Anyone who knows me is aware that my relationship with self-confidence is, shall way say, elusive. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always doubted my abilities and intellect. It all started in elementary school when I failed a placement test for an advanced program called “Project Potential” (looking back, that name makes me cringe). I still struggle with self-confidence today. Case in point: I recently took the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and despite assiduously studying for nearly 8 months, I still doubted whether I could score well.
Self-confidence goes well beyond academia, though. Many people struggle with body image issues and negative self-talk at work, in relationships, and really any facet of life. Whenever I’m faced with any of the above, my default response is to worry about whether I’m smart enough, strong enough, funny enough, and on and on. I also fret over how others perceive me: did what I say make any sense? Can everyone tell that my skin is breaking out? Inevitably, this constant self-repudiation leads to depression and anxiety, which in turn can cause isolation and even self-harm.
Even if you only struggle with confidence on occasion, you still know that it can still have a detrimental effect on one’s life. Women, in particular, face serious consequences if they don’t display the right amount of self-assurance. For instance, we’re expected to act confident (but not too confident) during job interviews and when asking for a raise. We’re told that men like to date assertive women (but not too assertive).
When it comes to building up your self-esteem, there are many ways to make strides without becoming too intimidated or overwhelmed. Here are some practical steps you can take to improve the way you see yourself (and, by extension, the way others see you!).
Learn something new.
Whether you decide to play a new instrument or start a project, investing a little time and effort into something unknown will reveal how nuanced and interesting a person you really are. Last year, I signed up for a Spanish conversation class at a local adult education center, and it was amazing how much more confident I felt after learning a few new words and phrases. When you embark on a new endeavor, all you can do is improve since you’re starting from scratch.
Keep a list of compliments you receive.
This might seem self-indulgent, but hear me out. Chances are, the story you’re telling yourself revolves around all the ways you don’t measure up. The best way to counter those thought patterns is with something positive; what better way to feel confident than to remember a time someone gave you a compliment? Whether that’s from a colleague, friend, partner, or even a stranger, it all counts! Look at your list when you begin to doubt yourself–I guarantee it will make you feel better.
See a therapist.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: everyone can benefit from therapy. If you struggle to believe in yourself, therapy is an excellent way to sift through some of the underlying causes, while also having an unbiased observer to reflect back your thought patterns. Cognitive behavioral therapy is especially good for people who have low self-confidence.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel better about myself after a good sweat session. Researchers have consistently found a positive correlation between exercise and self-love, and it goes well beyond weight loss. There’s a strong feeling of accomplishment that exercising provides, and I always feel more capable throughout the day if I know I’ve taken care of my body.
How do you nurture your self-confidence?
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