Low self-esteem is a risk factor for numerous mental conditions including eating disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. Thus, Dr. Geert-Jan Will of Leiden University and his team set out to research into the extent to which our self-confidence is shaped by what other people think of us. The researchers looked at 40 participants who were asked to upload their profile onto an online database. The participants were given feedback by ‘strangers’ in different groups, who graded each profile with either a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ symbol. The conclusions were fascinating: what hurt participants’ self-confidence the most, was receiving a ‘thumbs down’ from a group that had rated them positively in the past. The findings offer great insight into the inexorable link between self-confidence and trust. It can be difficult indeed to feel good about ourselves when those we depend on let us down. We cannot control how others perceive us, but are there ways we can boost our self-confidence by thinking out of the box?

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Body Posture Affects Confidence

An Ohio State University study found that simply sitting up straight in your chair gives you greater confidence in your own thoughts. Something as simple as body posture can boost the way one values oneself and give one greater confidence in one’s own thoughts, regardless of whether these are positive or negative. The researchers noted: “Most of us were taught that sitting up straight gives a good impression to other people. But it turns out that our posture can also affect how we think about ourselves. If you sit up straight, you end up convincing yourself by the posture you’re in.” Think about how you sit and carry yourself and try to express more confidence and resilience through your body language.

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Altruism: Giving Others and Making Big Personal Gains

A 2017 study by researchers at Brigham Young University found that young people who exhibit pro-social (or altruistic) behavior to strangers (not to family) had higher self-esteem than those who didn’t. The researchers believed that something about helping those who owe us nothing can impact perceptions of self in a positive way, making us more empathetic. As noted in classic books given to youths(such as Dale Carnegie’s best-selling How to Win Friends and Influence People) the sensation that one is being fair, upright, and kind to others, tends to bring about positive reactions, but also improve one’s sense of self.

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Self-Distancing to Boost Belief

Language matters, especially when it comes to the messages we deliver to ourselves. A study carried out at the University at Buffalo found that before a potentially stressful event, it pays to engage in self-talk, but refer to yourself in the third (rather than the first) person. In the study, prior to a stressful presentation, participants were asked to either think about their presentation with first person pronouns (I, me) or third-person pronouns (he, she). The researchers found that speaking in the third person (obtaining distance from oneself) helped boost self-confidence, reframing a stressful situation as a challenge rather than a threat.

We have named just three new ways you can consider if your self-esteem needs a pick-up. Small changes such as postural improvement can enhance your sense of value; altruism can help you see yourself in a more positive light; and thinking of yourself in the third person before a stressful task such as an exam or speech can help you realize that potential obstacles are actually avenues through which to reveal your best self.

This post was written by freelance writer Cassie Steele. I hope you enjoyed her insight and knowledge.