By Ahtiya Liles
One of my friends Melissa text me the other day telling me that I’m the most confident person she knows and asking me how I do it (stay confident). I was flattered, but also stumped because I really couldn’t remember thoroughly how I got to be as confident as I am. So, I got to thinking. This article is as much a possible guide to others who want to build self-confidence as it is a reminder and guide for a future me, who may need to look back and rebuild. I hope you enjoy my (possibly flawed) guide to self-confidence.
1. Find something you’re good at and work on it. We’re all good at something, and if you say you’re not, you’re either lying or just haven’t found it yet. Having something you know you’re good at is like a quick fix. Take me for example. One of my talents is writing, and I know this because people have complimented me, I receieve good grades on essay assignments, and I’m able to measure the quality of my abilities against others. Having something you’re good at requires that you work at this skill and not neglect it. Once you neglect it, you run the risk of forgetting that you’ve got something special in that noggin of yours. And once you forget that, you leave yourself susceptible to negative thoughts from yourself and others. Plus, when we’re good at something, we usually thoroughly enjoy engaging in this activity, and our special talent becomes a source of sollace. When I’m feeling down, I turn to writing (this doesn’t work when I’m angry, though – I’ve tried) because I know I’m the best version of myself when I write creatively. Everyone has at least one good thing going for them, but not enough people engage in it or find venues to explore their talents. This, I truly believe, is the first step.
2. Don’t deny compliments. Stop denying compliments. Stop it right now. People are not lying to you when they compliment you. And if they are, then they need to stop pretending this is Mean Girls. We’ve been taught to deny compliments as a sign of modesty, when, in reality, it just breeds self-deprecation and the denial of our abilities. If you keep denying when someone says that you’re (insert adjective here), you are tricking yourself into believing that you are indeed un-(whatever it is they complimented you on). In simpler terms, if someone calls you artistic and you rebuttal with, “no, I’m not,” then you have just invalidated your own skill set and put it in your brain that you are indeed not artistic. Your brain processes this information, and it ends up hurting you in the end because, when you try to do something that you’re good at or were complimented on, your rebuttal, not the compliment, will pop back into your brain. You will forget that you were complimented in the first place but remember that you don’t believe in yourself.
3. Don’t shame your past self for bad decisions and being in a bad place. You’re not perfect and being confident doesn’t mean that you are perfect. Being confident includes accepting the fact that perfection, in our society’s sense of the word, is unattainable. This does not mean that you cannot be perfect the way you are. This is indeed different. But also remember that being perfect does not invalidate the fact that you are, as we all are, a work in progress. There’s a saying that goes: “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” This includes realizing that not every decision you made in the past was a good one. Self-confidence includes praising yourself for now knowing to make the right decisions and getting to a good place. Don’t ignore your past, though; just embrace the fact that it will make you better.
4. Bite the bullet and drop the toxins. I have another article coming up that further explores this idea of getting toxins (people) out of your life, but I’ll give you a little preview now. I pose this question for you, reader. What’s better: having a large group of friends who make you feel like trash on a regular basis or having a small group of friends and having an ounce of self-esteem? The latter option? Ding ding ding! If someone shares their opinion with the intention of hurting you and not helping you, then you need to seriously re-evaluate their place in your life. Being confident means that sometimes you lose people along the way, and it’s mostly because they’re toxic people. Don’t be afraid to discard these people as they’re not worth your energy, time, or attention. And if you have people in your life who aren’t necessarily toxic-level yet but they still make you feel bad, start to distance yourself from them, and the value they and their opinion have to you will eventually decline.
5. Accept the bad days and the fact that they happen. Having self-confidence doesn’t mean you’re an impenetrable wall. Just remember that.
6. Fake it ’til you make it. This is the rule I live by. If this rule were a person, they’d be my ride or die, my A-1 since Day 1. Say positive/confident things to yourself and you will eventually begin to believe them. It works the same way with detrimental thoughts, so why not do it with positive, self-healthy (yes, I just made that a term) thoughts as well?
And here are some other tips that definitely help: Walk around like you own the place! Say your thoughts with conviction! Call people out when they’re being stupid! If you need some guidance on what this looks like, turn to some of your favorite tough heroes and heroines (Olivia Pope from Scandal and the Evil Queen/Regina from Once Upon A Time come to mind).
I hope this helps for all those struggling with self-esteem and serves as a reminder to those who have already reached the top of the mountain, but needed a little reminder.
Tell me what you think in the Comments section below!