How do you gain self-confidence?
Dear Insecure Girl,
I picked your question because it is such a simple question with such a complex answer, and it's a question I get often. Unfortunately, there is no formula for self-confidence. There is no how-to manual that will instantly help you gain the security you need to be confident in all you say and do. There is no quick fix to confidence; it has to be earned. But, there are a few rules by which I live that seem to help strengthen my resolve and confidence in my womanhood, most of which happened over time and not all at once.
Never let other people define you in any way, shape, or form. The best way to avoid allowing other people or even your circumstances to define you is to define yourself. In order to do that, you're going to have to make clear, concise declarations about who you are and what you want. Now, for a person riddled with insecurities, this may seem difficult, as you think you are unsure about everything––but you're not. Your spirit knows itself. Now, you just have to get in touch with your spirit!
Be With Yourself:
The best way to get in touch with your spirit is to spend more time with you and only you. Most people have a deep seeded fear of being alone. This is the reason why so many people, women especially, are clamoring to be in relationships, why they can't leave the house without knowing there is a friend waiting for them when they reach their destination, and why most people find it difficult to be at home, amongst their things, their image, and the life they've built or the lack thereof. Most people run around ignoring themselves while begging other people to pay attention to them, to validate them.
Gaining confidence in who you are will not happen until you are comfortable in your own skin. Most people confuse being alone with loneliness. They also confuse being with themselves with being by themselves. In a society filled with insecure people, it is common to think that something is wrong with you if you want to be alone, if you want to stay home or go out with yourself. But, knowing how to do these things and actually preferring them, is a sure sign of confidence and the building of such.
There are facts in this world, things that just are, and there is nothing any one of us can do about them. Most of those things are in the past. I find that people who suffer from insecurities also suffer from fear, and fear is usually based on past experiences. Once we practice and learn to be truthful with ourselves about the facts of life and accept the things we cannot change, that fear subsides and insecurities wane.
Once you have accepted the things you cannot change, take a look at the things you can and want to change and then, change them! Insecure people tend to think they don't have power over their lives, mainly because they have given that power over to other people, based on their insecurities. It's a vicious cycle. But, when you have defined who you are and what you want, learned to love being with yourself, and accepted the things you cannot change, making changes becomes less daunting. This happens when you begin to realize and accept that other people really don't matter. What other people think, say, or do has no baring on your life. As the saying goes, what you eat doesn't make me shit. It's crass, but it's true.
Making changes becomes less stressful when you aren't doing it for other people and aren't looking for others to validate your decisions and changes. So, take a look at the things you would like to change about yourself, things you want to improve upon, and start doing it!
As you begin to start making those changes, big and small, have a little party for yourself every time you accomplish a goal. Don't wait on the world to celebrate you because that may never happen. This is one of those hard facts I mentioned earlier. As you gain confidence and find your place and your voice in this world, not everyone will be happy for you. This is why you have to learn to be comfortable in your own skin and to love being alone––there will be times in your life when even those closest to you won't be there and you'll have to know how to celebrate yourself! So, start now.
Don't Defend Yourself:
There is no reason to defend that which is not offensive. So many people walk around feeling the need to defend themselves and their choices. Short of the obvious, nothing you do is wrong and there are no mistakes as long as you learn from them and put all your experiences to good use. Turn your mess into a message and you will never regret one day of your life. So, show confidence in your choices by never defending them. Shit happens and not all of it is going to be pretty, but God will always give you beauty for your ashes, so why defend what He has allowed?
And that question brings me to the question of trust. It is easy to be confident when you trust yourself to trust God. Know that you don't have to know everything. Everything is not for you to understand. Once you know, and I mean, really know that God exists and believe that He orders your steps and that His plan is the only plan, you let go. When you let go and stop trying to become something and instead just be, life stops falling apart and instead, falls together.
Give Yourself Time:
Everything takes time and habits take practice––even practice takes practice! So, be patient with yourself. Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't be, either. Most of us gain confidence over time, as we age and make our way through harrowing and wonderful experiences. As we get older, many of us learn what really matters in our lives is whatever makes us happy. Living a good quality of life begins inside of you and once you get a hang of who you are, life gets easier. I promise.
Here's Your Homework:
- Define Yourself: Make a numbered list of all the things you know about yourself and add to this list everyday. It can be something as silly as, I don't like grapefruit, or something as soul defining as, I am beacon of light and joy. Make a list today, writing down everything you can think of, then, from this day on, write down at least one thing you know about yourself, something you defined about yourself that day.
- Be With Yourself: Every week, schedule time with yourself. Spend at least one day a week doing something you like to do or need to do for yourself. This time can be spent at the spa or salon or at home, catching up on your reading, or binge watching your favorite shows. Or take yourself out for a bite to eat! Whatever it is, do it alone. Try not to release too much energy by interacting with other people, so stay off your phone and away from social networks. If you're out in public, speak when you are spoken to but do your best not to elaborate and get into conversation. This is your time and you are reserving your energy for you.
- Accept Yourself: Make a list of things you cannot change. Maybe it's something you wish never happened, something or someone who has hurt you, an opportunity you lost or missed, or maybe it's something about yourself, something you've been beating yourself up about. Whatever it is, it is something that absolutely cannot be changed. Write it down and every time something happens that is out of your control, add it to the list. Then, take your list to the nearest mirror, look at yourself square in the eyes, and recite each item on that list. Repeat it over and over, as often as you need to, until you are okay with it. Accept it. It happened. Now, move on.
- Change Yourself: Adversely, make a list of the things you'd like to change about your life and yourself. Maybe you'd like to live a healthier life, become a vegetarian, learn a new language, go back to school, change your hair color! It doesn't matter how big or how small, put it on the list, vowing to tackle each item. Somethings may need long-term planning and some things can be handled in a day. Start with the easy things and move on to the more complex goals, crossing each off the list as you accomplish it.
- Celebrate Yourself: Then, as you accomplish each change, celebrate it! If you have someone or people you can and want to include in your celebration, that's great! But, I also suggest you have a personal celebration, something you do for or say to yourself that gives you the only pat on the back that really matters––yours. It can be a frozen yogurt, a bouquet of flowers, or a day of nothingness. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you accomplished something and no one can ever deny that you did it!
- Don't Defend Yourself: Even when in private conversation with yourself, never defend yourself. You've done what you've done and everything has a purpose, if you let it. This is also part of acceptance. Once you have accepted the things you cannot change, including what has already been done, there is no reason to defend it. It is what it is and God will use it to make you better, if you trust He can.
- Trust Yourself: Take a day, do nothing, and see what happens. Many times, we find ourselves always trying to be or do something and often, we get in our own way. Step out of your way for a day and just be. Talk to God. Tell Him how much you trust Him and trust yourself to really do so. Spend the day, not doing, but being. Spend it listening, not talking. Trust that everything in life is as it should be and there is nothing you can do to change that. Then, when you resume your daily activities, carry that same sense of trust with you.
- Give Yourself Time: As you look back at the lists you will make along there way, you'll be amazed at how far you have come. Start a Gratitude Journal, in which you write a list of ten things you're grateful for, each day. Continue your Defining Journal, in which you write just one thing you know for sure about yourself each day, as well as your Acceptance and Change journals. To make all of this more convenient, buy a 5-subject notebook to keep it all! After a few months pass, then a few more, you'll look back and see how you've grown and this will help give you even more confidence to keep going, knowing that growth and change can only come with time.
Here's What Will Happen:
I cannot promise you that any of this will happen overnight. The tasks above are pieces of a practice that takes time to master. But, over that time, you will begin to see yourself, then, know yourself, and finally, be okay with who you are. There is no clear path to confidence; each person gets to it in their own way and time, if they ever reach it at all. And, like all practices, this practice takes practice. So, don't be discouraged if you don't get the hang of it right away. Just keep practicing!
You are far from being alone in your struggle to become and remain confident. So, when you have found a strategy that works for you, be sure to share it with another woman who may be struggling with the same issue.
Do you or have you suffered from a lack of confidence? Has this post helped you? Let us know in the comments below!
New York Times best selling author, keynote speaker and workshop leader, founder of The Gorgeous Girl's Guide, Steffans Publishing Enterprises, and Karrine & Co.