How we feel about ourselves dictates the way we live life. It impacts the way we approach just about every thing we do. Yet, sadly, many people struggle to believe in their worth and abilities.
Throughout my life, my levels of self-confidence have ebbed and flowed. Growing up I was an overweight adolescent, which had a significant affect on how I viewed myself. When you’re young, external validation is so important, and when that is compromised, it can stay with you forever. When I became a teenager, I lost weight, but, to be honest, my self image didn’t change. The programming was written and, as I later learned, only I could modify it.
After college, my first job was as a public relations assistant for a Fortune 500 company. I was a 23-three-year-old thrust into a position that petrified me. I worked side-by-side with the communication manager, directly with the CEO and other corporate executives. I was solely responsible for writing the employee newsletter, we scripted the CEO’s speeches, I assisted on the annual report, etc. These were high level pros and I was a wet-behind-the-ears kid. But, I worked through my fear and grew stronger with each accomplishment. Each achievement was like a notch on my confidence belt. I felt really good about myself.
Fast forward a few years. My life circumstance changed when I chose to be a wife and stay-at-home mom. Now, this was the best role I ever had with the greatest rewards, however, it was also the job that almost destroyed me. For 17 years, I allowed myself to become “hired help” with very little external validation or praise. Outsiders tended to belittle stay-at-home mothers and no one in the home was building me up. I didn’t recognize any of my many accomplishments or successes. I felt neglected, unwanted, and to be frank, stupid.
It was only after I made changes to my life situation, stepped out of my comfort zone, and went inside of myself, that I reclaimed my self esteem and confidence.
Looking back, I can see the pattern in my life. Whenever I looked outside for validation, I felt horrible about myself. When I went inside, believed in myself and achieved my goals, I became confident. Building confidence is an inside job!
Building confidence is not something that happens overnight. There are so many situations and people that can tear it apart, if we let it. Like building muscle mass, confidence is built up over time, with repetition. To get the process going, I recommend:
1) Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Many of us go through life living an existence that is not even close to our full potential. The fear of failing or being ridiculed makes us play it safe. It’s only by moving through our fears that we can feel good within. Face your fears. Try something new that you’re not sure you can do. Something that scares you: take a class, run a 5K, speak in front of an audience, volunteer for a work project. Then, try something else that’s new. Do this over and over again. Give it your best and have fun. With each success, you will chip away at the self doubt and fear until you feel like there is nothing you cannot achieve.
This is what I did at my first job and again when I was at my lowest point. In middle age, I had a crazy idea to start and host a radio show. With absolutely no experience or knowledge about the industry, I went for it. It was not easy. Actually, it was the hardest thing I ever did. There were less than positive outcomes along the way, but I persisted. Little by little, I began to believe in me. I stopped focusing on the “failures” (I viewed them as learning experiences), and put my attention on the wins. Those wins, no matter how small, build you up!
2) Eliminate negative thoughts (yours and from others)
As I said, self confidence is an inside job. Stop negative self talk. We speak to ourselves in ways that we would never speak to another. Recognize that when you speak about yourself, what follows “I am” in your statement defines you. When you say, “I am too dumb,” or “I am not pretty enough,” or I am fat,” or “I am (fill in the blank)”, becomes your reality. If you catch yourself having an inner dialogue, stop! Don’t feed it! Learn to catch these thoughts and replace them with a positive affirmation about yourself.
Just as important, do not allow the negative external voices to infiltrate your thoughts. When I started my work, I was told by someone close to me that I was making a fool of myself and everyone was laughing at me. Talk about a self confidence crusher! It took work but I did not allow that voice to reside in my mind. Spend time with people who life you up and remove yourself from those who want to keep you down. Tip: when someone says something unkind or unsupportive, it usually has to do with the way she feels about herself and has nothing to do with you.
3) Act Confident
You’ve heard the expression, “Fake it til you make it.” Well that’s the golden rule. If you look confident, and speak and carry yourself with confidence, eventually you’ll start to feel like a winner.
Take care of yourself. Shower, wear makeup, comb your hair, exercise, eat nutritious food, rest, get a manicure, read books about a topic of interest. Take off the sweats and faded T-shirt and put on nice clothing, even if just lounging around the house. Take part in little things that will help you feel good about yourself. When you feel good inside, you cannot help but exude confidence.
When you believe in yourself, you are more likely to maintain a positive mental attitude, which makes you happier. When you’re happier you tend to be more grateful and see your blessings. You come from a place of abundance and not lack.
Self-confidence can help you manage fears and even eliminate them. Fear will no longer dictate how you live. You’ll stop playing it safe and step into your greatness. You’ll ask for the promotion or volunteer to work on a project.
Believing in yourself will help you tackle life’s challenges with more certainly and strength. You will be able to face whatever is thrown at you with the knowledge that you can get through it.