Along with its many joys, life also serves up many situations that can shake your confidence – death of a loved one, divorce, losing a job, failing in business, health problems and so many other things that impact our self-confidence. What can you do?
When you are younger you seem to have an endless reserve of resilience and can dust off, get up again and treat the negative incidents in life as, ‘learning experiences’.
However, when you are older, that pool of resilience can feel depleted. Here are some things you can do to help yourself to get back up again.
Where to Start
The most vital step is to decide that you will not take it lying down and that you will absolutely, most certainly, build up your self-confidence again and claim back your mojo.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by what life can sometimes throw at you, it may feel a lot easier to crawl under the doona rather than to pick yourself up. The truth is that as older people, we have a wealth of life experiences under our belt. We can beat the temporary lack of confidence because of life’s setbacks and come out the other end as the most confident version of ourselves.
Silence Your Inner Critic
“What you tell yourself everyday will either lift you up or tear you down. You choose.” – Deborah King
As a defence mechanism, we often hide behind self-deprecating jokes and put ourselves down constantly or worse, we may feel we are not worthy or blame ourselves for our situation and are constantly self–critical.
What we don’t realise is that the things we think and say to ourselves, matter a great deal and have a long-term impact. Negative self-talk can have a compounding effect, so it is best to tackle it quickly.
You’re the person who has been with yourself since the very beginning, and you will be with yourself all the way till the end. You must learn to be your own best friend. Be an ally, not an enemy. Be there for yourself and talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love. Hype yourself up and give yourself compliments.
Obsess over the things you love about yourself instead of putting yourself down. Wouldn’t that make us so much happier? When a negative thought starts creeping into your mind, try to steer it away and don’t give it momentum. Censor it and flip it into something positive.
It will take some time and practice, so be patient with yourself and remind yourself that no one has it all figured out at any age. Everyone is on their own journey. Working on having a positive mindset is an important step to being confident. It will help you to be kind to yourself.
Getting out of negative self-talk, however, can be very challenging. As you get older it becomes more and more difficult to change the way that you think, but it is not impossible and all that may be needed is consulting a professional such as a psychologist, who can analyse the situation and help you navigate to a better place and regain your self-confidence.
Ditch the Mask
“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” – Maya Angelou
Many of us have lived our whole lives worrying about how to behave and what others will think of us. In our fifties and sixties, we realise that nobody really cares what we do, so it’s time to take advantage of this realisation. Shed the many masks we all wear, and free yourself from the need for external validation.
It is not uncommon for people in their 60s and 70s to say they are just starting to understand themselves.
Unfortunately, there are many hurdles in doing this, mainly because over the years we have forgotten whether we do certain things, dress a certain way and have various opinions, because it is expected of us or because we really want to. Trying to figure out and finding your true self is a cliché but it is really a very practical necessary step in regaining and perhaps reshaping your identity.
We all want to live our happiest self and stop being limited by what others want us to be – but to do that we must have a clear understanding of what is important to us, our value systems and our self-image. You would think that you have all this sorted out as you grow older, but it is not uncommon for people in their 60s and 70s to say they are just starting to understand themselves.
Voyages of self–discovery, however, can be seriously boring for others to listen to! One way out of this is to develop a journaling habit. Journaling helps to pour out your heart with privacy and then when you see the written word it can also be easier to analyse and see things in perspective.
Socialise – But be Picky
It is true that self-confidence is about how you feel about yourself, but it is also about how you feel when interacting with other people.
There are some situations where you feel small, slighted or just ignored because of how other people act toward you. You can’t change the way people think, but you can change the people you socialise with. You can choose to interact with people who make you feel comfortable, confident and good about yourself.
Be picky about who you surround yourself with. Negative talk is contagious. You may feel that you don’t like who you turn into around certain people or that you feel toxic energy from them, it’s a sign that your relationship with that person may have come to an end.
Cut out people who bring you down. It can be tough to do that, especially if it is a close family member or good friend. Try being honest with them and tell them how their actions may be negatively impacting you. Those who love you will make the effort and meet you halfway.
Observe what triggers your negative feelings and avoid those situations if you can. If not, work with a therapist to learn how to deal with them in the best way possible.
Dress the Part
“You can have anything you want if you dress for it.” – Edith Head
Wear clothes that are fitted and make you sit a little bit straighter and feel like the boss that you are. These may seem like small things and although confidence comes from within, taking care of your outer appearance can reflect how you feel on the inside. If you think you are worthy, you will always want to be the best version of yourself.
You don’t need to spend a great deal of money to look good. Confidence is not about trying to impress others, it is about being happy with yourself.
Treat Transitions as New Beginnings
“With realisation of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” – Dalai Lama
Some of the incidents in life that can most knock the confidence out of you are transitions. For instance, as we get older, friends and loved ones pass away; divorces happen; the empty nest becomes a reality and many of us go from full-time work into retirement.
These transitions can be extremely painful and can strike at the very core of our identities. The common thread is that there is an end to a major chapter in life. This ending could leave you without a sense of purpose. If there is no sense of purpose, then motivating yourself to just get up in the morning can be hard, let alone building your self-confidence and enjoying life.
For instance, if your life revolved around the routine and focus of work, then retirement will leave you feeling at sea, not knowing what to do with your time and not having friends because your network may all have been work-related. It is for these reasons that losing your drive and self-confidence are common in retirement.
Fortunately, the solution is also clear. As one chapter closes, find yourself a new purpose in life. Only you will know what appeals and when is the right time especially if you are in mourning, but if you look around you, there are plenty of people who have found new purpose and regained that spring in the step and a lightness of spirit.
How often have you heard things like this:
“Losing my job was the best thing that happened to me. I realised I could earn what I need from a part-time job doing what I love and I can spend more time with my family.”
“Ever since I started volunteering, I feel good about myself because I am giving back and I’ve also made a lot of new friends”
“I don’t know why we stayed on in the family house. Now that we moved into a smaller apartment, we are a lot happier with less housework and more friends our age and I’ve used the extra time to finish writing my book.”
Having a purpose in life gives you focus, drive and self-confidence.