Sometimes I can’t believe that I still have to give myself pep talks in order to boost my confidence. After 27 years of experiencing this world, you’d think I’d accept that I’m a worthy being whose lived through a thing or two. I have talents, I’m self-sufficient, I’m kind, I’m smart, I’ve worked hard to get where I am and I’m proud of it. Yet it seems as if a voice in my head is always working overtime to prove to a different voice in my head – the one with little self-esteem – that I’m worthy of my own high opinion.
Sadly, having real confidence is also a struggle for other women, too. Do you sometimes shy away from the sound of your own voice in a crowded room? Do you apologize for things you shouldn’t be sorry for (“Sorry my house is a mess and I don’t have dinner on the table; I wasn’t expecting company.”)? Do you know certain triggers – a pushy salesperson or a grumpy coworker – that tend to make you question your own wisdom and instinct? Do you stalk “friends” on Facebook and with every passing photo and status think something negative about your own (pretty decent) life? If you answered yes to these questions, chances are you’re suffering from a lack of real, unshakable confidence.
I wonder, is there an age you hit where you no longer question yourself? A certain milestone – be it a step on the career latter or having lived alone in three countries over the course of 10 years, or having birthed five children in your own home – when you believe in yourself? Is feeling confident genetic or the result of how we were raised or the circumstances we encountered? Is low self-esteem cured by idolizing a certain person? I don’t have time to wait to find out any of these answers. Feeling confident is extremely important to me. If I don’t believe in myself, who will?
What do you say it’s time to stop being our own worst enemy, or letting others dictate how we feel, whether deliberately or not? Unless you need a quick confidence fix, long-lasting confidence is a muscle that needs to be strengthened continually. Here’s how you build your confidence for real this time, and get it to stick for good.
- Detach feeling confident from your physical appearance. While confidence is very much how you feel about yourself, you can’t go around thinking a bad hair day or the wrong pair of shoes suddenly took away your star power. Confidence is developed deep within your core, believed in your heart, and backed up by the way you talk about yourself, not by how you looked in a photo.
- Never talk down about yourself. Not a negative word, ever. This is so hard, but overapologizing, second guessing yourself out loud, and suggesting to others that you don’t value your own thoughts or actions is an immediate way for them to feel less confident in you. And you will instantly feel worse about yourself, trust me. Practice biting your tongue when you’re about to make a self-deprecating remark.
- Start and end each day with positive self talk. “Good morning, Beautiful….” “Good night, you were amazing today.” You’ve heard this before, but chances are you didn’t follow through. You need to get used to your own inner voice kicking off your day positively and ending it on a good note. When it all comes down to it anyway, you only have your own thoughts to listen to.
- Be your own best friend. Think about it: the people you know who act confident seem to like themselves. Set dates with yourself once in a while to just contemplate all the good things you have going on and where you’d like to go next. Why not? You’d do this with your best friend. Just don’t forget the wine and chocolate!
- Do things that challenge you, like singing karaoke or rock climbing, to build your “I did it” list. Keep a list of all of these accomplishments and review them over coffee (or drink of choice) on a Sunday morning once a month. Next time you’re at a social event, mention one of these accomplishments instead of the weather to that group of strangers. Go on, you can do it.
- Jot down what makes you confident and do more of those things. Can’t think of anything? Jot down what makes you feel strong, like a kickboxing class, or happy, like a bubble bath. Confident people are mentally tough and visibly content.
- Develop an alter ego. Give her a sassy name – like Esmerelda – and envision her kick-ass qualities, like her ability to maintain a poker face in trying situations, or standing up for herself. Rely on her to come out when you need her the most. The worst case scenario is you blame everything on her, but the worse case scenario is only in your head anyway.
- Be genuinely happy for other people’s success (read: cut the jealousy crap). It can be so hard and it takes practice to be genuine, but the act of giving positive reinforcement, praise, and energy to others is powerful for you, too. It shows that you are comfortable with yourself.