Why should you listen to me about self-confidence? Because I have it, a lot of it. Friends comment on my self-confidence and ask if I can teach it to them. I don’t know if it can be taught, but I can give it the old college try.
Self-confidence vs. Self-esteem
First let me clarify that this post is about self-confidence not self-esteem. Some people think that these are the same thing. They are not. Let me explain the difference. When you respect or admire someone you hold them in high esteem. Let’s say that you have great respect for Stephen Hawking. You admire his work and his resilience against a disease that was expected to kill him over 50 years ago. You can hold him in high esteem yet have NO confidence in his ability to win a dance-off against Channing Tatum. You may have held Mother Teresa in high esteem, but you wouldn’t have much confidence in her winning a hot dog eating contest. The reverse is also true. There may be an athlete in whom you have great confidence that he can lead his team to a win. Simultaneously you consider him to be a despicable human being and have no esteem for him. (I couldn’t decide which athlete to use in this scenario. So many fit the description!)
While this post is not about self-esteem, I will remind you that you are the most important person in your life, whether you believe that or not. You should hold yourself in the highest esteem and want only the best for yourself.
How to be confident
This is not an article about facing your fears. Fear is not lack of self-confidence. Of course, it’s important to improve on your shortcomings and overcome your fears, but for now, lets gain some confidence by focusing on things that don’t scare you. These are a few of my suggestions:
You can’t have confidence in someone that you don’t know. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Your mother told you that you can be anything you want to be. She said you can do anything if you just set your mind to it. This is bullshit! Everyone has limitations. Knowing what yours are is an important part of finding your strengths.
Public speaking is a common area where people lack self-confidence. Well meaning people often give the advice to picture your audience naked. This would NOT boost my self-confidence. This would send me running out of the room! I am extremely uncomfortable with nudity and could not stand before an entire audience of naked people and speak to them. This is what I mean by “know yourself.”
Being yourself is an important part of building self-confidence. Do what you do best. That dish you make that is the best ever… take it to a potluck at work. Make it for a friend who needs a break. Those drawings that you sketch in your spare time… post them on Instagram. Do you have a way with words? Send cards to people who need to hear them. Wear what makes you feel your best. That color that everyone comments on when you wear it… wear it more often. Buy more things in that color. That thing that always makes you feel uncomfortable and unattractive… throw it out! Do what makes you feel your best. Like the way you feel after exercise? Make it a daily habit. Like the way you feel after sex? Make that a daily habit.
Think of the things that have made you feel confident. The day you graduated college. The day you bought your house. Landing your dream job. Delivering your baby without drugs. Delivering someone else’s baby in a grocery store parking lot. Singing at your sister’s wedding. That speech you gave in high school. The idea you pitched at work that became a new policy. These were your accomplishments, no one else’s.
Imitating someone else is the worst possible way to gain self-confidence. It comes across as fake and people will pick up on that. Let’s say that I wanted to try stand-up comedy. If I got on stage and imitated my favorite comedian, not only would I be plagiarizing, it would be disingenuous. How could I feel confident about myself when all I did was steal someone else’s work? I would walk away from this experience feeling even worse about myself. Instead, I could test my comedic chops by telling my own funny stories which come from a personal experience that only I could deliver. If I get positive feedback, it’s ME they’re complimenting.
Be Your Own Best Friend
Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend. Would you tell her that she’s stupid? No! Would you tell him that he sucks? No! When you’re talking to your best friend, you encourage them, compliment them, and take their side. Do the same for yourself.
Fake It Until You Feel It
This is something I’ve learned from having men as friends. I realize this is a broad generalization, but men don’t usually show it outwardly when they are nervous or lack confidence. When they try something for the first time, they look like they’ve done it a hundred times. Let’s go back to public speaking. You can approach that podium with your head down and shoulders slouched or you can saunter up there with your head high and chest puffed out. No one has to know that you’re nervous inside.
At my church, a different person reads the scripture each week. There are some weird names of people and cities that can be intimidating to pronounce in front of a crowd. The preacher’s advice is to say it loud and proud like you know what you’re doing and keep going. I think that’s good advice for a lot more than just weird Bible names.
If none of these things word for you, I recommend going to a grocery store that has those motion detector lights in the freezer section. There’s nothing quite as empowering as literally lighting up the room just by walking through it!