Growing up shy, I felt like confidence was something I desperately needed but would never have. I saw how confidence helped other people navigate life better. Everything from walking down the hall to talking to teachers just seemed to go so much better for my peers with confidence. But try as I might I could never get myself to act or feel confident.
For a long time I had given up and decided it just simply wasn’t in the cards for me. But as I got older and started to venture into the real world I slowly began to realize that most people don’t naturally have confidence. Confidence is something they decide they’re going to have, and then they go out and get some. So I finally decided, why can’t I do that too? So here are some ways I’ve taught myself to trick my self into self-confident thinking:
Engaging in scary (but safe) activities
I truly believe engaging in activities that seem intimidating to you is the best way to burn away self-doubt. (Within reason, of course1) Once you’ve sung in front of a crowd or tried roller derby, making a presentation for school or work seems like a piece of cake. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (in healthy ways) teaches you of what you are truly capable of. Even if you fail or it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, taking the risk is enough to remind you that you are capable of so much more than you ever thought you were. So think to yourself, what scares you? Then whatever that thing is, go out and try it. I guarantee you’ll start to feel so much better afterwards.
When you feel that first trickle of self-doubt, ignore it instead of engaging it
By paying attention to the way my brain works, I’ve learned that the second I let bad self-doubting thoughts in, they will snowball if I let them take hold. The more I let them take hold, the more they turn from a perceived problem to a real problem, since I don’t perform as well when I’m doubting myself. I might have been doing just fine before I starting have the self-doubting thoughts, but doubting myself is enough of a wrench to slow me down without any other problems.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve messed up on in life or on the job, and the cause was simply not trusting myself to get the task done correctly. So now when I feel that first tickle of self-doubt I squash it right away since I know I can’t allow myself to get caught up in it.
Fake it till you make it—it really works
You hear this phrase thrown around a lot, and before it clicks it can be infuriating. I remember hearing it prior to truly understanding it’s meaning and hating it so much since it seemed like such superficial advice. But over time I realized what it really means is just approach every situation like you know what you’re doing even when you don’t feel like you do.
It sounds silly, but if you seem like you know what you’re doing, other people will believe you do. And when they believe you do, you’ll believe it more yourself. And once you start to believe it, that ‘fake’ confidence will turn into real confidence.
Talk to your friends about self-doubt
I’m guilty of this on occasion, but sometimes I’ll look at my friends and be blown away that such smart, cool, together people want to talk to me. Everyone seems to be so on point with their careers, their creative endeavors, and somehow also have time to eat healthy, exercise, and write grandma a thank you note? Sometimes I feel like I just fall short. But I know that’s not the full truth, because most of the time people are trying to project their most successful, together self.
If you talk to your friends honestly about feelings of self-doubt or imposter syndrome I guarantee everyone around you will admit to having had the same thoughts you’re having right now at some point. Talking to them will remind you that everyone feels this way and there’s nothing wrong with you. Remembering everyone feels a little unconfident at times will remind you that it isn’t unusual to struggle sometimes, and it doesn’t reflect badly on you. In fact, it means you’re normal.
Allow yourself to believe in yourself
Amy Poehler has a really great quote from her book Yes Please, in which she says, “Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it.” I try to keep this in mind when I feel nervous about doing things in my every day life (which is a lot). In the past I often caught myself only agreeing to take on tasks or opportunities if I knew I can 100% handle it.
But what I’ve started to do is trust that even if I don’t know everything about the task, I’m capable enough to figure it out along the way. And what I’ve found is most of the time the things I feel nervous about taking on turn out to be things that I can 100% handle. So if you feel nervous about something, or maybe that you can’t do it perfectly, go ahead and do it anyway. You can probably do it flawlessly, and if not you’ll learn how to do it flawlessly along the way.
Stay away from negative people
If you have people in your life who tear you down or make you feel bad about yourself, steer clear of them. Constructive criticism is one thing, but if you have people who make you feel so down on yourself that you doubt your own decisions on the regular, that’s a problem. Kick them to the curb.
These include people who cut you down for successes, people who make you feel embarrassed for being enthusiastic, and anyone who makes you feel like you can’t, so you might as well not try. Once I started to get rid of these kinds of people from my life I realized that not only did I start to believe in myself more, but also I had a proven track record of being pretty awesome. There are already so many complications and obstacles in life. It really helps to clear out the imaginary ones.
Let yourself trust your gut
You know that first, gut feeling you get before a decision? Sometimes you ignore it, sometimes you have to think about it more before coming to a decision, but regardless of what you do, in my experience it usually ends up being the right move.
I’ll often doubt my thoughts and my intuition because I always second guess myself, and I’ve had to work really hard to get out of it. As experiment, let yourself make decisions through that mechanism and see where they lead you. It is really hard to be comfortable with your own decision making when you’re lacking confidence, but it’s important to do so to start to build it back.
Sometimes sounding confident is more important than being confident
I’ve realized over the years that sometimes I will say or do similar things in situations, and if I sound like I know what I’m talking about, people will think I do. If I waiver even for a moment, people assume I don’t know what I’m talking about (even if I do). That’s when people start to doubt me.
I could have literally the same answer to each question, but if I sound like I’m unsure in one answer, the person is going to think I’m unsure and judge me for it. So even when you’re not 100% confident remember that a confident answer is better than a wavering one. Try to answer firmly no matter what.
Accomplish a goal you never thought you could
Letting yourself realize dreams you’ve had for a long time will remind you that anything is possible and you’re capable of everything. The world seems very accessible in a special way when you’ve worked hard to accomplish something you’ve long dreamed of. So if you have any thoughts about things in your life you always wished you could do or things you’ve dreamed of try, go for them. There’s no better time than the present, and trying these things will remind you what a big beautiful existence we have access to.
Don’t be afraid to brag on social media
This is something I know is important, but I still struggle with all the time. Everyone brags. Look down any of your social media feeds, and I guarantee it’s all bragging. The crazy thing is you can do it too. So why not start? Even if you don’t feel like it, post about your successes, and your wins. You’ll immediately start to feel more confident.
These are just some of the mental gymnastics I’ve had to go through to finally get myself feeling confident out in the world. Although it’s been a long and difficult journey, I’m very happy to be where I am right now with all the knowledge I’ve gained. I might not have everything figured out, but I can definitely make myself act like I do, and I’ve realized that’s half the battle.