Once upon a time there was a small child known as you.
This child was born into the world pure and perfect, aware only of its own needs. If those needs were met, if someone held you, fed you, kept you safe and warm, your world was perfect.
Even as you got a bit older, if your parents were loving and kind, you still had a strong sense of yourself as you explored the world and discovered the wonders of living.
But around the time of kindergarten, things started to change. You encountered other children whose words stung, who were faster, stronger, smarter, prettier. You had to perform in school, to win the teacher's approval, to follow the rules. You saw where you didn't measure up, where you weren't quite good enough.
You learned quickly that approval and love can be tied to ability, performance, appearance, personality, and conformance. Even your parents, as much as they loved you, subtly reinforced these new rules with their hopes and expectations for you.
As you entered adolescence, all of your own insecurities were reflected in the cruel words and hurtful behaviors of your peers and the images portrayed in the media.
But hopefully, along the way, you had enough successes, enough love, enough encouragement for your self-confidence to have a foothold. However, if your home life was dysfunctional, critical, or abusive in some way, the self-confidence that was budding as a toddler was never able to fully bloom, especially not during the difficult teenage years.
Once you reached adulthood, left home, and began your own life, you had a choice, whether you were conscious of it or not. You had the choice to stay tethered to the dysfunction, pain, disappointments, and fears of your youth, or to take control of your life and create it anew.
- Maybe you weren't aware you had this choice.
- Maybe you didn't have the skills to know how to take control.
- Maybe your pain was too deep to have the energy to find a way.
- Maybe you were too committed to the “stories” about you being lazy, unmotivated, the pleaser, shy, unattractive, incapable, not good enough.
- Maybe you became too dependent on others to tell you who you are and what you are supposed to be.
Well, now you are a full-fledged adult, and whether your are 25 or 55, I'd like to assure you that you do have a choice.
You can learn the skills.
You can overcome the pain.
You don't have to accept the “stories.”
You can define your life on your own terms.
You can have self-confidence.
It all starts with the belief that with practice, change and growth are not only possible, they are inevitable.
It starts with a willingness to view yourself and the world differently.
Your identity is not locked to the past, to your parent's expectations or demands, to your past failures, to your current view of yourself. Your identity is something that you can create every single day. Once you realize that, your self-confidence will begin to ignite.
I know that everyone has different levels of self-confidence problems. Some of you might have really debilitating wounds that need to heal. Some may have personality types that are more introverted or shy. Some may lack self-confidence in just one area of life where others have no self-confidence at all.
But regardless of where you are related to self-confidence, there are some actions you can take today, right now, that will put you in the driver's seat of your life and begin to improve your self-confidence.
Here are 20 that you can try:
1. Challenge your thoughts. Identify the negative beliefs you have about yourself and challenge them. Find evidence to the contrary.
2. Retrain your brain. Negative thinking becomes a habit ingrained in your brain. Rewire your brain by intentionally thinking new and positive thoughts, even if it feels awkward at first. You will create new wiring and new habits.
3. Smile. Arranging your facial muscles in a smile actually makes you feel happier and more confident. It triggers those feelings in your brain.
4. Stand up straight. Pay attention to your posture. It makes you appear more self-confident and therefore you feel more self-confident.
5. Practice. If you lack self-confidence in a skill, practice it. With improvement comes confidence.
6. Make a list. Write down your skills, abilities, successes, and gifts. In moments of low self-confidence, you forget all of the great things about you. Write them down so you can remember.
7. Interact. Isolating yourself allows you to get lost in negative thinking. Spend time withe other people. Make yourself, even if you don't feel like it.
8. Create boundaries. Low self-confidence often goes hand-in-hand with people-pleasing. How are you allowing someone to control your decisions or behavior? What is one thing you could do to create a boundary here and reclaim yourself?
9. Write a vision. Write down exactly how you would like your life to look if you were creating it from scratch. When you put it in writing, you have begun the process of creating it.
10. Look your best. Take care of your appearance. Dress nicely. Get your hair styled. Put on make-up. When you look your best, you feel more self-confident.
11. Challenge a fear. Where are you holding yourself back? Where are you afraid of failure? Take one teeny tiny action in that area. Then another.
12. Hug your failures. Take a good look at past failures. Write down what you learned from them and how they served you. See how failure has been kind to you.
13. Define your values. Write down your most important life values. How are you living contrary to those values? What is one action you could take to correct that?
14. Find a mentor. Who is someone inspiring and motivating to you? Learn more about them, how they conduct their lives, and how they got where they are.
15. Focus on now. Most self-confidence problems stem from worry about the future or regret about the past. Focus on the task at hand. Immerse yourself in it so your mind is happily engaged.
16. Do something for others. When you are kind and giving by choice, you will find immense satisfaction and confidence in sharing and serving others.
17. Plan a pity party. If you need to dwell on your problems or failures, just allow yourself a 10 minute pity party a day.
18. Try something new. Anything. A hobby, a sport, a recipe. Just do something that you haven't done before.
19. Read something inspirational. Keep a motivational book with you to give yourself a booster shot of self-confidence. One of my favorites is Fearless: Creating the Courage to Change the Things You Can by success coach Steve Chandler.
20. Call in reinforcements. Take a course to improve your self-confidence. And if you have issues from the past that you can't resolve, seek the support of a counselor so that you can move forward.
Self-confidence can be learned with practice. Take small actions every day to improve your confidence and retrain your brain to learn positive new ways of thinking and believing. Challenge yourself to stretch beyond your comfort zone of confidence to prove to yourself what you are truly capable of achieving. With every incremental step forward, your confidence will grow exponentially.