One topic that has been requested time and time again to be featured on the Flirt Blog is a blog about how to build confidence. Whether you aren’t feeling confident in the studio, at work, or just in general, this process looks different for everyone. There isn’t a turn-key solution to building confidence, and a lot of it requires doing some hardcore introspective work on yourself. You can’t read a blog and suddenly feel confident about yourself, or meditate every day for one week and have a crazy transformation regarding how you feel about yourself. This is hard work on a long road. While I can’t offer you the proven 12-step program on feeling confident, I can offer you some tools and ideas to start doing the good hard work of feeling awesome about yourself.
Take what works for you, ignore the rest, and invest some time in yourself.
- Own your expertise.
When I was a budding young professional of 20 years old, I attended a life changing workshop by a lovely woman named Shannon Garrett (founder of SMG strategies). This workshop was on the surface about environmental activism, but really got into the nuts and bolts of what made people good activists. The key: owning your expertise. What Shannon meant by that was knowing what you are an expert on and not letting anyone tell you otherwise, especially if you’re a woman.
Her introductory example went something like this: If you ask a room full of men “Who is an expert on breastfeeding?” 90% of them will raise their hand because they were breastfed, had watched a wife breastfeed, etc. If you ask the same question to a room full of women, they hesitate, and maybe a few raise their hands, but it’s rare that a room full of women who have breastfed their own babies will call themselves experts at it, even though they’re the ones actually doing the work.
Shannon prompted us to think of one thing that we excel at professionally or personally, and write it down. At the time, I chose “ecological restoration practices.” Then she said, “Now what are three things you also have to know about, in order to excel at that?” So I wrote down “soil science, native plants, watershed management.” Shannon asked us to think of three things that we had to know about in order to excel at those three previous things, and so on and so forth, until we had a page full of skills and topics we were experts on. I got from ecological restoration practices all the way to statistics and communication methods, and then some.
During this exercise, Shannon said, “There is no magical board of people, or other-worldly beings, that decides who is an expert and who is not. Everyone who is an expert in something is self-proclaimed. When you see on the news that someone being interviewed is an expert in something, they decided that themselves. Whether it was intentionally before that, or when they agreed to be interviewed on the news, they knew their value and said yes.”
This practice of owning your expertise is a transformative one, and one that must be repeated as we grow and learn new things and have new experiences. Your expertise will change and shift as your interests do, your career does, and information becomes outdated. It is an exercise to be visited again and again, and provides a valuable first step in feeling confident.
- Get uncomfortable
There is no voice like discomfort to get you out of your head. Often, the barrier to confidence is genuinely caring what people think about you, and not being able to stop caring. People say it all the time: that they don’t care what people think. It’s preached like gospel on social media that “life’s too short to care what someone thinks of you,” or the famous quotes that are reposted a thousand times: “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” You know exactly what I’m talking about. How many times, though, are people actually living by that? It’s hard to not care what anyone thinks, and it takes a long time to unlearn; especially for women, who are often coached from a very young age to present themselves for others and act accordingly to what makes others comfortable.
In my experience, the best way to unlearn this habit of caring so much about what people think is to make yourself insanely uncomfortable (or scared). Physical, mental, and emotional discomfort take us out of a state of consciousness and into a state of instinct; that is where we break barriers down. For me, I stopped caring about people’s opinions of me when I moved out of the country by myself. I was scared and alone, and no one’s opinion mattered because I was in survival mode. When I came back from that experience, I recognized that I had accomplished a whole lot of things and grown significant amounts; I was so proud of myself that nothing anyone said to me about that was going to matter.
This is also true of my experiences competing and performing in pole the first time, backcountry camping alone, going to an airport/flying by myself, traveling to Africa while in college, being injured while hiking alone…the list goes on. Every time I’ve been uncomfortable, whether it was on purpose or unintentional, I have grown to care less and less what people think of me. Why? Because I’ve lived through some stuff, and I don’t need your approval to own my experiences and the body that existed through all of it. You don’t need anyone’s approval, either; you just have to convince yourself of it.
- Do the things you’re good at
Do people often tell you you’re good at something? For me, I’m heavily complimented for my cooking and public speaking abilities; and I bask in the praise. Some people are amazing bakers, runners, writers, mechanics, or dancers. Everyone likes being told they’re good at something, so my advice to you is to do the things you’re good at, and do them often. Invite praise into your life by demanding people give it to you.
Dance so often that you are showered with compliments on the daily. Bake treats for your co-workers so often so that all they can do is give you praise every single day. Showcase the things you know you’re good at, because praise and compliments matter. Write them down and tuck them away for a day you aren’t feeling so great about yourself. Remember that even if you’re not good at something you want to be good at right now, you’re still good at lots of other things and those are equally as important.
- Start a bullet journal
I am very into bullet journaling (BuJo), especially to track my moods and goals. Hit up Pinterest for ideas on how to set up a good bullet journal, and get started NOW. Here’s my Pinterest board with some ideas to get started (my BuJo does not look as pretty as these…). Tracking your goals gives you an excuse to celebrate often as you hit benchmarks and milestones, and feeling pride and accomplishment translates right into feeling confident. Turn your goals into a daily or weekly to-do list, so you can celebrate every night before you go to bed, or every Sunday as you gear up to start a new week. Celebrating and taking pride in finishing a to-do list, or benchmarking a long-term goal, changes your mindset so much. Over time, you’ll become confident simply because you have a physical record to look back on, proving that you can do ANYTHING.
- Seek help
Sometimes, the best way to do hard introspective work on yourself is to ask for help in doing so. Jumping the barriers to confidence can be hard if you’ve experienced trauma in your life, no matter how significant you think it is/was. There is no shame in finding a counselor, therapist, or coach to help you work through barriers you face. In fact, I would highly encourage it.
As I said at the beginning of this blog; there isn’t a full proof way to feel more confident; it’s hard work. Hopefully some of these suggestions help you on your journey to building more confident. If not, I encourage you to do your own research, join a hobby/interest group for support, and try whatever you think will work for you.
Best of luck,