Article by Elizabeth Healey, Neuroscientist, Film maker and advanced Executive Coach
The words we say to ourselves shape our attention, which controls our emotions, and how confidence we feel – or lack of it. This stuff is not guff, it is science. The words we say to ourselves have real power and this is why.
Confidence is a belief. The belief that you can successfully do a particular thing. It is this link to actionthat differentiates confidence from self-esteem (how good you feel about yourself) or optimism (belief that things will turn out OK). When you anticipate success, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, the chemical messenger that fuels reward and pleasure in the reward network deep in the centre of the brain. Research shows that feeling confident about your decisions activates these reward networks while lack of confidence leads to increases of activity in brain regions linked to negative emotions such as anxiety.
Confidence and anxiety are competing rivals for your actions and attention. Anxiety inclines you to retreat in avoidance of failure, while confidence is a bridge to the future that impels you forward in anticipation of reward. Most of us are slightly overconfident – men more so than women – in relation to our true abilities. And that mood-lifting, anxiety-reducing state of mind inclines us to do stuffthat increases the chances of outcomes or encounters that do indeed lead to opportunity and reward, and therefore acts as a virtuous positive feedback loop.
It all comes down to being your authentic self. How can we align what we say to ourselves inside our heads with the image we project out into the world? When these two are in harmony my goodness watch out, because that is when the magic happens - we feel balanced, find ourselves in flow more often and everything seems to be coming to you naturally - the world works FOR you, not AGAINST you.
Try this little exercise to help you become more self aware of the internal stories we tell and the assumptions we make
React - Notice how you react to someone or something that is said or done.
Reflect - Take a breath, centre yourself and reflect on how you reacted,
Respond - Ask yourself what would serve you better. Do that instead.