About a month ago a lovely young girl sent me an Instagram message with an important question: “How do I gain self confidence?”
First of all, I was honored she felt she could ask me this. Secondly, I had no idea how to respond. It took me YEARS of trial and error trying to figure that out for myself and the last thing I wanted to do was tell her some generic, “tell yourself you’re beautiful,” advice. She can find that just about anywhere on the internet.
No, my answer had to be different. It had to actually be helpful. So I dug up my old journals, did a lot of soul searching and compiled a list of things that legitimately helped me gain confidence. I hope they work for you, too.
1. Recognize confidence comes from the love and respect you have for yourself.
This concept didn’t click for me until just a few years ago. I had always made the assumption that confidence was something you got by focusing on the outward appearance, but as cliche as it sounds, confidence truly comes from appreciating ourselves for who we are on the inside first. The physical stuff comes later.
You can be the most beautiful/handsome human in the world, but if you don’t love and respect yourself you will never feel confident about the person looking back at you in the mirror. The following steps will help you build self-love an self-respect, but understanding this first step is the important foundation you need lay for yourself.
2. Mute/Unfollow some people on social media.
One of the biggest obstacles for building confidence is comparing oneself to others and it’s easier to do now more than ever. With Instagram models and celebrity accounts on the rise, it’s no wonder we all tend to feel a little inferior from time to time. The real problem occurs when we can’t seem to separate someone else’s photoshopped highlight reel from our actual lives.
I have no problem admitting I have a real issue seeing Instagram models on my feed. Do I know most of it’s fake? Yep. Does that change the fact that seeing some of these women makes me feel like a beached whale? Nope.
Unfollow the models and celebrities that make you feel down about yourself. Unfollow that person from work or school that makes you ask, “Why can’t my life be like that?” And for the love of all things good and holy, unfollow your ex.
This can be a hard step, but an empowering one. I understand it can look kind of rude to unfollow people so if you aren’t quite comfortable with that, most social media platforms have an option to “mute” accounts you don’t want to see in your feed. Trust me, it’s a life saver. You can do this.
3. Spend some time getting to know yourself.
What kind of music makes you feel most like you? Is your favorite color still the same or has it changed? If money and time were no object, what would you be doing right now?
Take a breather from everything going on in your world, get in a room by yourself and just spend some time with you. Discover what you’re really like when no one else is around. When no other opinion matters and you’re not concerned with impressing anyone. Who are you then? What do you enjoy in those moments?
Get to know yourself like you’re getting to know a new friend. You’re the best friend you’re ever going to have, after all. Might as well learn a little bit about yourself.
This isn’t about picking apart why you like certain things or whether you “should” or not. It’s simply about learning and accepting.
In Fall Out Boy’s song “Save Rock ‘N’ Roll” there is a line that says, “You are what you love, not who loves you” and I urge you to keep that in mind throughout this process.
4. Look at yourself naked more often. No, seriously.
This isn’t about sexualizing or objectifying yourself. This is about appreciating the body that houses and protects you. It’s about learning to love your body just as it is in this moment, whether you’re looking to change it or not.
You’re body is amazing. It’s powerful, beautiful and strong.
I used to have such an issue with my body. Every time I saw myself naked in the mirror I got so down on myself. “Why do I have stretch marks there? Why isn’t my stomach flatter? Why isn’t my butt bigger? Why aren’t my boobs perkier?”
I don’t remember exactly what gave me the idea, but one day I just decided to really look at myself totally naked before getting in the shower. At first it was uncomfortable, sure, but after a few days it started to feel less weird.
I started moisturizing everyday and taking time to make sure my skin was taken care of. I hydrated more often. I ate better and when I craved something that maybe wasn’t the best for me, I let myself have it. I became friends with my body because I had to face it everyday.
As time passed I really began to appreciate the form I was given. I have stretch marks because I blossomed into a woman all at once and my body had to make room for wide hips and powerful thighs. My stomach being flat does not determine whether I am healthy or not. My butt being bigger would throw off my proportions that I’ve grown to love so much. And my boobs sag a little because gravity is a thing and that’s what boobs do. I have grown to absolutely love my body and appreciate it for all it does for me. I hope you’ll grow to appreciate yours, too.
5. Get rid of the toxic influences in your life.
Let’s start with the more obvious one: people. If you have “friends” that make you feel bad about yourself or manipulate you, it’s time to separate yourself from those people. You don’t have to have some dramatic conversation to do so either. It’s ok to say no to an invitation to hang out. It’s ok to spend more time with your positive friends. It’s ok to distance yourself while still being civil and kind. What isn’t ok is sacrificing yourself for the sake of people that only bring you down.
Another influence I notice has a huge impact on me is the music I listen to. I’m a 70s, 80s music kind of girl so when I listen to a little too much Cardi B or literally any pop music, I start to feel a little out of touch with myself which in turn causes me to feel a little down. Be sure to take note of how outside influences are making you feel spiritually and take some time to hit the resent button to get back to the basics of you.
6. Take care of your body
Listen. To. Your. Body. If you’re tired, rest. If you haven’t been feeling your best, nourish your body with good food and make sure you’re staying hydrated. Get active. Make sure you’re taking time to do what you need to be healthy. Get those endorphins flowing!
When we’re stressed or feeling bogged down, it’s hard to feel anything but the pressure that stems from it, much less confident. On those especially difficult days, take a bubble bath, light a candle and relax. Give your body what it needs so you can…
7. Take care of your mind
This is something I consider to be, by far, one of the most important steps. Your mental health dictates how you experience life, therefore, poor mental health doesn’t get you any closer to loving or respecting who you are.
Meditation, aromatherapy, journaling, showing gratitude… these are all things I recommend doing to improve your mental health. Although, I HIGHLY recommend everyone try counseling. Whether you think you need it or not, it’s always good to check in with yourself through a third party to make sure your thought processes aren’t hindering your growth.
Think of it as a check up with your doctor. You get your physical done whether you’re sick or not. It’s preventative care. You and your doctor are making sure there are no threats to your physical health whether there are signs of it or not. That’s what counseling is for your mental heath. A checkup. One that gets you closer to your goals and teaches you the skills you need to appreciate you.
8. Remember that maintaining confidence is an everyday journey and that’s ok
Humans are notorious for going back to old habits and thought processes, so don’t beat yourself up if you have a particularly bad day and can’t seem to get a grip on your emotions. Having confidence is a mindset you have to constantly pursue. It isn’t attained, never to be acknowledged again. It takes action. It checks in and asks, “What do I need from me today?”
When your feet hit the floor in the morning it’s your job to say, “I’m going to show love today, both to myself and to others. I’m going to do things that benefit my mental and physical health. I’m going to listen to my body, filter out negative messages that come my way and choose to see the beauty in myself and those around me.”
Confidence is a muscle that will atrophy if it is not exercised. So work it!