Sometimes we feel like life has chewed us up and spit us out on the pavement. Perhaps your confidence was shattered by career problems, loss, or an abusive relationship. Maybe you’re just having a slew of bad luck and aren’t sure how to turn things around. Either way, you can build self-confidence by taking control of your life and exercising your ability to change it.
Make Small, Reachable Goals
Building self-confidence takes time, so don’t pressure yourself to feel like a rock star immediately. Yes, we want to change. We want our lives to be better, and we’ve listed out all the ways to do that. But if we try to change every bad habit at once, we won’t succeed. We’ll be proud for two days, then eventually it will feel like too much. The bigger the effort required, the easier it is for us to allow ourselves to “forget” to do it.
Big efforts at change are hard for us because they give us even more temptation to quit. Changing your life is hard. Why put huge demands on yourself that will only end up in disappointment when you give up?
Instead, focus on making small, meaningful changes to your daily routines and thought patterns. It’s harder to skip a new habit when it’s easy and quick. Choose one of the ideas below and practice it for a week or two, then reflect on how it made you feel. Once you’ve successfully made that change and stuck with it, try adding another one. By making small, easy changes, we can transform our lives gradually without feeling too pressured to perform.
Eliminate Negative Thoughts
We all have them – doubts about our performance and worth, worries about our flaws, the feeling that we aren’t accomplishing anything. These thoughts do nothing positive for us, but at times it feels like we can’t stop them.
We know we shouldn’t dwell on negative thoughts. However, we also shouldn’t dismiss them, because then we miss out on valuable insights into ourselves. When you notice a negative thought, take time to think about why you’re thinking it. What led to it? Why do you feel that way? Get specific.
Let’s say you catch a glimpse of your hands when you look down, and you catch yourself thinking “my hands are so ugly.” If we’re digging deep, we might realize that we don’t like our hands because our nails are so short from biting them. The problem isn’t that our hands are ugly, it’s that biting our nails is affecting our self-esteem – and that is a concrete problem that we can develop a solution to. When we can learn how to address and solve our problems effectively, we feel more capable.
Focus on Solutions
We hinted at this when talking about negative thoughts, and it’s a great step to take once you figure out their source. Whenever you have a problem, rather than focusing on what the problem is, focus on how to solve it. Once you have the solutions in front of you, it becomes much harder to be complacent and dwell on the problem.
When we find ourselves dwelling on the problem despite having a solution in front of us, then it’s clear there is another problem at play which is affecting our energy or motivation. Luckily, we can find solutions for this too.
Be a Bit Vain
Vanity is supposedly one of the seven deadly sins, but who doesn’t like feeling beautiful? We’re social creatures. We want other people to like us and admire us. When we’re feeling bad about ourselves, one of the best ways we can start to change things is by taking better care of ourselves. If we look like we don’t have it together, we’ll feel like we don’t have it together. It’s ok if you don’t – just fake it til you make it.
The time we spend preparing for the day and caring for our bodies is vital to our self-esteem. Sometimes when we’re depressed or down on ourselves, we don’t take care of ourselves as well as we should, because subconsciously we feel that we aren’t worth the time. Even if we’re just starting to build self-confidence, we need to always treat ourselves like we’re kings. After all, if you don’t treat yourself well, why should anyone else?
Set aside time each week for some special “me time.” Take a long bubble bath, get your nails done, schedule a massage. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you give your body and yourself a bit of extra love and care. If you feel your best, you’ll be better able to act your best.
Declutter Your Space
When we get stressed, have a mile-long to-do list, or come home exhausted from work, we tend to let things like tidying up fall by the wayside. Papers don’t quite make it to the proper folder, dishes pile up, that thing we need to put in the closet never makes it there. This gradual buildup of clutter distracts us because it’s competing for our attention. We’re often a bit self-conscious of it, too.
The state of our surroundings is something we control. When we let our belongings get out of hand, it’s only natural that the chaos is internalized too – it’s a sign that our responsibilities and stress are making us feel so out of control that we’re losing control of our physical matters as well. Taking an hour or two to declutter will rejuvenate you and give you a sense of control over your life.
Do that Thing You’ve Been Putting Off
You know what I’m talking about. It’s that one to do list item that’s been there for months. It’s the chore that you’ve skipped all week because you were too tired from work. For me, it’s usually vacuuming. I don’t like having to get everything off the floor, and it’s just so easy to say that I’ll do it tomorrow.
We put these things off because we’d rather do something we enjoy (or something we dislike less). But the initial relief of not having to do the task is short-lived. Every time we see that un-vacuumed floor, every time we think to ourselves “I really should get to that,” we feel bad. We’re a bit ashamed because we know we should do it. Plus, it’s on the to-do list because it will benefit us, so we’re just hurting ourselves by avoiding it.
Just get it done. Not everything on the task list – just one thing you’ve put off. And once you’ve done that one thing, you’ll feel good about having completed a goal. You might even have the energy to complete a few more.
Build Self-Confidence One Step at a Time
While we may want to change everything at once, we need to take things slow as we build self-confidence. Our lack of self-esteem makes us feel that we can’t perform as well as we should. Set goals that you can reach, and give yourself responsibilities you can live up to. As you reach each goal, you’ll slowly build self-confidence.
Most importantly, forgive yourself when you skip a day on habit or don’t have the energy to work on improving – allow yourself a day to rest, and decide that you’ll do better tomorrow.
by Venn Crawford