The biggest thing I wish I’d known in my 20s is that confidence is something you develop; rather than being a permanent effect of your life situation. I spent far too much time feeling restricted and paralysed by my lack of confidence often to the point of just giving up. I constantly compared myself to others – especially those who seemed so much more confident and thought opportunities only happened to people like them and not ones like me.
My lack of confidence was also a story I told myself and used as a form of self-protection. It was easy to hide behind so I didn’t have to push myself out of my comfort zone. When things went well, I put it down to luck and everything else, I blamed on low self-esteem.
It was only when I realised that confidence is something I could control, that I decided to do something about it. I started to recognise confidence isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something we need to develop and there are ways to boost it. Confidence is essentially a muscle that we grow and build upon.
Six ways to boost your confidence
There’s a reason why affirmation cards are so popular and that’s because they work. Positive affirmations help retrain our brain away from negative self-talk to thinking better about ourselves. There are lots of cards available online or write your own and put them somewhere you’ll see them regularly like your bathroom mirror or front door.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Perception of confidence is relative and only something we can determine for ourselves. There are some people who come across as being widely confident, who aren’t; and others who appear much less self-assured but have an inner strength. I constantly compared myself and judged myself on what other people thought of me. Whilst feedback can be hugely beneficial, it’s fundamentally important to find a sense of your own self and determine your own criteria of success.
Practice being confident
We all know the phrase, ‘fake it until you make it’ and essentially that’s what we need to do – we need to practice being confident. I used to be really horribly shy and felt awkward around people I didn’t know. With my friends though, I’d be the life and soul of the party so I came across as being aloof and only interested in people I knew already. I made myself be friendly to people even when I was cringing and dying inside. The more I did it, the easier it became and I feel pretty confident when meeting new people now.
Positive body language
Amy Cuddy, an American psychologist gave a Ted Talk all about how standing in a power pose will boost your feelings of confidence. It’s not always appropriate to break into a Wonder Woman pose but just smiling and standing upright are instant confidence boosters.
Be conscious of negative self-talk
I made a conscious decision to stop the running commentary in my head criticising my every move. It still appears from time to time – but I am more able to recognise it as just a voice in my head and not my reality. Try writing a list of the qualities you really like about yourself and keep them to hand (such as the notes section of your phone) so you can refer to it whenever you need a boost.
Take baby steps
Remember confidence is something we grow and develop over our entire lives. It’s a habit we need to get into. Make sure you check in regularly and reflect on how far you’ve come. Each little step forward is helping your confidence to grow and grow.