Confidence. It comes in different forms. There’s that obnoxious, cocky “it’s all about me me me” confidence that I’ve found to be an instant turn-off within minutes of meeting new dating prospects. There’s what I like to call Beyonce confidence, which is that “I’m unstoppable, fierce, and I know I look pretty darn amazing right now” feeling you might get occasionally – likely while wearing your favourite stiletto heels.
There’s also that quieter, less obvious confidence that you see in people who err more towards the introverted end of the spectrum, but are still a far cry from the stereotypical introvert who doesn’t like to spend time with anyone other than themselves. It’s the confidence in their own abilities, their sense of peace with themselves, and their inner belief that it’s not all about them – they respect that there’s immense talent and skill in others too.
In my opinion, there are a lot of factors that contribute towards our self confidence. These include (but definitely aren’t limited to) the environment we were raised in, family dynamics, interactions with friends, co-workers, and other people in our every-day lives, our own self-talk, and the ways in which we have (or haven’t) been acknowledged for our achievements.
Looking back, I’ve had a lot of positive experiences in my life that have led me to feel pretty confident about myself and my abilities. However, I’d be lying if I said I don’t have days where I feel down and unsure of myself. On these days, there are a few tricks that seem to help turn me around. There’s nothing overly magical about any of them, but if you happen to catch yourself having an off day, or if confidence is something you struggle with, giving these a shot might help.
1. Let go of the expectation that you’re going to be perfect on the first try.
This is a lot easier said than done, but it’s true. I tend to be extremely Type A, and if you’re the same, you’ll probably agree that sometimes it can be hard to take on a new project or endeavour without going 100% all-in and achieving top notch results. It’s great to have high expectations of yourself, but the more I take on new challenges like trail running, duathlons, and new professional challenges at work, the more I’ve learned to be ok with falling a little short. I look at athletes who are at the top of their sports and think “I wish I could run like that” or “I wish I could feel that fearless on the bike”, but it’s easy to forget that these people are devoting hours and hours of their day to honing their skills. Letting go of the expectation of perfection is tough, but failing and falling short is where some of the best lessons are learned.
2. Recognize small wins
In the early days of Eat Spin Run Repeat, I think I had about 5 readers. No, surprisingly my mum wasn’t one of them – she was actually one of the last people to find out about it. (Hi Mum!) I remember how excited I was when one of my posts got a comment. It was even more exciting for me to see way back then that I’d had 10, 20, 30, or sometimes (on a cracking good day) 50 visitors!
In comparison to some of the really big bloggers I was following, a day of traffic to my blog was probably equivalent to 10 minutes worth on theirs. It was easy to become frustrated when I saw that I wasn’t growing my readership as fast as I wanted to, so I had to constantly remind myself that nobody starts a blog with a big following right off the bat. Instead, I focused on things like the positive feedback I was getting on recipes, the fantastic new people I was meeting, the new things I was learning about being a good writer and blogger.
Of course, this applies to life outside of blogging too. Small wins might be the ability to run 5 minutes longer than last time, adding an extra serving of veggies to a meal, or discovering a new nutrient-dense food that you really like. It might be packing your lunch for work rather than eating out, or spending 10 minutes unwinding at the end of the day totally unplugged from your electronics. All of these are worth celebrating because they’re small steps towards bigger, long-term habits.
3. Look for little confidence builders
Start with little things that push you just outside of your comfort zone, even if you’d never admit to anyone that you were indeed uncomfortable doing them. For example, this year I knew I wanted to try a duathlon, but it wasn’t until I actually got on my bike in the spring that the realization of how scared I was set in. I was in a really bad bike accident as a kid, and knew this was where the fear came from. I had already registered for the race and was too stubborn to back out, so I started with baby steps.
It sounds silly, the first thing I did was ride around my condo complex, just to make sure I could clip in and out of the pedals. The next weekend I went out on the roads near my house (which I learned are lovely and very quiet at 6am on a Sunday morning!), and the week after, I joined a local cycling club’s clinic for beginners. It was succeeding at each one of these little challenges that built my confidence to spend more time on the bike and push myself a bit harder every time.
No matter what your challenge is – whether it’s dining out with a group of new acquaintances, running your first race, giving a presentation at work, or venturing into the weight room (don’t worry, the guys in there won’t bite or make fun of you – they’re too busy looking at their traps an biceps in the mirror) – look for small challenges that you can complete to get there, and recall previous experiences where you’ve tried and succeeded at something similar.
4. Accept compliments and remember them
When someone gives you a compliment, don’t just turn them down or shrug them off. It’s amazing how quick we are to do this, and I’ve even caught myself doing it recently. The people saying nice things to you wouldn’t take the time to do so if they didn’t mean it, so be accepting of their kind words rather than making them feel silly for saying them in the first place. So instead, why not just try saying thank you?
Compliments and praise from others can also be useful on days that you’re not receiving much of either. How? I keep a ‘happy folder’ in my email inbox at work and file away messages where co-workers have thanked me for my work or acknowledged my efforts. Then on those days that are harder to get through, looking back at those notes reminds me that my contributions are appreciated.
5. Dress the part
I don’t consider myself a fashionista by any means, but can definitely attest to the fact that making an effort to dress a little nicer, do my hair, paint my nails, or make any other improvements appearance-wise always makes me feel more confident. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Lululemon gear and spend a large amount of time living in it. Given the choice between tights or jeans, deep down inside I’ll probably ALWAYS want the tights. But when it comes to special occasions (or even just a day in the office) when you feel like a bit of extra confidence would help, try polishing yourself up and see if you notice a difference in how you feel, walk, and interact with others.
6. Get your body moving!
This is an obvious one, and coincidentally also happened to be included in my tricks for beating belly bloat. We all know that doing something physical, whether it’s going for a long run, attending a group exercise class, or simply taking a stroll around the block on a lunch break, makes us feel lot better than doing nothing, right?
As adults, we often look at exercise as something we have to do, rather than something we can be doing for fun. We focus on doing things because we should – “I should eat this because it’s healthier” and “I should meditate because it’s supposed to be good for me” and “I should go to the gym because it’s what everyone on Instagram seems to be doing”. But, in the words of Tony Robbins, before you know it, we’re ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves!
The truth of the matter is that our bodies were meant to move, and I’m a firm believer that the best kind of exercise is the one you enjoy the most. Whatever that is for you will help you feel better about yourself, your life, and I bet it’ll make the people around you want to do the same.
7. Monitor and correct your self-talk
You’re probably not conscious of it at every moment, but we make a lot of judgments about ourselves and others as we go about our day to day lives. Eventually, these judgments can become self-fulfilling prophecies, even if there’s no evidence or reason for them to be true.
Perhaps you had a hard time making friends as a kid because you were shy, and perhaps now, you use that as an excuse for not creating and developing new relationships with others. Just because you were shy back then doesn’t mean it’s a characteristic that you have to carry with you for the rest of your life, and lack of confidence shouldn’t become an excuse for not growing as a person.
Instead, when that negative self-talk sets in, challenge that annoying little voice in your head and think of those small wins we just discussed. When you eventually do go and do that thing you “weren’t confident enough” to do, you’ll realize that the story you kept telling yourself had no business being in your head in the first place!
Now, tell me….
- In what situations have you felt like you lacked confidence, and if applicable, what helped you overcome it?
- Do you have any confidence-boosting tricks of your own?