Confidence is defined literally as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
Why then do we so often focus on what everyone else thinks about us as human beings? Maybe it’s an insecurity of how we dress, or physically look, or weight, or education status, or even financial status. I venture to guess you can think of at least a handful of times in the last week you worried about what someone would think about you in a certain situation. If confidence is defined from our own appreciation of our own abilities, why then do the majority of people struggle with confidence?!
Confidence is not learned, nor does it come wrapped up all neat and pretty in a box within us. Confidence is just there. You can choose to have it, or you can choose to sit in your hole. Sometimes, depending on what is happening in our lives, it can hide behind so many emotions and choices, and other times it stands up, front and center.
I know for me confidence came in many forms, but overall, in the grand scheme of life, I was actually not as confident as I thought. Until you go to hell and back, and maybe again, you really have no idea how grim life can be; ergo, confidence seems lost forever. But it’s not. Ever. Confidence is always there – just look at the definition. It comes from within – nurture it. After starting a blog series about my struggles in life as they relate to the overall theme of body image, I wanted to touch on how to move past it. This spring I will be embarking on an adventure – one that I would have never thought possible – but building upon my own self-confidence, it’s happening. Whatever insecurities you may be experiencing, the same tactics I used to build this confidence can be used to unearth the ego you have within. Trust me when I say the beginning of your life really starts when you can tap into that hidden confidence we learn quite often to suppress. Sadly, we are taught that confidence is a bad thing – sure, if you are a jerk to people it can be – but really, confidence in yourself allows dreams to become real achievements!
Five healthful ways to build, express, and stay confident…
1. Focus on you. Somewhere along the lines in life we lose all focus of ourselves and only try to please others, both family and friends. Likely at the expense of our own feelings, needs, and well-being. We start to do things that are solely based in what another person wants and at times can be so extreme it becomes our identity. Start to morph the focus – it should always be on you. Now, some people may think ‘I don’t want to be that selfish’ or ‘but I want to make others feel good’ and both statements hold true – as long as they are not hurtful to yourself. Start believing the notion that being selfish by doing what is best for you is NOT selfish (as defined by societal views). Go to college where you want to go to achieve your dreams…travel the world…have a dog…don’t have kids…move away from your parents – these are not selfish things. This is called living! Do more things you enjoy. I promise you your confidence will increase enormously just by changing your focus. And with that comes the most important part: avoid people, places, and conversations that make you feel bad about yourself. Those people, even if they are family and friends, are not worth your time. Remember, sadness from others should not dictate your choices in life. People that truly care about you do not judge you, limit you, or stop you from leading the life you need to live.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others. And with that, stop being so critical of yourself. I know, I do it too. When I’d show up to a race (and this isn’t perfect yet but has improved immensely since finding my own self-confidence again), I would immediately say to myself, ‘well she looks fit enough to win’ or ‘she’s warming up and I’m not so therefore she will beat me’ or some rendition of that. Stop. Stop comparing to others. Others have their gifts, but others have their flaws too! We all do. Recognizing your talents and flaws is a good thing, and unique to you. By identifying your talents to yourself, you can build confidence upon confidence. We often take for granted our talents so to only focus on improving. No. Focus on the talents first and improve other things by using the fuel from the talents. Remember this statement: You can’t compare yourself to others because others are not you. And it’s true. No one can be me. Only I can be the best me. Be kind to those you are comparing yourself to as well. Likely there is some lingering jealousy based on whatever the comparison is and therefore an insecurity to back that jealousy up. Let go of those negative emotions, just let them be. They are there, but don’t have to control your every move or thought. Choose the path of being you and no one else.
3. Think, breathe, and sleep positivity. I know it seems like overkill, but until you do it naturally, without thinking about it and can positively self-talk to yourself, be sure it’s always in the forefront of everything you do. Positive self-talk versus negative self-talk? Seems like this should be a no brainer, but at the end of the day, the majority of people default to negativity, to the point that people can’t even accept compliments. How often does someone give you a compliment like “wow I really like your hair today” and your reply is 100 other things, never a simple ‘thank you’? Why can’t we just be grateful for these simple things? Start to accept compliments. And smile. Just anytime; in the mirror at home, at the grocery, at work, at walls – just smile randomly. These two things will pave the way to a life of positivity, even though negativity may be around us all the time. Take little self-care breaks too throughout the day. When you are stressed – go for a quick 5 minute walk, or even just step outside for 2 deep breaths. The change in climate and environment will do wonders. Ultimately confidence is being built by taking care of yourself and twisting the negative into positive. It’s hard though. Again, by default we think and speak negatively without even thinking about it. Do an experiment for yourself…every time you say something negative in your head or out loud, say or write down 3 positive things about yourself. Eventually, and I promise you this works, your brain starts to think more positively. It takes time – so be patient with yourself, and be kind! If you have been going for years with a hidden self-confidence, this will take work!
4. Find balance in your life. Often confidence can be diminished by the chaos around us – work, school, kids, travel, or whatever might contribute to your own personal chaos. Put your hand up and say STOP. We spend too much of our life out of balance and stressed out over things that really aren’t important. Things that, ironically, are not about us! That surely can’t help build up any confidence I would imagine. Start to reduce your stress load. How you go about that is up to you, just ensure it’s healthful. Maybe 10 minutes dedicated to meditation, listening to music, journaling, or calling a close friend. Maybe it’s keeping a list of what’s important to you in life and looking at that to bring you back to reality. But again, remember that what is important to you in life might not be what’s important to family and friends. That’s okay – be selfish – your job as a human being is to balance your life, not theirs. And sleep. There is no balance ever without proper sleep. The chaos can’t end without sleep. Breathe deep.
5. Avoid perfectionism. I’m a perfectionist, are you?! It’s hard for perfectionists to not be perfectionists so stop telling them to just ‘get over it.’ To a perfectionist there is no accepting of anything wrong and the only achievable thing is beyond the best. Unfortunately, perfectionists generally lack confidence because as they are constantly disappointed with themselves, fueling their desire to do everything better than best with all the remnants of confidence within them. Stop. To avoid and combat perfectionism, start by setting achievable goals. Once you reach a goal, embrace it and don’t change it to something different. For example, if my goal is to come in the top 10 at a race, and I come in 4th place, to not say the word BUT. No, you achieved it and be satisfied with the achievement. BUT statements are the worst and will keep perfectionism at its best. Next, embrace your areas for improvement. Don’t think you have to paint this lovely perfect picture of yourself for others. We all have areas of improvement – own them. Be confident in the need for improvement. And finally, get comfortable with fear…accept the unknown. People lack confidence and stick with perfection by always doing what they do – Nothing changes if nothing changes. Right?! Take small steps into the unknown – close your eyes and do something adventurous – something that maybe you won’t be perfect at. See what happens and the level of confidence you have the potential to achieve!!
Building, expressing, and staying confident is by no means easy, nor something we can perfect. But, what we can do is try. Why choose a life of negativity full of insecurities mixed with a lack of adventure? Grab hold of your inner self and extract your self-confidence. It’s there. And use others for help! We can’t always do everything on our own. The final blog in this series will touch just on that – the power of the running community and just how much it can shape our goals and achievements. Watch for it. Cheers!
Blog author: Annie Weiss, MS RD; ultra-endurance athlete and dietitian living and training in Milwaukee, WI. She is a sponsored athlete/ambassador for LuLuLemon, Swiftwick Socks, AltraRunning, The OrangeMud, and Fluid Nutrition. Follow her training/racing on Twitter & Instagram: ani_weiss and Facebook: Ani Weiss.