I’m not going to lie, I was not blessed with the gift of confidence. As with most people, there are certain areas where I feel more confident than others (I’m weirdly confident at the gym?) but I’m pretty timid overall. I’m self-conscious about, well, everything…and I definitely deal with that little voice in my head telling me that I suck. Despite this, I’ve learned how to increase my self-confidence over the years.
1. Do more things that scare you.
I second-guess myself 24/7, and I used to ask about a billion people if doing X was the right move before I could even take the first step. As a result? My self-confidence tanked. That’s when I realized that my perception of confidence was a myth — I didn’t need to be more confident, I needed to be brave.
Self-confidence is less about your ability to be confident and more about your ability to do the things you’re afraid of anyway.
Fortunately, risk-taking is a muscle. I’m not saying you need to walk on stage in front of 5,000 and sing a solo tomorrow, but you can start doing other things that are a little scary to build that muscle.
2. Start small.
When I started doing things that scared me, I definitely didn’t start with skydiving. Instead, I started with things that were (relatively) easy to reverse or manage. I dyed my hair platinum blonde, then worked up the courage to go lavender. A few months later? I took a major risk in chopping my hair off into a pixie.
People constantly told me they weren’t brave or confident enough to get a pixie, and I’d laugh at them. I was terrified when I got it done, but I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t confidence that made it happen — it was the willingness to take a risk and the fact that I worked my way from a small change to a big one.
Practice makes perfect, and confidence is no different. If you’re scared of public speaking, try starting with something way more doable like talking to a small group, recording a YouTube video, or doing an Instagram Live instead! You can even start with something completely unrelated to whatever area you’re trying to increase your confidence. Not confident in front of a camera? Try rock-climbing or going to a movie alone.
Self-confidence doesn’t happen overnight, but it can grow over time.
3. Change the way you’re talking about it.
I believe that our words and thoughts shape our realities. When I tell myself I’m not very confident, I’m more likely to feel that way. Unfortunately, that applies to nearly everything in my life. It’s okay to doubt yourself, and it’s okay not to feel super confident. You don’t have to pretend otherwise (you’ll discover that ‘fake it til you make it’ isn’t on this list).
However, you should be aware that the things you put out into the world matter. As someone who has panic disorder and struggled with borderline agoraphobia, there was a period in my life where I was very vocal about the fact that I was afraid of everything. I could barely function, and the words I used to talk about it actually made it worse.
Instead of “I’m afraid of everything,” I started saying, “I’m nervous about _____, but I’m excited and curious to see what happens.” If I wasn’t feeling super confident about the way I looked, I’d tell myself, “I’m not feeling confident today, but I love and accept myself anyway.”
Also? I stopped letting my limiting beliefs control my life. I removed, “I’ll never be good enough,” from my vocabulary and replaced it with positive affirmations relating to growth and change. Now, I tell myself, “I love having the opportunity to grow and change as an individual.” It’s hard, but it’s totally worth it.
4. Learn to accept yourself anyway.
Just like we need to change the way we’re talking about ourselves, we also need to learn to give ourselves a break. I’ve spent the better part of a decade hating myself and my body, and where did it get me? Even after dropping 60+ pounds thanks to an eating disorder and being ridiculously thin, I still hated my appearance. I still wasn’t happy.
That’s because external changes won’t matter if you aren’t working on internal ones too. I can try to boost my self-confidence by changing the way that I look, buying new clothes, revamping my hair and makeup, but if I’m still treating myself like shit internally then what good will it do?
Self-confidence isn’t a light switch. It’s a journey.
I’ve always been self-conscious about my stomach, and it’s a big reason why I never felt confident in my appearance. (At least, that’s what I told myself.) Lately, instead of wishing to change this part of me that I’ve hated since I was a kid, I’ve started telling my stomach that I love it. It’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve been amazed by how much happier I am with my appearance simply by learning to accept myself.
I’m not saying you have to “settle” with something that doesn’t make you happy. If you don’t like your haircut, you still go get a new haircut, right? If you aren’t confident in your piano playing skills, you practice more.
But you don’t tell yourself how awful you are. You don’t berate yourself. Instead, you acknowledge that you’re learning and improving, you strive to accept yourself, and you go from there.