Weall have that “thing” we just can’t seem to get over. Maybe you’re a perfectionist who never feels like a success because, by definition, nothing can really be perfect.
Or maybe you’re an intelligent person who feels confident about their intellectual capacity but feels uncomfortable in social situations.
Maybe it’s all bad — you’re broke, (you think) you’re ugly, (you think) you’re a loser, you’re really down in the dumps. Maybe you hate your job and even more so than the fact that you’re not doing anything about it.
Ok, ok. I’m supposed to be a self-help writer and I’m currently raining all over your mental parade. Let’s turn things positive.
There is a way to get over your doubts, become more confident, and stop thinking as much about your insecurities. Here’s how the process works.
How to Like Yourself More
Some people will tell you that it’s society’s fault that you don’t feel so awesome about yourself. That’s only partially true. The whole truth? No amount of pretending to love yourself is going to help you actually love yourself.
Affirmations, self-care routines, positive thinking and the like have their place in the world, but they’re ancillary to the only true path to confidence.
You have to give yourself a reason to love yourself. How do you give yourself a reason to love yourself? By building habits and behaviors that increase your competence over a long period of time.
Super sexy, right?
I’ve long abandoned the flowery version of self-help that tells you “think it and you will achieve it!” No, this is backward. Achieve it and you will think it.
We’ve all had those moments where we’ve hit a streak of good luck or demonstrated skill in some area for a long enough period of time. You get momentum.
One success begets another. These “waves” of confidence are proof that you can change the way you see yourself, but you can’t just wait for these waves to come. You have to generate them on your own.
Think of an area you want to increase your confidence in.
Let’s say you’re socially awkward and lack confidence talking in front of or to other people. Find the teeniest tiniest little step you can take that sends a signal to your brain saying “you’re good at talking to people!” This could be finding the most non-threatening person possible in public and asking them something simple like “What’s the time?”
Your next step could be trying to have 1 minute of small talk with someone. Next, you could attend a local speech club and just watch. Then, next time you introduce yourself, the next time you speak, etc.
You’re trying to invest in your “credibility bank account.” You operate on a feedback loop — both positive and negative — each action you take tells you you’re either moving forward or backward. Make more deposits into the credibility account and you’ll start to feel better about yourself.
None of this is easy, or fair, or right. It just is. I can’t convince you to love yourself. No one can. Only you can. And changing your behavior is the best route.
The Key to Getting Started With All of This
You know why it’s so hard to change? Why it’s so hard to develop confidence in certain areas? Why we find ourselves getting swallowed by our own insecurities?
The answer is simple — we find it hard to admit we have a problem in the first place.
Who wants to admit to themselves that they have irrationally low confidence? Who wants to own up to being lazy? Who genuinely wants to take a look at their actions and see that they’re responsible for their fuckups?
This doesn’t feel good.
Rationalizing doesn’t feel great either, but at least it gives us an out. And this is exactly what the institutions, media, and society as a whole want.
Marketers don’t hate the fact that you blame them for creating unrealistic standards. They want you to think that because their marketing wouldn’t work so well if we all believed that we were the ones responsible for our own lives. If you make them the disease — by giving your self-esteem away to an outside entity — you also make them the cure because you’re admitting they have control over you.
It’s better for the societal machine if we all go about our days thinking that our self-doubts are a reflection of our circumstances instead of a reflection of the way we see our own behavior. If you think about it deeply, this misguided form of self-doubt keeps the world spinning.
While everyone else spins and spins, get out of the cycle and realize that your self-doubts are, in fact, a signal that you need to change something about your behavior.
When you actually admit to yourself, “Yeah I kinda suck at this and I need to get better,” you’ve taken the first step. That realization that the power is within you to change the way you see yourself gives you the fuel you need to follow through.
To change, don’t feel bad about feeling bad about yourself. It’s normal. Once you accept how normal it is, that burden gets lifted off of you and you can begin anew.
General Recommendations for Self-Confidence
You’re a unique individual with unique circumstances, so the exact recipe for turning your life around is a mystery to me. There are some themes that have been true and consistent over a long enough span of human history for me to make some educated guesses, though.
A) Get healthier
I won’t beat this horse to death. It doesn’t matter how you do it. No specific recommendations here. But if your body doesn’t feel good it’s hard for you to feel good. And the process of getting healthier is (obviously) no easy feat, but it’s so worthwhile that repeating it 37459684032406 times is okay.
B) Find a hobby or side gig outside of your 9 to 5
I don’t know what it is. There’s just something about working on your “evil plan” that makes you feel really good about yourself. Making things makes you feel better. Having some little hobby or business to call your own gives you a sense of agency and purpose that’s hard to build elsewhere. I’ve gone over this process several times, but it’s important nonetheless.
C) Double-Down on Your Strengths and Mitigate Your Weaknesses
I used to think doubling-down on your strengths was the only thing you needed to do. But, working on your weaknesses is important too — just don’t try to do them all at once.
My strengths are writing, communicating, thinking, speaking, etc. My major weaknesses are organizational skills, absent-mindedness, and staying present with people instead of being in “go mode” all the time.
No matter how much I focus on my strengths, I mentally kick myself for screwing up, so I have to work on these things too.
This means I set goals for things normal people would laugh at — doing the laundry once a day, dishes once a day, leaving my phone in another room after 5 p.m. to spend quality time with my family (yes, typical male. I know!).
Initially, it didn’t make me feel good to know that I had to set goals to do normal adult things, but I do them now, so I feel like a whole grown-up instead of only a professional one.
The Bottom Line
Lately, my work has been focusing on the difference between what’s true and what we want to believe.
I don’t always get it right — and I’m always willing to revise my option — but for now, the path to a permanently confident ‘you’ seems to involve taking responsibility for yourself no matter what.
Even if your lack of confidence isn’t all your fault, you can’t wait on someone or something else to fix it for you because that will never happen.
It’s on you, but fortunately, you’re much more capable than you know.