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5 Ways to Overcome Nervousness (Backed by Science and Examples)


Knowing how to overcome nervousness can be hard. People around you seem to waltz into any room with the confidence of a duke entering a ball. Meanwhile, your mind instantly fills with doubt anytime someone looks your way. What do they think of me? Maybe I look weird? What if they don’t like me?

Nervousness and low-self esteem can make life difficult. Often, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You feel awkward, so you act awkward, and then other people start to think you’re awkward. As a result, you feel even more awkward, and so it goes. But it’s time for this evil cycle to end.

You’ll be happy to know, you can indeed overcome nervousness, with just a few powerful, science-backed strategies. What are these, you ask? Well, keep on reading and you’ll find out!

A significant part of your happiness is a result of your personal outlook. Being aware of your own emotions and mindset is a vital step towards happiness. This is covered in-depth in the section Internal Happiness in the biggest guide on how to be happy available online.

Studies show the amazing benefits of building self-esteem

Overcoming nervousness and building self-esteem can be a bit of a rocky road. There might be times when it feels really tough, and you might feel like giving up. After all, you’ve lived this long with feeling nervous, so you can keep on living like that without any effort.

But I’m here to tell you to keep going, even when things feel rough. There are tons of scientific studies that prove there are immense benefits to learning how to overcome nervousness. Keep these in mind and use them as motivation to push through.

Here are some of the benefits of building self-esteem, according to science:

One of the most notable findings is that self-esteem is the most dominant and powerful predictor of happiness.

How to overcome nervousness

So learning how to overcome nervousness and increase your self-esteem is actually one of the best things you can do to become happier. That’s great news for everyone reading this because I’m about to tell you how!

1. Surround yourself with positive and supportive people

If you want to build self-esteem, you probably think about doing it from within yourself. You don’t want to have to depend on anyone else’s opinion to feel good about yourself. Because if you do, then that person can easily take it away from you.

This mindset is great, and arguably the best way to go about any sort of self-improvement.

But when it comes to this particular case – overcoming nervousness – it really does matter what other people think of us.

A study using journal writing exercises compared two methods to raise self-esteem:

  1. An “inward” method – treating the journal writing as “talking to yourself”, writing freely about what’s on your mind, without showing it to anyone. The idea was for these participants to focus all their attention inward and build autonomy.
  2. An “outward” method – sending journal entries to trained psychologists who provided positive feedback. These participants saw the writing exercise as talking to a psychologist who liked and appreciated them.

The results were clear – the participants in the “outward” group showed increased self-esteem after just two weeks. Their self-esteem kept increasing throughout all six weeks of this exercise. They even still had increased self-esteem four months after the journal writing ended.

On the other hand, the participants in the “inward” group didn’t have any particular increase in self-esteem.

These results strongly suggest that the most effective way to increase your self-esteem is to get support and love from other people.

So while wanting to increase your self-esteem without depending on any other people is great, research shows that it won’t do very much for you. Therefore, it’s best to surround yourself with positive and supportive people, at least at the beginning.

The good news is that getting support from others will eventually make you feel more secure autonomously too. After a few weeks of higher self-esteem, the “outward” participants started relying less on other people’s opinions. Their self-esteem started to be more grounded in the self.

So it seems that at the start, you have to build up your self-esteem from other people. Then, you will become more independent and derive more confidence from within.

2. Be supportive to your friends and family

Above, we talked about how to overcome nervousness and build self-esteem by receiving support from other people.

Well, studies show that giving support to others can also help you build your self-esteem.

This is great because you can actually create a feedback loop:

  1. You’re supportive and caring to your friends.
  2. As a result, they become more supportive and caring to you.
  3. This makes you feel happier and more confident, and you continue to give more love and support to them.

And the cycle goes on. At each continuation of the cycle, your self-esteem can increase.

Plus, you’re building strong relationships with people you care about at the same time. Have we found the self-esteem improvement jackpot, or what?

Here are some tips that might help you overcome nervousness by supporting others:

  • Message a friend or family member to tell them you’re thinking of them.
  • Have a phone call to catch up with a friend or family member.
  • Ask someone you care about how they are doing and actively listen to their answer.
  • Give someone a genuine compliment.
  • Help your family or roommates with cleaning or housework.
  • Babysit for a friend or family member’s children.
  • Mow your neighbor’s lawn, rake their leaves, or shovel their driveway.
  • Help someone you know with a difficult task (repairs, moving, accounting, etc.).
  • Support a friend who’s working on a life change or an important a goal.
  • Check in with a friend who is trying to make a challenging life change (losing weight, living healthier, starting freelance work, etc.).

3. Be more forgiving

Learning how to let go of anger is another thing that helps you build greater self-esteem.

Self-esteem is based on what we think of ourselves and our own self-worth. Therefore, if you hold a lot of anger towards yourself, you’re likely struggling with accepting mistakes you’ve made in the past. Or, you might be holding onto anger directed at someone else.

Either way, studies show that becoming more forgiving can greatly raise your self-esteem.

I realize that forgiveness is one of those things that everybody talks about doing but very few can actually say how to do it. If you want to build your self-esteem and grant yourself emotional peace, check out our full blog post on how to let go of anger here.

4. Build healthy habits

I’m sure you’ve already heard about 1,037,854 benefits to doing physical exercise. Well, you can add overcoming nervousness and building self-esteem to the list.

A 2016 study found that more physical exercise resulted in higher self-esteem. You might be thinking “yeah duh”, fitter people feel better about themselves because they look better. But actually, the study found something interesting. Participants had increased self-esteem even if they didn’t experience any physical changes. Just the fact of doing exercise alone, without any real improvements in fitness, was enough.

It makes sense that investing in yourself in any way would raise your self-esteem. You feel the satisfaction that you’re making yourself into a better person.

But this could also be a result of tricking your mind in a way. You’re investing time in yourself, and you would only invest time in someone you have high regard for. Therefore, your body responds with higher self-esteem. Kind of like how smiling even though you’re sad will produce more happiness hormones in your body.

Whatever the reason, you can work out without feeling any pressure about transforming your body.

Now, I realize that exercise may be one of the last things you’d want to do, especially if your self-esteem is related to body image issues. But remember that there are lots of ways to do physical exercise. Check out the list below for some ideas and you’re sure to find one that would suit you. The benefits are very much worth it.

Here are some ways that exercise can help you overcome nervousness:

  • Go to personal trainer sessions at the gym: just being there with another person who supports you (as said above in the first tip) can be enough to reduce any awkwardness.
  • Watch an at-home YouTube workout: tons of options exist, including no-jumping, beginner-friendly, apartment-friendly… YouTube is your oyster!
  • Follow along with an online live workout: you retain the community feeling, but don’t feel judged by others watching you.
  • Go for a brisk walk in nature or outside.
  • Start a new sport hobby (tennis, volleyball, canoeing, mountain climbing, etc.).
  • Join a dance class.

5. Don’t be too objective

If you struggle with nervousness and low self-esteem, chances are you’re probably very hard on yourself.

You may have very high expectations of yourself, and take feedback from other people very seriously. If people say something negative about you, you don’t ignore it or just shrug it off. You take it to heart, and naturally, this might upset or hurt you.

Meanwhile, there are people that seem to be totally untouched by negative feedback. They’re just as confident, just as happy, and in some cases, just as annoying with whatever the feedback was about.

Even though the second group of people probably feel much better, this attitude might seem off-putting to you. You might have objections like:

  • “But they’re blind to reality!”
  • “They’re full of themselves!”
  • “They’re unable to think objectively!”

It’s true that they seem to distort the information they receive. But, this also does wonders for their self-esteem.

A scientific review made the following thought-provoking remarks (shortened below):

The individual who responds to negative, ambiguous, or unsupportive feedback with a positive sense of self will be happier, more caring, and more productive than the individual who perceives this same information accurately and integrates it into his or her view of the self, the world, and the future. In this sense, the capacity to develop and maintain positive illusions may be thought of as a valuable human resource to be nurtured and promoted, rather than an error-prone processing system to be corrected. In any case, these illusions help make each individual’s world a warmer and more active and beneficent place in which to live.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should be blind to your shortcomings or ignore feedback. But don’t take it too seriously, especially if you’re trying to overcome nervousness and build self-esteem. As the study above said, it will turn you into a better person, so what’s the harm?

Wrapping up

As we saw at the beginning, self-esteem plays an enormous role in our happiness and wellbeing. So it’s very worth our time to try to increase it! Thankfully, there are simple ways to do this, such as the 5 ways discussed in this article. I hope you’ve found them useful, and that you’re on the path to greater self-esteem.

What do you think? Have you overcome nervousness recently, and do you want to share a tip that helped you personally? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Silvia Adamyova

Writer

Born in Slovakia, raised in Canada. Online English teacher, editor, copywriter, and translator. You’ll find me holed up in a bookstore, typing in a cafe, or immersed in a philosophical debate.

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