Ten Steps to Building Self-Confidence

I admire the hell out of confident women.

They light up the room when they arrive, command respect and attention, and their voices are heard. They are able to not only define what they want but go get it.

When I was a kid, one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was confident.

I had no idea how to do that. There’s no class that teaches it. At least no class I could find.

For most of my life, I was taught that I was not good enough. I was constantly told that I was too much of a daydreamer, I was smart but just didn’t apply myself, the pitch of my voice was too high and I needed to change how I laugh because it sounded like a cackle. More than one guy told me that he’d date me if only I’d “shed a few pounds.” Most of my opinions and desires were incorrect, and I was told what I should think and what I really wanted. I obediently agreed with whatever person I perceived to be the authority figure, and allowed them to decide what my values should be. Any independent thought I voiced was wrong. I did not deserve to be treated with respect, and I accepted that.

I learned to shut up and quietly let others take over my life. I was fat and unimportant.

Because this was my norm, I married a guy who supported my low self esteem and false beliefs about myself.  And he was good at helping me maintain my lack of confidence in myself.  He even accused me of marrying him for his money, which was stupid – I’d always had more assets and a larger paycheck then him. But yet, because he said this, I believed that I owed him something.

Over the years, I became aware that I was afraid to assert myself because this rocked the boat and there was no way I was going to do that. I didn’t want to upset the people who kept me in my place, and was afraid that I would offend people and lose friends if I expressed myself honestly. This feeling carried over into all of my relationships, my job, and my life. I was a doormat, I blended in, I was the yes man, I was frumpy, and I was constantly filled with guilt because nothing I could do was good enough and it was all my fault.

When he got sick, I had to take over everything. Mind you, I was already managing the home, finances, meals, maintenance for house and car, caring for our daughter who was struggling with school and developing chronic health issues, and everything else. But now he was out of the loop (he was seriously ill for a few years) and I couldn’t run everything past him for approval. So I made decisions on my own and moved forward.

new paths

I started recognizing that I was developing self confidence for the first time in my life, and I felt incredible! Being on the other side of the confidence scale helped me to see women who were stuck where I had been – feeling undervalued and invisible.

These women make me feel sad. Sad for them, sad for all the time wasted in my own life living that way.

At this point, I decided I could actually want something that I wanted just because I wanted it. What a foreign concept. I gave myself permission to have my own opinions and desires.

It was weird.

I sat down and made a list of what I wanted. Number one: happiness. Everything else on the list turned out to be the steps I chose to take in order to reach my number one goal, and everything else, it turns out, moved me one step closer to the confidence I dreamed of having.

At this point, am I now 100% confident? Oh my God, no. As I write this, negative self talk is telling me that I’m wasting my time spilling my guts about this because nobody is going to read it, nobody cares, and I’m the only one who has ever struggled with low self esteem. Everyone on the planet is more confident than I am.

Yeah, it’s still there. But the difference now is that I’m allowed to tell that voice to shut the F up. (Ok, I realize it sounds like I’m now oppressing the oppressed, but this voice is a shadow from my past and it’s not real.)

So if you are reading this, and if you’re having one of those days where you’re depressed and sick of your life and wishing you had the confidence that everyone else has, here are some ideas for you to consider:

  1. You have value.
    Try making a list of positive impacts you’ve had on people and situations in your life. Are you raising children to have good values and character? That counts twice because you’re multiplying your value in the world.
  2. Your thoughts and opinions are important.
  3. Who you are is good enough.
    The things that make you unique are special, and whether you’re aware or not, these are the things people love about you.
  4. You are beautiful.
    I don’t care if you are unhappy with your body, it’s beautiful, and those who criticize you are shallow, narrow minded people, and regardless of their intention, their words are hurtful and wrong.
  5. What people think about you is not who you are. 
  6. Treat yourself as if you love yourself.
    I know this sounds strange, but self-hate creeps in when your self esteem is low, and it’s easy to treat yourself the way others treat you. Don’t allow that to happen. Fake it, if you have to, until this becomes a habit.
  7. Deep down, you know how you deserve to be treated by others.
    You do. Train others to treat you the way you want to be treated. This can be really hard at first. Be aware that this will absolutely change your relationships, either improving them or ending them. But it’s important for you to speak up and say things like, “I feel disrespected by that comment,” or “I don’t care to be treated like this,” and “Please respect my opinion,” and even, “If this continues, I am hanging up (or walking away.)”
    **When you do this, you are less likely to be met with a defensive response if you express how you feel when this situation occurs, instead of starting off with something like “You always do…”
    **IF YOUR SPOUSE/PARTNER IS ABUSIVE, tread lightly. Please don’t escalate them, and please don’t do anything that could put you or your loved ones in danger. I cannot offer advice in this area because each situation is different. My ex was emotionally abusive and punished me in non-physical ways, so I have no idea how to help you navigate safely around physical abuse.
  8. Make a list of what you want.
    This is for your eyes only, and right now, you’re acknowledging your own desires, independent of your current responsibilities and the needs of others in your life. Dream big. What do you REALLY want? Don’t even worry if it’s impossible, if you want it, it’s important. Write it down. Don’t worry about how short or long the list is. (You’ll actually be surprised how long the list is once you allow yourself to want what you want.)
  9. Is there something on this list that you can obtain or achieve right away? Do it.
    I bought myself a bottle of perfume, and used it every day. The scent reminded me that I deserve to have what I want. After a few weeks of this, I was ready to think about achieving the next thing on the list.
  10. Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself.
    I’m not talking about slogging around in frumpy sweats and yesterday’s underwear, no matter how comfortable it is, and regardless of how lazy you feel. (…guilty!) Look in the mirror. Do you like what you see? Does that bra really fit you? Is your shirt really the right size? Are your pants long enough, or kind of high-water? Does your outfit make you look like you feel confident? Be honest. If this is hard for you, invite your most confident friend over to help you assess your wardrobe. You’ll be surprised how wearing something that makes you feel good, having a good hair day, and something simple like standing up straight and tall can make you feel. I’m serious. The confidence you show on the outside affects how people treat you (maybe not those closest to you, who perpetuate your lack of confidence, but others you encounter that day.) This confidence will slowly seep inside until you feel comfortable with it.

Here’s what I learned when I started acting on these things: I was so afraid this would push away everybody in my life, but nobody was offended. People responded differently to me, but in a good way. My ex treated these subtle changes as a flight of fancy (he always called me capricious) and was convinced that I’d eventually get tired of acting this way. I let these things become habit, and allowed them to build confidence, which led to better self esteem, which built more confidence. The more I did it, the easier it was and the faster I honestly liked who I was becoming.

I no longer hated myself.

So let me ask you –
Do you have any beliefs about yourself that you know are not really true?
Have you done any of the things on this list? What happened when you did?
What else would you add to this list?

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