What happiness has your lack of confidence kept you from?
Most of our regrets in life stem from our lack of confidence. We didn’t ask that person out because we were afraid they’d say ‘no.’ Why would they want to date me anyway? We didn’t try out for the school play because we were afraid of making a fool of ourselves. What if I mess up? We didn’t ask for that promotion we wanted (and deserved) because we were afraid that we weren’t good enough. What if they don’t think I can do this job?
One personal regret I have from high school is not being a lifeguard. It was the coolest job. It paid really well. It had flexible hours. It kept you in shape with weekly swimming tests. And you got an amazing tan.
All my friends were lifeguards. And so were my older brothers. So I really wanted to be one, too.
But there was only one problem: the uniform was a swimsuit. And I wasn’t confident enough in my body to wear an unsupportive, one-piece all day. So I opted to be a sandwich artist at Subway instead.
I was miserable. And I cried on my way home from work every day.
It sounds like a silly regret. But I know I would’ve been a lot happier those summers if I had been a lifeguard. I would have spent more time with my friends (both at work and after work, because my hours at Subway were awful). I would’ve been in better physical shape from all the required exercise. And I would have made a lot more money.
Looking back, I’m disappointed that my lack of confidence kept that happiness away from me.
What happiness has your lack of confidence kept you from?
I’ve done a lot of personal growth since those Subway summers. And what I’ve found on my journey is seven ways to increase confidence. If you feel your lack of confidence is holding you back, keep reading.
Take Care of Your Basic Needs
It’s hard to be confident in yourself if you’re feeling exhausted or don’t have a lot of energy. One simple way to start increasing your confidence is to take care of your basic physical needs.
Drink at least 75 ounces of water each day.
Get 7–9 hours of sleep each night.
Eat plenty of nutrient-dense food. With an emphasis on fruit and vegetables.
Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day. You can walk, jump rope, run, swim, play a sport, cycle, lift weights or take a fitness class like yoga, pilates, or aerobics.
If your physical body starts to feel better, your confidence will begin to increase.
Focus On Your Strengths
Too often we obsess over our weaknesses and mistakes. While constructive criticism is essential for self improvement, it can still bruise your confidence. Especially when you are the one constantly criticizing yourself.
One way to build your confidence is to focus on your strengths. Ask your coworkers what they think you do well at work. Ask your friends and family what strengths they admire about you. Then begin to use your strengths more.
If coworkers say you’re good at presentations, volunteer to present more. Or look for positions where presenting and public speaking is more essential.
If your family members think you are a good listener, spend more time engaging with others. Reach out and ask how they’re doing. Use this strength in all your relationships.
Then spend some time every night writing down three things you did well that day. You can write down something big like “got the promotion” or small like “said hello to a stranger.” Instead of thinking about all the things you did wrong, these little wins will help you end every day with a little bit of confidence.
Find Opportunities to Succeed
You can build your confidence by finding opportunities to succeed. These opportunities can be big or small. You just need the chance to demonstrate your competence.
Clinical psychologist, Meg Jay, explains, “Confidence doesn’t come from the inside out. It moves from the outside in. People feel less anxious — and more confident — on the inside when they can point to things they have done well on the outside.”
It can feel like the “chicken or the egg” argument. Does my confidence breed success? Or does my success breed confidence?
They work together. Success breeds confidence. And confidence breeds success.
Like I mentioned above, you can start gaining confidence and success by looking for more opportunities to use your strengths. You can also write down the things you do well. But you can also look for safe places to fail.
The confidence you need to try a new thing can come from knowing that it’s okay to fail. So find opportunities where failure isn’t a big deal.
Some opportunities for success include:
— Completing a race (running, cycling, or swimming)
— Learning a new skill
— Earning certifications
— Music Lessons
— Dance Classes
— Art Classes
— Recreational Sports
— Fitness Challenges
Develop a Growth Mindset
Stanford professor, Carol Dweck, describes two mindsets: growth mindset and fixed mindset. These mindsets affect the way we lead our lives. And they shape our confidence.
Those with a fixed mindset believe their skills, talents, and personality are limited to a specific capacity they were born with. You’re either smart or you’re not. You’re athletic or you’re not. You’re charismatic or you’re not.
However, individuals with a growth mindset believe that they can change and grow. They can improve their skills and talents through their efforts, application, and experience.
When setbacks come your way, remind yourself that you can keep trying and keep getting better.
Give yourself growth mindset praise like, “I’m so proud that I never gave up,” or “I am so brave for trying.” This reminds you that your efforts contribute to the results you want. And that you are not limited by your natural talent.
Study inspiring stories of others who kept going when faced with challenges. One example includes Michael Jordan. He was cut from the varsity basketball team while in high school. But he worked to become one of the greatest players in the NBA. Another great example is Malala Yousafzai. Who, as a young girl in Pakistan, was shot for pursuing an education. She miraculously recovered and is now a human rights advocate. She especially focuses on education for girls.
Having a growth mindset can improve your confidence. You can improve your skills and get better if you work at it. You are not limited to whatever comes natural to you. You can work, grow, and develop any skills you are lacking. Knowing this will boost your confidence to try new things.
Eliminate Shame From Your Self Talk
Shame is the quickest way to erode your confidence. It can leave deep, long-lasting emotional scars. Shame tells you that you are not good enough and not worthy of love. It threatens your identity and how you view yourself.
Brené Brown is a shame researcher at the University of Texas. She explains that, “We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous. Shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders, and bullying.”
Brown also explains that there is a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a focus on behavior whereas shame is a focus on self. If we have done something wrong, guilt tells us, “I’ve made a mistake.” Shame tells us, “I am a mistake.”
Learn to eliminate shame from your self talk. When you call attention to the mistakes you have made, separate your actions from who you are. Tell yourself, “I made a mistake. But I am not a mistake.”
You also need to learn how to be self-compassionate. Self-compassion is based on how you respond to your struggles. Simply put, self-compassion is being kind to yourself.
There will be times when your efforts and hard work will fall short. Self-compassion will protect your confidence when you make mistakes or miss your goals.
Without self-compassion, your confidence will only be based on what you can achieve. This leads to fragile self-esteem that does not exist unless you achieve great things.
Be kind to yourself, even when you fall short. When you are upset, practice taking deep breaths. Then say some of the following phrases out loud:
— “It’s okay that I am disappointed.”
— “Everyone makes mistakes.”
— “I am allowed to feel this way.”
— “I am grateful for what I was able to accomplish today.”
— “This mistake does not change my worth.”
— “I still deserve to be loved.”
Practicing self-compassion is a great way to build and protect your confidence.
Work With A Therapist To Overcome Trauma That Is Lowering Your Confidence
There are two types of trauma: shock trauma and strain trauma. Shock trauma (commonly referred to as “big T Trauma”) includes one-off experiences, like a natural disaster or a car accident. Strain traumas go on for longer periods of time, like bullying or growing up poor. Both types of traumas can have lasting effects.
One defining characteristic of trauma is that it results in a reorganization of the way we view, interpret, and interact with the world. Trauma often creates limiting beliefs about ourselves.
A terrible car accident might make us purchase a big truck so we can feel safer while driving on the road. Getting in a fight at school can cause us to sign up for self-defense classes. Experiencing an unhealthy relationship may cause us to distrust others and feel we are unlovable. These are all examples of trauma changing our understanding of how the world works and us changing the way we interact with that new world.
You may have unresolved trauma that is lowering your confidence in yourself. Consider working with a licensed therapist to help you navigate this trauma and reshape how you view yourself.
Conclusion: Confidence Means Believing In Yourself
Lots of things play into our confidence. Our physical health, our mindset, our self talk, and our past trauma can all influence the opportunities we take to grow and succeed. However, working through these seven areas can help to boost your confidence.
Confidence means believing in yourself. You stick to your decisions, even if they’re unpopular. You know what you want and can take the steps necessary to get it. Even if you’re scared or nervous. Confidence is being more concerned about what you think than what others think.
*It’s important to remember that being confident doesn’t require you to be an extrovert. You can be introverted, quiet and still confident.*