Anxiety attacks can often crush your self-confidence – and that can make you feel like you’re trapped in a vicious circle. But don’t despair, you can break free from the damaging cycle, and return to your very best
Anxiety and self-confidence: how are they related? In my work as a life coach, many of my clients tell me that since living with higher than normal levels of anxiety, they feel their self-confidence has been knocked.
This makes sense, because living with high levels of anxiety causes us to feel limited, to doubt ourselves, and our capabilities. This feeling of limitation lowers our self-confidence, which only adds to feelings of anxiety, as we feel less sure of our ability to handle anxious situations.
But there is hope. We needn’t stay in this cycle. Here are some ways to get your confidence back after anxiety.
1. Access where you are and where you want to be
Start by asking yourself, right now, where would you score your level of self-confidence out of 10? (With 10 being high, and one being low.) It’s important to be compassionate, and not to judge your answers. Next, imagine what higher levels of self-confidence look like for you. What would greater levels of self-confidence allow you to do? Write down some examples of behaviours, habits, and feelings that your most confident self would have. Feel excited knowing more self-confidence is not only possible, but you deserve it.
2. Challenge yourself to take action
Using your self-confidence vision to inspire you, take action and lovingly challenge yourself. When my self-confidence hit rock-bottom after anxiety, I got fearful about bumping into people I knew, being caught off guard, and having to make small talk.
Aware of this, one day I set myself a challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I would go to the busy local supermarket where there was always a high chance of seeing someone I knew. If I met someone, I’d have to say "hey" and make small talk. Part of me was scared. Part of me was excited. By day 30, my self-confidence had grown tremendously, because I’d moved towards my fears, instead of away from them.
Remember to start small, and, as your confidence grows, so will the size of the challenges you set for yourself.
3. Become a cheerleader for yourself
Make it a habit to praise yourself. Every night before bed, stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and (silently or out loud) praise yourself for one thing you did well that day.
Make self-praise familiar. Become a cheerleader for yourself. When you notice feelings of anxiety, which is only to be expected as your comfort zone and confidence grows, reassure yourself by saying: ‘I can do this.’ You may like to write down a list of other phrases, affirmations, or ‘power thoughts’ you’d like to say to yourself throughout the day. You could even set silent alarms on your phone, so these empowering words pop up for you to read.
4. Focus on triggering the ‘rest and digest’ response
Feel excited knowing more self-confidence is not only possible, but you deserve it
During ‘fight or flight’, our sympathetic nervous system helps us face the threat by increasing our heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
Once our mind feels the threat has been eliminated, our blood pressure, heart, and breathing rate return to normal, our muscles relax, and processes such as digestion – which stop during ‘fight or flight’ – are resumed. This is because of the parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest’ response, which works to restore balance in the body.
Each day, create time for self-care – which will trigger your ‘rest and digest’ response. How you do this is down to you, but could include meditation, yoga, or breath-work.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Remember: you are not alone. Share your thoughts, feelings, and challenges, with friends and family, and ask for their support. They, too, will want to see you back feeling more confident again.
There are support groups, online and offline, for people on the same journey as you, wishing to rebuild their confidence after anxiety. There are also skilled professionals who can help you understand the roots of the anxiety, and share tools to make you feel better equipped when life gets stressful.