We aren’t innately born with perfect self-confidence. In fact, I think I was born with the least amount of confidence in myself as was possible and it took me a long time to build it up. I spent years in high school feeling awkward, unbalanced, and just plain out of place despite the fact that nearly every other teenager around me felt the same. My low self-esteem swept me up into a flurry of years of college as a quiet, constantly-apologizing, ball of self-doubt.
Many of us spend our days criticizing or comparing ourselves to everyone, and because of this, you might realize you aren’t very content or comfortable in your own skin. You might become overly anxious because of this, stressed or even depressed. As I began investing more time into understanding how to love me for who I was and also figuring out just how to “gain self-esteem,” I began to realize how common my own journey was.
According to the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas, low self-esteem can be a big cause of strained relationships, it can impair your performances at school and work, and can “create anxiety, stress, loneliness, and increased likelihood of depression.” On top of this, low self-esteem can even make you more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse. No one wants that.
Because of the change that this journey had on my life, I knew I couldn’t just walk merrily along my way and not share. So here are five ways to help you boost your self confidence. And know this: how you love and view yourself won’t change overnight. It will take time, and patience, but it will happen. And these five things aren’t the end-all, you will spend time each week practicing these things to keep your confidence and yourself in a good place.
1. Stop the Negative
A big thing that plays into low self-confidence is our fear of rejection, change or failure, but more often than not, this fear comes from ourselves — the voices in our heads that say we’re not good enough. I often found myself getting caught up in “beating myself up,” a feat that I am sure we are all familiar with. Getting out of the hole that you might keep digging for yourself will take time, but stopping the negative attack on your heart is one of the most important steps to take. Begin by recognizing negative thoughts and then turn the thought around and say “How do you know that? Did he/she actually say that?”
Other times, when you begin to doubt your own skills or talents, you’ll have to be your own cheerleader. I ran a marathon last year and training was hard, like 20-mile-runs-on-Saturdays-at-4:00am hard. There were so many mornings I just wanted to crawl back into bed, but I began to pump myself up by telling myself (sometimes out loud) “You got this. You’re going to run a freaking marathon in two months! A marathon! You’re so cool, people are going to be so jealous.” It sounds silly, but guess what that laughter can lead to? A rush of endorphins and more motivation, and then that will snowball throughout the rest of your day.
Think of those negative thoughts like you think of spiders, they don’t belong in your home (your mind) so squish them with a shoe then drop them down a toilet and flush!
2. Love the Way You Look
We can spend a lot of time being unhappy with our bodies and weight until we finally realize that we can control that. You can get up and exercise, you can eat better, you can love the way you look. Or, you can keep snacking on Hershey Kisses, and drinking Dr. Pepper by the liters each day and be miserable. I started out small, baby steps, I began just by taking a walk each day after work. This wasn’t just a small step toward being healthier either, I began to notice that I wasn’t so tired during the day, and I slept a lot better at night.
With time, start doing at-home exercises a few times a week, nothing too severe. As you push forward, begin to reward yourself, like buying a new set of gym wear that makes you feel sexy and spunky. Sure, few people may actually see you in it, but as you begin to exercise more, look forward to those moments where you’ll be thinking about absolutely nothing else but your own body and how damn good it looks in those tight black leggings.
There are so many great benefits for exercise and the psychological effects have more than proven its worth.
However, loving the way you look does not solely rely on exercise. I noticed that upping my beauty routines really helped boost my confidence. I began paying more attention to the products I was using on my face and body. Paying more attention to the ingredients in each product and learning how they benefited my skin. I invested in a facial cleansing brush a stuck with twice daily routine of washing my face. It wasn’t long until I started seeing the difference that was taking place with my skin. I felt more beautiful and eventually became confident enough to start going out without makeup. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing makeup, and I’m not saying you’re insecure if you do, but for me, it was so empowering to be comfortable in my own skin.
3. Seek Help
I wish I would have done this one sooner. I don’t necessarily mean going and talking to a counselor every time you hit the bottom of the barrel. When I finally realized I needed help, I just went and talked to a friend. She didn’t fix me, she didn’t tell me what to do to change, she just listened, and told me it was ok.
With time, friends can begin to help you see yourself through their eyes. Good friends never lie about beauty or looks, and they will focus on what is most important: they remind us how kind we are, how patient we can be at work, etc. With time, you will begin to focus on those traits more than on the superficial ones you can’t control and that don’t matter. Whether it’s a professional counselor, a friend, a sibling, a neighbor, or even just a pet support is always a good thing.
4. Be Grateful
I started keeping a “gratitude journal” some months into my “self-confidence journey.” I did it mainly because I found I was a very big pessimist. Take the time each night to write down three things you are grateful for and a couple things you had accomplished that day. It doesn’t matter how small or big these accomplishments or grateful pieces of thought are, they will have a big effect on you.
5. Be Prepared
No, not in the Boy Scout sense, but more in the “be prepared for what could come.” Take the time to know everything you can know about your job and soon people will begin coming to you for help! It will be a major self-confidence booster.
Again, it’s worth it to note that I’m still doing these things. Self-confidence is a lot like trust or patience, you have to keep working at it to keep it. But these five steps are the baby steps to getting you to a place in your life where you wake up excited to be you. They’ll help you see the good and oh so wonderful in you and all the great that you have to offer to others. And soon with time you won’t be so worried walking into that bar or party or office.