For the better portion of my life I have struggled with outward insecurities and inward self-doubt. Not only have I struggled with looking to myself for strength, but I also struggled to simply acknowledge myself as a person, as who I am. Time after time I was plagued by guilt, frustration and anger that finally led me to define myself in a negative light. Learning to be confident took time and I still have days when I feel like I have so much work to do. I finally decided that I didn’t like the person I was becoming. It took me awhile to understand that those feelings were okay. I acknowledged that I wanted to change and to be somebody who was positive. Listed below are five things I practiced when I decided to change my self-hating attitudes.
1. Fake it ‘til you make it
My brain somehow learned, over time, to focus on the negative aspects of my personality and achievements. No matter how nice I was being, somebody disliked me. No matter how hard I studied for an exam, the score was never high enough. I didn’t notice my self-doubting attitudes until I spoke with my doctor. I didn’t have to tell him anything specific, in fact I wasn’t even at the doctor for my emotional issues. He could simply tell from my mannerisms and my negative self-talk that I was suffering from low self-esteem. ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ was a piece of advice he gave me that would change my outlook.
Basically, I trained my brain to focus on positive aspects of my personality and achievements instead of the negative. I was told that even if I didn’t believe the affirmations I was telling myself, I would eventually start to if I kept repeating them and kept trying to believe them. I thought it was ridiculous at first, but after I thought about it, it made sense. I didn’t always dislike myself, so how did my thought patterns become so negative? In the same way, he said, by repeating negative sayings to myself over and over. Though this technique took time, focusing on one tiny positive detail of what seemed to be a massively negative situation proved effective. Pretty soon I noticed my focus shifting towards the positive aspects of myself instead of the negative.
2. Keep your eyes to yourself
Comparisons can be brutal. No matter who you are or what you do, there is always going to be somebody smarter, funnier, more talented, younger, prettier than you. This is the truth, and there is no changing it. So, instead of agonizing on being ‘the best’ at one or many things in life, why not focus on being your personal best? I learned a saying in yoga class that morphed into a theme for my daily life. The instructor said ‘Keep your eyes on your mat,’. No, not literally stare at the mat the entire time but focus on yourself, your body and your thoughts. By accepting yourself at the level you’re at and working from there, there are no comparisons. There are no failures. You can’t fail if you, yourself are defining your starting point. I tell myself everyday to keep my eyes to myself. There is no point in comparing myself to somebody else when I’m simply not them.
3. Find a role model
A role model doesn’t have to be famous, glamorous, or someone you want your kids to hang around. A role model can be a friend, parent or teacher. Though finding a ‘role model’ sounds odd, having one (even as an adult) can be particularly helpful to build self-confidence. Having somebody to look up to, whether they’re your age or older, can help you create a set of ideals for yourself. It’s important to choose a role model carefully. You want to choose somebody that you look up to for the right reasons. For example, if your goal is to look more like somebody or act more like them, that’s probably not going to change your inner perspective about yourself. If you choose a role model who finds happiness in activities you used to do or want to do, this is a great way to motivate yourself to engage in confidence building. I had a role model who was a close friend. She was somebody that lived by her own rules, had control over her decisions and practiced great self-confidence. By basing some of my actions on the ways that she treated herself, I learned how to be kinder and more understanding to myself instead of negative and frustrated.
4. Focus on the present
I cannot tell you how important it is to focus on the present moment every single day. But, it is much easier said than done. When I say “Focus on the present,” I mean taking a step aside from whatever goals you have for the day, week or upcoming month and observing and understanding what is happening in the here and now. What is happening to you at this very moment? How are you feeling? What would you change? How can you change? Most importantly, are you breathing? Are you living? By focusing on the present, you can change your entire mindset. You can take every worry from the past and those manifesting for the future and push them away. This will help you focus on what you can do now to feel empowered. Confidence starts with becoming hypersensitive to small changes in your thoughts and your actions. Living in the present makes this possible and allows you to focus on your current abilities.
5. Set goals
Setting goals can be exciting, but also exhausting and daunting. When you set goals, there is always the possibility for that dreaded word…failure. At first, it is important to set goals that you know you can achieve. It might seem silly or counter productive to set goals that are simple, but setting goals too high sets you up for frustration and disappointment. Tell yourself that building confidence takes time and that small goals will allow you to work your way up to larger ones. Below are some (personal) goals that allowed me begin my journey to my self-confident present.
- Dress nicely every day. Even if you don’t feel confident, you can look the part.
- Find one thing that you love about your body. Every. Day.
- Try something new once a week with friends or by yourself.
- Try to be social. Most of the time you will feel better after a social event even if you were dreading it in the first place.