First, be wildly insecure.
Not just unsure of yourself, or shy, or maybe tentative around certain people, places, or things. I mean crazily, unmanageably, overwhelmingly insecure. Question everything. Overthink every situation. Keep yourself up at night wishing your stomach was flatter, your voice less piercing, your feet smaller, your skin less pale. Reread text conversations and Facebook messages from months, even years ago, and internally chastise yourself for your terrible punctuation, or the things you should have said, or even the way you read your own voice in your head.
Refuse to believe any and all compliments. They’re just giving you a pity compliment; they don’t actually mean it. There’s no way anyone actually thinks you’re beautiful or talented. Human beings are just trained to say nice things unless they’re hiding behind the anonymity of a computer screen. Convince yourself that they mean the opposite of what they say out loud and let that fester until it’s all you can focus on. Your don’t have great hair; you have a mess on top of your head that’s always frizzy and needs to be cut. You aren’t an amazing singer; they’re just throwing you a bone. You don’t have stunning eyes; they just didn’t know what else to say.
Fall in love with the wrong people. With friends who drag you down to their level of unhappiness, laziness, and pettiness. With boys or girls who use you and abuse you and leave you with nothing more than an echo of their name and bruises from their ambiguity. With jobs that take you for granted and keep you in a place lower than what you deserve. Fall in love with people and things that ultimately keep you low and depressed, and make it your mantra that they’re right and anyone who questions it is wrong.
Convince yourself that there is absolutely nothing worth loving about you. Stand in front of a mirror naked with a figurative or literal pen marking every inch you wish was gone, every hair you’d zap away, and every piece of yourself that you hate. Reject anyone who shows you affection and build yourself a fortress of solitude and self-hatred that you’re fully sure you will never escape from.
Become comfortable in your insecurity. Start to forget how it felt to feel any differently. Walk around in this fog until, “I’m fine,” feels like the truth and not a lie. It’s not that you’re happy; but you just don’t think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel so you accept that this is how it will always be.
Wake up, walk to the mirror, and stare yourself down. Memorize each freckle, every scar, every laugh line, every crooked finger, and every piece of a body and a soul that is no one’s but your own. Stretch your muscles that have taken you this far, and let out a sigh from lungs that somehow still work. Feel your pulse on your wrist, or your neck, or your chest or wherever you can catch it and realize that despite everything, you’re still here.
Realize that no one can teach you confidence. Realize that no one can force it on you. Realize that it does not come from the pages of a book from the self-help aisle or from the words of a friend who doesn’t live inside your head. Realize that the only person responsible for your own confidence, and your own self-love, is you.
Recognize that you will have good days and bad days. That there will be days where you feel like no one can touch you and then days where you won’t want to get out of bed. But also have the ability to recognize that you are not defined by the bad days, and that you’ve gained the ability to not let them weigh you down. That you have the ability to say, “This isn’t forever,” and to not let a bad day, or even a bad week, keep you from moving forward.
And in that moment, decide that maybe it’s okay to fall for the wrong people because you’ll pick yourself up. Decide that it’s okay to get less than genuine compliments because there are so many elements about yourself that are amazing. Decide that it’s okay to be alone for a while because you can wait to find people worthy of inviting into your life.
Decide that it’s okay to not always feel flawless, to not always be your best, and to not be universally loved.
Because at the end of the day, you love yourself.
Fake that confidence even on days where you do not believe it even a little bit. Repeat it to yourself until you’re forced to accept it. Say it to yourself or out loud or however you want and need until it seeps out of every pore and wraps itself around you and is the one thing you are sure of even when everything else feels wrong.
Say as many times as you need to until you’re sure it’s true.
“I love myself, and I am confident.”
And then never believe anything else ever again.