We all want to be confident. But what exactly does it mean to be confident? How can we achieve a state of confidence and security in ourselves that doesn’t derive from others approval, but rather, from a state of sustained and consistent confidence in ourselves?
Here are the 5 ways to build confidence in yourself and understand your insecurities and where they come from…
1. UNDERSTAND WHERE YOUR INSECURITIES DERIVE FROM
Babies are completely secure in themselves. No infant is concerned about being cute enough, cuter than the other babies, smarter than the other children, or even more “successful” than them. A baby isn’t in competition with their cousin to be the first of the two to take their first steps, an infant isn’t concerned about whether or not they will be the first to say, “momma” or how fast their hair will grow in. Babies only compete with themselves. They develop under the direction of their teacher or mentor (their parents) and under their guidance they develop on their own. They celebrate with their parents when they achieve, and they learn from discipline to do better for next time.
We develop insecurity when society starts to tell us we aren’t good enough. We get rejected from the job we wanted because we didn’t have as much experience as the Master’s student, we get broken up with for another partner who our exes claim can make them happier, we are told our grades aren’t competitive enough to get into the program we want, and we need to be more like Susan who gets straight As.
The difference between an infant and an adult with insecurity is the perception that we have to be better than someone else. We no longer work with our parents to celebrate our achievements and personal growth, instead, when we develop insecurity, we convince ourselves that if only we were more like person B, then we would be more successful than we already are. This simply isn’t the case.
To address insecurity, we have to move back to the mindset of personal growth over competing against others. It isn’t about looking better, being more successful than, being a better person than… it’s about changing your mindset to accept who YOU are today, being proud of the growth you made from yesterday, and planning for your projected accomplishments tomorrow.
2. SHIFTING YOUR VALUES
Some people put a lot of emphasis on certain aspects of their personality or their lives. For example, there are many beautiful people in the world that are insecure about their looks. The stereotypical model who is insecure about their appearance while others admire their beauty is a perfect example of this. Why do beautiful people (and we are all beautiful in our own way) feel insecure about our appearance? It is because those people see value of upholding a certain beauty standard. It is okay to put value in something if it is important to you, but it is not ok to let that trait you seek determine your worth. Someone may feel that their beauty is all they are, they may tie their physical appearance so close to the essence of who they are while failing to understand that they are so much more than that one aspect of themselves.
The same is true for ones career. If a person ties their identity to their job title, they will begin to identify their job as who they are, rather than a small portion of what makes them the person that they are.
To a person who is frequently jealous of other people that their romantic partner hangs around (assuming that their partner does not flirt or have not been disloyal) then it might be a sign that this person is defining themselves by their relationship. They regard others as a threat, not just to their relationship, but to their identity and their worth. Therefore when their partner leaves them, they will feel as if they are worthless, because they once tied their self-worth to that relationship without acknowledging that relationship was just a tiny part of what makes them the person they are, and that there are many many many other factors that go into shaping the person they are at heart.
So how can we avoid this? We need to stop tying our self-worth to external things. Yes, it is ok to value your career, it is ok to invest in your relationship or your looks, or your intellectual development, but we have to refrain from letting those factors shape us. They are not who we are, external factors can and will come and go throughout our lives, at any given point we can lose our jobs (or even something as simple as not getting the promotion we wanted), we can lose our partners (or even just get into a petty argument where they will not speak to us for a few hours), and we could “lose” our beauty (or the ever changing beauty standard might adapt again and tell us we are no longer good enough because now it is ‘cool’ to have thin eyebrows where it was once ‘cool’ to have thick eyebrows… the list will go on). We cannot tie ourselves to these external standards. They often say those who are superficial are “shallow” because they do not see the depths of their own self-worth. They fail to understand they are so much more than the standards they or society imposes on them. The difference between confidence and insecurity is tying your worth to your character and your determination to grow rather than to tie it to external factors. Yes, placing value in things is ok, but confident people know that even on their bad days they are so much more than just a job title or a girlfriend.
3. BEING KIND TO OTHERS
When someone makes you feel bad about yourself, your gut is screaming at you to throw them attitude or hurt them back. But you can’t. I learned this the hard way.
Once there was a person who kept insulting me and hurting me, I built so much rage inside of me I tried to be mean to them back, and I succeeded. And it worked, it hurt them as badly as I had been hurt, and it was the worst feeling in the world. They confirmed that they felt they were not enough. And then I started feeling just as insecure about the things I made fun of them for. Because I put value in superficial things and undermined another person based on those things. Insulting them back changed my perspective of myself. Now I know that when someone hurts you, they are doing it to because they are trying to alleviate their own insecurities, but they will never feel it. Instead, the very insults that they are hurling at you are eating away at their confidence also. If they are telling you you are not enough because you do not meet a superficial standard, like your grade isn’t high enough, your job isn’t good enough, etc. It means that when they see someone with a higher grade than them, they will feel inferior to them as that is how they define themselves.
When someone is being mean to you, you NEED to be the bigger person. In the moment it sucks, but in the long run, it is what will be best for your confidence, and also theirs. Understand that when a person insults you, that’s how they feel about themselves. It has nothing to do with you, and you need to understand that.
4. DON’T PUT VALUE IN OTHERS OPINIONS OF YOU
I used to be the type of person who needed to be liked. The “good girl” the one who was admired and liked by everyone. But this was actually a form of insecurity, and I didn’t even know it.
When we were babies, we have no insecurities, but when we are in elementary school, things are different. When the popular/ cool kids in the class don’t invite us to their birthday party, we felt insecure. When the cool kids said that we cannot play soccer with them on the playground, we would feel hurt. But as we grew older and looked back on these incidences, we realize we actually didn’t do anything wrong. When we look back at the cool kids who didn’t like our shirt when we were in 6th grade, we realize that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with the shirt or with us. But rather that those kids were dealing with their own insecurities that we had no control over.
We laugh at ourselves back in the day for feeling so insecure on the day our first crush rejected us, or the days we would fret about what others would think of us on the playground.
But in the moment we didn’t feel that at all. In the moment we felt like we weren’t enough. We felt alone and different.
As adults with insecurities, we all, to a certain extent, base our self worth on others opinions. Hate comments online, your exes friends talking badly about you behind your back, your parents disappointment in you for your life choses, these are all examples of the bully we were trying to impress on the playground.
So, if you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself when you cried in the stairwell in 8th grade? What would you say about not tying your worth to others opinions? Now, consider that and apply that same advice to your day to day life.
So your co-worker teased you for arriving late? Consider how you wish you wouldn’t have put so much thought into what your peers thought about your shirt. Your exes friends hate you? Consider the bullies on the playground who didn’t see your worth and discarded you from the basketball team. You get hate comments online? Consider the mean things others have said to you in your past, and how those opinions mean nothing to you now. They never mattered, and they were NEVER tied to you or your self-worth. So try really hard to understand that you cannot control others opinion of you. Even if you are the “good girl who does no wrong” someone will find reason to criticize you. You need to be yourself and be happy with who you are, and when you are yourself, you will attract others who value you for who you are and that is the crowd of people who will make you the happiest.
5. FIND YOUR PURPOSE/ PASSION
When you wake up in the morning, what do you feel motivates you? What makes you feel alive?
When you find your purpose in life, nothing can stop you from achieving your goals. Purpose can change throughout your life and your passions and hobbies can to.
Finding passion and purpose will make you feel motivated to be the best version of yourself, and when you have something you are working toward, you go back to the confidence of an infant, whose attention is directed solely on succeeding by taking small steps to improve from the person you were yesterday, to the person you want to be tomorrow.