There are few things more frustrating and upsetting than seeing someone important to you lacking in confidence.
Most of us are exactly the same. We refuse to see the spark and the potential in ourselves, but we can see it so clearly in those surrounding us that we want to shake them. We get so frustrated that we can’t seem to make them understand how wonderful they are.
Although we’re often a bit biased when it comes to our friends and family, the fact that they don’t think they can achieve something doesn’t mean you’ve got an inflated view of their potential; it means they’ve got a deflated view of it. We’re normally pretty realistic about the abilities of the people we love, and far more realistic than they themselves are.
Look In The Mirror
If you want to convince someone that they’ve got what it takes to achieve their dreams, you should start by taking a look at yourself.
I wouldn’t mind betting that you’re far harder on yourself than you are on anyone around you. You make huge demands of yourself, neglect yourself, and beat yourself up when you don’t get things ‘right.’ Understanding that is an extremely important start to getting your head around why someone else might not believe in themselves, even when, to you, their potential is blindingly obvious.
Once you’ve reflected on that, you’re in a much better place to help someone else believe in their dreams. In this article, if I talk about them as a ‘loved one’ it’s for the sake of ease, but this could equally apply to someone you have a professional relationship with.
Here’s how to encourage a loved one to reach for the stars:
1. Live By Example
So, we’ve established by now that you’re your own harshest critic. If you want your loved one to get out of their own way, then you need to do the same in your own life. Monitor your self-criticism and self-deprecation and you’ll be surprised how much of your time you spend doing yourself down.
Do you have your own dreams? Do you ever prioritize yourself and your needs? It might be that what your loved one lacks is a role model whose example they can live by. Perhaps seeing someone else close to them believing in themselves and taking positive steps forward could be the thing that inspires them to do the same.
2. Put It Into Words
Simplistic as it might seem, simple words of encouragement are powerful things, and they cost you nothing. Most of the things we do in life, whether in our social lives or work lives, go unacknowledged, so if your loved one does something good, let them know!
Think of how good it feels when you’re just going about your day and you suddenly get a compliment on something or someone recognizes the effort you’ve been putting into a project. It’s great motivation, and can make you try even harder.
Very few of us are capable of ploughing on relentlessly with something without encouragement. Simple words, when spoken honestly, can mean an awful lot.
3. Show It In Other Ways
You’re not limited to a few words of encouragement face to face. You could send them a card congratulating them on something they’ve done, give them a call, send them a text… Hell, buy them a bottle of champagne. From the small to the showy, anything can be inspiring.
Writing something down or picking up the phone especially to let them know they’re doing well makes it seem somehow more significant than just a few throwaway words, although words are really important too.
Don’t overdo it, as you don’t want to come across as patronizing, but make small gestures however often you feel they could be helpful and constructive.
Sometimes, even words aren’t necessary, never mind flashy gestures. Just your undivided attention can be enough to really encourage someone and give them the drive they need to move forward.
Listen to them with honest interest, and for god’s sake put your phone away. If someone keeps checking their phone or glancing over their shoulder, and their body language in general communicates their inattention, you’re not likely to feel that what you’re saying is of much value, are you?
Although a few questions here and there can show that you’re really engaged, and you can offer your opinion if it’s asked for, the key here is that you should keep your mouth shut as much as possible. A few encouraging noises and reactions thrown in here and there are great, but let them talk! It’s a great way for them to develop their ideas and come to understand their dreams fully.
It won’t just be them that understands more as a result! Properly listening will also help you to understand what their dreams actually are, which will then mean you’re better able to inspire and motivate them. Win-win!
5. Challenge Them
This won’t work for everyone, but some people really respond to being challenged. If they’re someone that can’t resist a bit of a challenge, this could work really well.
Challenge them to be the very best and do the very best they can. Challenge them to live up to their potential. You could even give them specific, concrete challenges, like getting a specific task done by the end of the week, if you want to help them make tangible progress.
6. Encourage Them To Make Decisions And Take Steps
When we have an idea or a dream, it’s far too easy to put off getting started or taking the next step if there’s nothing really driving us to do it. That means we can often get bogged down and end up procrastinating by spending hours deliberating over small decisions. It’s actually just a way to get out of tackling the bigger things.
Encourage them to make those decisions quickly, and remind them that they can always come back and tweak things later on. Action is vital if you’re ever going to build up a bit of momentum and get anything done.
If they’ve got an independent project or something specific they want to achieve, you could offer to be the one to hold them accountable and make sure they actually reach those goals. If they only have to answer to themselves, that might not be enough motivation to take action, but if they have to explain to you why they haven’t done a particular thing that they’d committed to, they might be motivated into actually doing it next time.
Once they make the decision or take the step, be sure to congratulate them and let them know how well they’re doing, through your words, your attention, and the other little gestures we mentioned above.
Simple As That
Believe in yourself and lead by example, and that will lay the foundations for inspiring others. Charity begins at home, as they say.
Once you’ve got your own act together, you can turn your attention to your loved one. Listen to them, give them the encouragement they need in whatever way they need it, and then watch them flowering in front of your very eyes.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.