How to Build Confidence
October 14, 2018 • Sarah Jean Gosney
We live in the era of “you go girl!” and body positivity, but how many of us truly have confidence in who we are?
Judging by the number of young women obsessively uploading photos of themselves to Instagram with the aim of getting likes, I’d say not very many. I think this is in part because we have been brought up in self-esteem culture.
What exactly is self-esteem culture? A bag of cliches, really. It’s the notion that you should accept yourself unconditionally, that you are perfect as you are, and that everyone gets a participation trophy. These are all nice sounding sentiments on the surface, but upon inspection they are in fact pretty shallow and don’t provide any sort of stable self-worth.
Of course, I must clarify that I think that we should love ourselves unconditionally and that God loves us this way as well. However, love doesn’t mean accepting everything someone does or saying that they never need to work on themselves. It is an affirmation of that person’s worth, which is a reason to fight for what’s best for them. I know you might not believe in God, but especially for those of you who are struggling to love yourself, it can be helpful to know that you are loved no matter what state you are in. If it helps to frame it as the universe, you can look at it that way too.
But just as a parent who loves their child sets standards and boundaries for them, you should do the same for yourself. Have you ever seen children who have no rules in their lives, who can eat candy whenever they want, stay up as late as they want, and have as much screen time as they want? Don’t you usually think that their parents are failing them?
This may sound strange, but you need to treat yourself the same way as a good parent treats their child. You should approach yourself with love and understanding, but you also need to set expectations for your own behavior.
But what does this have to do with confidence?
Everything. The thing about confidence that you won’t get told in self-esteem culture is that it comes from competence. Of course, there are competent people with no confidence and incompetent people with loads, but hopefully if you are a reader of my work you are more in touch with yourself. Have you ever gone to the first day on a job and felt totally overwhelmed and stupid? I know I have. Inevitably, that would always melt away after a few month of learning the ropes and getting my bearings. I’m sure first-time parents feel this too.
Building up your confidence works much in the same way. You will have to master some things, and that may be uncomfortable for a while, but at the end of it all you will be able to stand tall and be proud of who you are.
Ways to build lasting confidence:
- taking care of your appearance
- standing up straight
- looking people in the eye and smiling
- learning a skill or hobby
- helping others through volunteer work
- sticking to a diet and exercise program
- finding friends who build you up
Those are just a few examples of ways you can build confidence.
Firstly, taking care of your appearance is crucial. This is something I’ve talked about before and want to emphasize again. Your appearance is not superficial; it is a manifestation of how you feel on the inside. Others use our appearance as information about us when they size us up. You might think this is wrong, but it’s been done since the beginning of time to determine others’ levels of health, age, fertility, and cultural group. You can use this to your advantage. Looking good will get you better treatment from others, which will make you feel good.
Even apart from how others experience us however is the component of self-care that goes into looking good. Self-care is vital for our well-being. It sends us a signal that we value ourselves and are willing to invest time in being our best selves. This is where the true power of looking good comes from. When you spend an extra fifteen minutes a day picking a cute outfit and doing your hair and makeup (there’s so much you can do in a short amount of time), you are telling yourself that you deserve to have time just for yourself and that you deserve to look your best. Just like a set of silver that we polish to keep it from tarnishing, we should polish ourselves to affirm that we have value and are cared for.
Stand up straight and look people in the eye. This is another piece of advice that you’ve probably heard many times before. It’s one of those things that seems so small that I bet many people ignore it and don’t focus their energy on it. I want to emphasize to you that, while simple, these are powerful changes you can make.
Standing up straight improves our breathing, makes us look confident and more attractive, and sends the signal that we are owning our space rather than shrinking from the world. Looking someone in the eye shows that you are a person to be taken seriously and that you are aware of your surroundings. I know from personal experience how hard it is to implement these two actions after years of slouching and avoiding eye contact. It can be very uncomfortable to look someone in the eye, and standing up straight can feel unnatural and like we are sticking our chest out. However, both of these are confidence-building exercises that signal your value to the world.
Once you feel more comfortable with those things, you can start learning a skill. I know I used to worry about being uninteresting (I’m not sure if I ever was, but I certainly felt that way), and this was improved greatly by having things going on in my life and having projects I am working on. Getting a confidence boost from learning a skill may take a while because you’ll have to crawl before you can run, but mastering something will give you lasting pride. Think of the time you kept trying to master a difficult recipe or understand a tough concept in school. When everything finally clicked, I’m sure you felt elated and proud. Make this a part of your every day experience by learning a hobby.
Help others by volunteering. When you are struggling to feel good about yourself, take the focus off of yourself for a moment and focus on what you can do to build up others. Any way of helping will do, even if it’s as small as opening the door for a lady using a walker.
Another way you can boost your confidence is to finally stick to a diet or exercise plan. You may think that the confidence will come when you have the body you dream of, but I find that the simple (but challenging) fact of sticking to your plan makes you feel good. Knowing that you are treating your body well sends you another signal that you are worthwhile.
Lastly, find friends that build you up. The people you spend time around should believe in you and encourage you. If your friends focus mostly on complaining, even if it’s not about you, you may need to find new company to keep. Good friends will stick with you when things are tough and can see the potential in you and try to bring that out. Make sure you have positive people in your life.
Confidence is within your control. You don’t have to be born a supermodel to feel great in your own skin, and there are many things you can do in your daily life to build yourself up. You are worth the effort.
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