How to Start Building Confidence Today
What do I need to fulfill me?
This is a question that many people ask themselves at one point in their life. The simple answer is, you. You are all you need to fulfill you. Seeking your fulfillment in other people or through status symbols or material goods will always leave you wanting more. You'll have a thirst that you simply cannot quench. Only you can give yourself what you need.
Years ago I used to feel incredibly anxious. Whenever I would speak in front of a group I would develop red blotches all over my face and neck. Speaking to a woman? Forget it! I'd stumble over my own words even if, by some miracle, I found myself in a situation where I could converse with her at all.
It wasn't until that I realized that I didn't need a better job, a girlfriend, a new car or that promotion I've been chasing to feel fulfilled. Fulfillment was a choice and it was one I was going to make.
My journey to building confidence and letting go of the fear that I had of doing things for myself was a long one. It involved therapy, self-discovery, falling, getting back up and a never ending desire to move forward. While you should work hard to find the strength to walk this path you should also not be ashamed to seek out the assistance of mental health professionals along the way as well. A good therapist can help you along your journey in many cases.
1. Put Yourself First
We have strong social stigmas associated with the idea of putting yourself or your needs first. We think of it as selfish and we are taught from a very early age that we shouldn't be selfish. We should be thinking of others first, right?
Think about when you fly on an airplane. We all sit through the same safety spiel. In the event of an emergency, masks will drop from the ceiling. Secure your own mask before assisting others.
Selfish? Not at all. You can't help others unless you have yourself squared away.
This does not mean that you should spend the money intended for child's birthday present on yourself. It does mean that you should be aware of what your physical, emotional and spiritual needs are and do your best to tend to those needs so that you are in the best position to then help others.
It's fine to want others to be happy. However, we really need to think long and hard before we compromise ourselves in an effort to please others. In the end, we'll feel resentful toward the other person for taking away our autonomy and angry with ourselves for allowing it to happen.
Putting yourself first means not compromising your core values to please another. Very often this doesn't turn others off as we might expect. Rather, respectful disagreement or different tastes can help bring us closer to others.
2. Be Grateful
Take stock in what you have and take a moment to really think about how grateful you are for those people and things. Feeling in short supply of things to be grateful for? Even if you're in poor health, be grateful for the health you do have. If you are reading this then you have eyesight to be grateful for. If you're listening to this then be grateful that you can experience the world through its many beautiful sounds.
This can be, but is not necessarily, a religious experience. It isn't important, for our purposes, to be grateful toward any one deity or spirit. The exercise is merely to be grateful. To feel a measure of gratitude for the things we have rather than focusing on the things we don't have.
Now extend this exercise to ourselves. Don't worry about the things we would change about us if we could. Instead, focus on your best qualities. Focus on any of your qualities. Be grateful for the things that make you who you are. This can take some practice. Keep at it and then do it some more.
3. Accomplish Something
It doesn't have to be something terribly impressive. You don't have to change the world. Just get something done. Kick the dust off of a side project that kept getting shuffled to the back burner. Take that class you've always wanted to take but have been putting off. Try that new restaurant you've been meaning to try since it opened last year. The key is to check something off of your mental to do list that will help you feel like you are in control of your own destiny.
Any time I start feeling a little low and like my projects aren't getting off the ground I like to go for a run or write a short story. I always keep a list of local things I want to try. It might be checking out that historical site I always pass signs for. It might be trying out that new micro brewery that everyone is talking about. I always have something on my list at the ready. Then, when I find myself in need of a boost, I have ideas at the ready.
4. Don't be mean to my friend
I had a good friend who, when I would say something negative about myself, would gently chide "Don't be mean to my friend." It was her way of interrupting a negative thought pattern in someone else. This simple phrase helped remind me not to get down on myself. It was also helpful to know that I had a friend who cared about my well being.
Negative thoughts aren't always easy to chase away. The first step is identifying them in the first place. Just stop yourself when you see that you're taking a path toward negativity. This gets tricky sometimes especially with more insidious negative thoughts.
"I could never work for myself" or "S/he's out of my league" are some of the most common phrases I hear. They can be incredibly toxic. The worst part is that they are such common phrases that many people overlook their negativity and how they can weigh a person down.
By interrupting these thoughts you can shift your entire outlook. Just tell yourself to stop and then start telling yourself the opposite. You deserve a dedicated cheerleader and the best candidate for the job is you.
5. Work on yourself but ask for help when needed
While these steps can help you to build your confidence it's important to note that sometimes you just can't go at it alone. More serious issues with low self-esteem may warrant seeking a professional therapist.
Psychotherapy can often help to identify destructive patterns in life and help people develop the tools for interrupting those patterns.
It's all a process
While these steps worked wonders for me it's important to note that the transformation did not take place overnight. As with building anything, building confidence is a process that requires time and patience. It is important to approach life, and this process in particular, with a positive outlook. Take every setback as an opportunity to learn and grow tomorrow and always move forward.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Tagg Martensen