look at how to improve verbal, written, and body language communication skills. These will help you create better relationships everywhere you go!

1. Learn how to listen

Speaking is only half of the communication equation. Sharpen your listening skills so you are able to process what the other person is saying. You can then respond it a well-informed manner.

Check out these active listening guidelines to be a better listener.

Advertising

2. Make eye contact

Having regular eye contact with someone while you are having a conversation shows you care what they are saying. When you are looking at the floor or out the window it gives the impression that you aren’t paying attention.

Take a look at this advice on how to make engaging eye contact.

3. Ask questions

When you ask someone questions, you are able to clarify what they are saying to ensure you get the whole picture. If you don’t understand it fully, ask questions.

Do you know that it takes some skills to ask questions too? Here’s how to be good at asking questions.

4. Watch body language

Watch both yours and the other persons.

We all know if you have a conversation with your arms crossed the entire time, it gives off a bad vibe. Have open, engaging body language when speaking with someone.

On the flip side, if you see someone’s eyes glazing over while speaking to you, it’s probably a good idea to wrap it up.

Take a look at these top 20 body language indicators to learn more.

5. Speak confidently

Sometimes this is easier said than done. If you communicate in an open, direct, and clear manner, it subtly shows people that you are confident in what you are saying.

It doesn’t mean you always have to be right but delivering your thoughts with confidence helps your case.

Advertising

These tips will help you speak more confidently.

6. Keep it simple

You don’t always have to be succinct in your communication. There is a lot of value in being able to tell a great story.

That being said, there are many instances where keeping it simple is very helpful. This is especially true at work in both verbal conversations as well as written like emails.

7. Know your audience

You should have a certain style when communicating with your boss. Another style of communication is better with your spouse and probably others with your kids or friends.

Know your audience to help you communicate the most effectively.

8. Be empathetic and understanding

There is a massive amount of power in being empathetic. And I mean that in a very positive way.

Showing that you are empathetic and understanding to another person goes a long way to creating a great bond with that person. We all want to be understood. It’s that simple.

Think it’s a challenge for you? These 5 tips for empathetic listening will help you.

9. Pause before reacting

There have been a number of times when I’ve read an email that just came in and had an instant reaction to reading it. And I don’t mean a positive reaction. My less effective ways of dealing and communicating has been to send a scathing email back.

When I’ve communicated more appropriately, I’ve waited a while before I responded. This is true in verbal situations as well.

Advertising

10. Over communicate

You’d think if you tell someone something that should be the end of it, right? Done deal. Not so fast.

I’m not recommending you tell someone the same thing 10 times in a row. With as many distractions as we all have these days, it’s generally a good idea to follow up on something you’ve communicated a few times if it’s important.

Conclusion

Having effective communication skills at both work and home will help you immensely.

At work, it helps you in your career in many ways.

Communicating well with your boss leads to a solid, symbiotic working relationship. You’re able to clearly articulate what you need to do your job well. You can share your vision and strategy with your boss and others. Good communicators are needed in management roles and leading others. Fostering an environment of effective communication leads to a great work environment.

At home, having effective communication skills will help you achieve the type of relationship you want with your spouse.

You are able to speak freely and openly about your feelings. You can share your wants and needs in a manner that your spouse understands. Your spouse will feel understood and supported by you which is a wonderful feeling to have. And being able to have a disagreement and work through it due to strong communication skills is amazing.

Look at how you can master effective communication skills at work and home to help create more satisfying relationships in all phases of your life.

More Resources About Work Communication

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Read Next