When I was young, I was often the life of the party despite being riddled with insecurity. You need to learn to love yourself, people would tell me. Easier said than done. How can you boost your confidence when you’re convinced you’re too loud, too sensitive, too needy, too ugly, too much? How can you deem yourself worthy enough for others, let alone your self?
It takes work — for some, more than others. For me, it’s an ongoing endeavour. Nothing about self-love comes naturally to me, which is why I unabashedly admit to being a self-help addict.
Whether your self-esteem could do with the occasional lift or requires a complete overhaul, check out these 10 confidence-boosting tips.
Don’t like the look of one? Skip straight to the next. We’re complex creatures; one size does not fit all!
1. Build self-esteem by visualizing yourself as confident
Visualization is a powerful tool that can help us manifest new realities by exercising our imagination.
Studies in mental imagery have shown that the brain cannot distinguish from a real or an imagined picture. The same chemicals release and the same electrical activity displays in the brain, whether we are visualizing something or actually doing it. (Moira Hutchison)
Say you’re training for a marathon. For several minutes a day, every day leading up to the race, you imagine yourself crossing the finish line, as well as the accompanying rush of victory.
Weeks later, there you are, crossing the finish line because you’ve trained your brain to believe that this is well within your capability.
In 5 Ways to Visualize Yourself as Confident, Moira Hutchison explores how repetitive thoughts can become beliefs over time. Want to boost your confidence? Think of yourself as confident and greater self-esteem will follow.
Want a more visual source to help you master visualization? Check out this guided meditation.
2. Repeat confidence-boosting affirmations daily
I never used to be a big fan of affirmations but in recent years I’ve become more open to them. I mean, they can’t hurt, right?
Every day, I affirm who I am 10 years into the future. (I am a published author. I am a cherished wife.) I am, with each affirmation, turning my focus towards what serves me.
Here are five self-love affirmations Jessica Dowches-Wheeler suggests to help you boost your confidence.
- I am a positive being, aware of my potential.
- I am aware of my gift to the world and share it freely.
- I am creative and open to new solutions.
- I believe in my abilities and express my true self with ease.
- And my favourite: All I need is within me.
For more from Jessica, check out her 30 Affirmations for Confidence.
3. For a confidence boost, run towards fear, not away from it
Bar swimming with man-eating sharks and other similarly stupid (in my humble opinion) activities, conquering fears doesn’t typically result in injury or death. Public speaking, for example, might scare the utter crap out of you but it’s definitely not going to kill you, right?
What it can do, however, is enable you to rewrite your history.
With one Toastmasters session, you can go from being someone incapable of public speaking to someone who spoke publicly and lived to tell the tale. With a few life coaching sessions, you can go from being someone afraid of following your dreams to being someone who’s hellbent on fulfilling them.
Alone or with the support of a qualified professional, conquering your fears doesn’t just turn I can’t into I can; it turns I can’t into I have! Based on my personal experience alone, I’d say a sure way to boost your confidence is to find something you’re afraid of doing — and do it anyway.
4. Challenge the biggest confidence killer: your inner critic
Speaking of personal experience, I have spent decades trying to tame my inner critic. Just when I think I’ve mastered it, the tiniest whisper of doubt can send my confidence plummeting. When the same happens to you, consider taking these steps recommended by Lisa Firestone, PhD:
- Notice it. Our inner critic can be sneaky. It can show up as background noise but be powerful nonetheless. With practice, though, you can learn to identify it. When you look in the mirror and hear you’re ugly, or speak up in a meeting and hear you’re such an idiot, stop and notice it. Recognize that it’s your critical inner voice speaking.
- Limit interaction. Observe the fact your inner critic is trying hard to get your attention and resist the temptation to get into a conversation. “Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea,” says Lisa.
- Postpone action. When we are feeling confident, our inner critic doesn’t strike. Subsequently, when it strikes, we don’t have the confidence or presence of mind to put up a good fight. That’s why Lisa recommends putting time between the critical thought and any action it’s compelling you to take – so that you can act from a truer sense of self.
- Seek distraction: You cracked a joke that didn’t go down so well and you want to flee the party. Don’t! Step away and take a few breaths, just as you might if you felt an ugly fight brewing with your spouse. When you’ve calmed down, you’ll be in a better position to have a rational conversation with your inner critic.
- Identify triggers: I’m a firm believer in practicing curiosity over judgment. When a negative thought arises, rather than judging it (e.g. that’s correct; you’re fat and stupid), question it (i.e. ask yourself what might have brought that on). Was it triggered by the tone of somebody’s voice or an uncomfortable silence in the room? By identifying your triggers, you’ll be better able to identify who you and who you’d like to be from the distorted image that your inner critic creates.
5. Try the 100 days of rejection challenge
I first heard about this challenge when I read “Help Me: One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life,” by Marianne Power. (Marianne’s funny, charming and honest. Pick up a copy. You won’t regret it.)
The concept of this 100-day challenge, founded and tested by Ted speaker Jia Jiang, is simple: make 100 ridiculous asks that are sure to generate an emphatic no in order to desensitize yourself to the fear and pain of rejection. For example:
- Ask a stranger if you can play soccer in their backyard
- Ask for a free room at a hotel
- Request a “burger refill”
- Ask if you can make your own sandwich at Subway
- Ask if you can borrow a book from Barnes & Noble
As a result of this experiment, Jiang realized that it wasn’t the actual experience of rejection that hurt him, but the way he internalized that rejection.
How did he discover this? Simply by asking questions.
Why can’t I have a burger refill? Why can’t I make my own Subway sandwich? More often than not the answers had nothing to do with him and everything to do with fear on the part of the individual he was asking.
In turn, this understanding gave him the courage to pursue more earnest requests with vigour. If his requests were declined, he knew not to take it personally. His confidence remained intact.
Furthermore, he found the courage to be persistent. For example, despite numerous rejections, he continued to ask a professor at the University of Texas if he could teach a class — and was finally given a spot — proving that rejection therapy cannot only boost your confidence; it can boost your success!
Ready to take the challenge? Begin your own rejection therapy now.
6. Feel confident by dressing to impress YOURSELF
If you want to boost your confidence, try dressing to impress yourself, not just your boss or potential partner.
As I expressed in Feeling Confident is the Key to Feeling Sexy, I feel as good about myself in a pair of flowy harem pants as I do in a pair of thigh-high boots, despite the unlikelihood of the former turning my husband on! I do not, however, feel that great about myself when I’m wearing stretched out sweats over period-stained undies (sorry, but I had to say it!), even when I’m holed up at home, alone.
When I look in the mirror, I like to see my best self staring back at me. She may have wrinkles, a soft belly, and varicose veins but she’s the best version of me with wrinkles, a soft belly, and varicose veins. While this alone is not enough to boost your confidence, combined with other gestures of self-love it goes a long way towards proving to yourself that you are worthy.
7. Mind your posture
According to research, a correct posture doesn’t just suggest confidence; it boosts it.
In an article published in Psychological Science in 2015, Dana Carney and Andy Yap from Columbia University concluded that open, expansive postures can actually lead to a greater sense of power. As they explain in the paper’s abstract:
High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.
For more on posture, make sure you’re sitting ergonomically and check out this TED Talk!
8. Follow a confident leader
Thanks to social media, we’re living in an age of unhealthy comparison. That said, not all comparison is unhealthy. There’s plenty we can learn from our peers, colleagues, and family members.
My friend Laura, for example, taught me how to roast a chicken. My friend Sue taught me how to embed two images next to one another in my blog posts. I followed Laura’s example because she’s a culinary Goddess. I followed Sue’s example because she’s a web-whiz.
If you want to boost your confidence, think about someone you know exemplifies the confidence you want to feel, and follow their example. Observe how they walk, how they communicate with others, how they handle criticism and respond to failure, and emulate them — without going all Single White Female on them!
9. Embark on [fill in the blank] with confidence by being prepared
Whether you’re taking your driving test, giving a client presentation, or going on a blind date, preparation instills confidence. That preparation might include anything from studying or rehearsing to reciting positive affirmations or carrying a safety pin!
While I’m all for thinking positive, I also believe in preparing for the worst – like forgetting your lines (write out some cue cards), or breaking down on the highway in winter (keep a blanket in the trunk) or leaving the back zipper of your pantsuit undone (always wear nice undies).
10. Smile — just because you can
This tip falls into the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ category.
The simple fact is this: when you smile, the physical act of doing so releases happy endorphins in your brain and promotes greater (albeit temporary) self-esteem.
How can this help boost your confidence in the long-term? Your smile will warm others. It will make them feel better about themselves and encourage them to let their guard down around you. They’ll feel they have less to prove in order to be liked and respected and they’ll be far more likely to choose collaboration over competition.
Competition is unnerving. Fighting to prove your worth to others stems from insecurity. Be giving away free smiles and expressing genuine warmth and acceptance to those around you, you’ll discourage the types of behaviours that typically rattle your confidence.
Confidence is a superpower.
As E. E. Cummings said, “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” Who wouldn’t want all that?
Viv for today xo
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