Ever have an exciting opportunity pop up—like seeing someone you really want to go talk to or a job you want to apply for—and suddenly find yourself hesitating to make a move? You worry over what it means if things don’t work out as you hope. Maybe you talk yourself out of trying in the first place because you can’t miss a shot you don’t take. You’ve probably also had someone tell you, “You should have more confidence!” a time or two. If only it was that easy, right? Actually, it can be that easy. Because confidence is like a muscle. Today, I’ve got some simple practices that help exercise and strengthen it.
Please note: This is a contributed post, but all opinions are my own. View full disclosure policy.
Practice Viewing Opportunities From a Position of Abundance
Think about something that has value for you. It could be friends, money, a job, clients, and so on. You’re happy when you have it, right? But how do you feel about it when it’s gone? If you’re worried it’s all but impossible and would take a miracle for you to get more of what you had, you’re looking at things from a position of scarcity. Your focus is entirely on the opportunities or resources you lack. That kind of negative mindset saps a huge amount of confidence.
The key to shifting your perspective to a position of abundance is to remember you had those opportunities or resources once. You will have them again. Leave a note somewhere you’ll see it regularly or write it as an affirmation to repeat to yourself while meditating.
It might not seem like a big deal at first, but changing your perspective like this will massively improve your confidence and your resilience to setbacks. A scarcity mindset sees a setback—like an interested client deciding not to work with you—as a loss or a sign of personal failure. Abundance mindset says, “I wasn’t the right fit for them, but I am the right fit for others. They will find me.”
Give Yourself Credit
It shouldn’t surprise you that practicing gratitude made this list; it’s something I mention a lot. Just look at my posts on Gratitude Exercises for a More Positive Mindset This Fall and How to Create a Reward System to Stay Productive.
To build confidence in what you could do, it’s a good idea to step back and appreciate what you’ve done already. This can look like making a list of all the things you’ve done in the last month or year that you’re proud of. What’s something you do or have now that you previously thought was out of reach?
One coach I worked with told our group to make a timeline of our writing accomplishments, both large and small. That really helped me realize just how far I’ve come. It also made me appreciate the challenges I face now because I’m more prepared to face them today than I was even a year ago.
My go-to for giving myself a confidence boost is a little weird. I update my résumé. Even if I’m not planning to send it to someone, just polishing it up makes me feel extremely capable. There’s nothing like the feeling of having to select accomplishments and experiences to cut because you simply don’t have room for all your awesomeness to fit on one page!
Maintain Supportive Relationships
It’s great when you can look inward and find everything you need to feel sure of yourself. But sometimes, we need a little outside help. That’s why it’s so important who you choose to surround yourself with.
There are definitely people in my life I choose not to tell about a new idea or hobby I want to pursue—at least not until I’m already doing it and there’s no chance for them to talk me out of it. Why? Because they have a history of “just trying to be realistic,” by which I mean pointing out challenges they don’t think I’m equipped for.
But there are also some trusted individuals I do go to for advice when I’m nervous about trying something new. My friend Jessica Conoley at The Creative’s Apprentice calls people in that group part of my Creative Support Triangle.
There are many places you can look to build up your support network by learning to make good relationships that last, like Queen’s Mansion Academy. Finding a group program is a good alternative for those who don’t already have supportive people in their network.
Commit to Setting Boundaries
What happens when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to? Are you comfortable saying no? Do you stay firm on saying no, or do you cave out of guilt, a sense of obligation, or fear of a bad reaction?
When you say no, you establish a boundary. However, if you don’t stay firm on your boundaries, people will ignore them. It’s normal to meet some resistance when you set a boundary. What gives you the confidence to uphold that boundary is preparing to handle how others respond. In her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Nedra Glover Tawwab lists these common ways people respond when you share a boundary:
- Pushback (“I have things I need, too, but I’m not making you change.”)
- Limit Testing (“I don’t have to listen to you.”)
- Ignoring (doing what they want despite your boundary or acting as if it was misunderstood)
- Rationalizing and Questioning (“What’s the point of doing things differently now?”)
- Defensiveness (turning your request around by making a request of you, bringing up what you’ve done in the past as a point of reference for your request, etc.)
- Ghosting (refusing to communicate, canceling plans)
- Acceptance (the healthy, functional response)
Her book goes through additional examples, as well as scripts you can practice to get more comfortable with upholding your boundaries. It’s important to learn how to say no so situations don’t escalate and you aren’t left feeling like your needs and desires are constantly disregarded.
Show Yourself Compassion
When something goes wrong, it’s easy to be unkind and blame yourself. The mean voice in your head bent on sabotaging your happiness might point out all your flaws and mistakes, or call you names.
When that happens, take a deep breath. Give that voice a name because it isn’t you. Notice whatever negative thoughts it makes you have, then let them go. Praise yourself for trying, forgive yourself for any mistakes, and focus on what you can learn from the experience or how you can take action to bounce back from it.
With dedicated practice, you can make this more instinctive behavior. When you stop being so harsh with yourself and look for opportunities to learn and grow, you’ll have a more positive mindset overall.
Show Confidence on the Outside
One of the most basic things you can do to feel more confident is to put effort into your appearance. There’s no one look to aim for here. When you visualize the version of you that achieves every goal you set and is living your best life, what does that version of you look like? For some, it might just be a matter of dressing up (or down) a certain way. Others might have a vision that incorporates achieving a specific level of fitness.
The important thing is to aim for whatever makes you feel best. It might not even make sense to everyone else! Plenty of people have clothing and accessories they consider lucky charms. Find what works for you and use it.
At the same time, you can practice mimicking power poses to make your body language work for you. To the best of your physical ability, keep your posture upright with your shoulders relaxed and chest open. Lift your chin up. Get comfortable leaving your arms and legs uncrossed (positions that read as defensive and insecure).
Win Mini Challenges Every Week
Try setting a few small challenges for yourself every week and achieving them. Maybe you want to write 1,000 words in your novel manuscript by the end of the week, or you want to try being physically active for 10 minutes every day for seven days.
Each challenge might feel small and easily accomplished, but that’s not the part your brain focuses on. Your brain focuses just on the feeling of victory. Every small win proves you can do what you set your mind to.
Then, once it’s time to face down bigger challenges, your brain is ready. You have a history of success, so you have confidence that you’ll continue to succeed.
Final Thoughts on Confidence
The more intentional practice you put into being more confident, the more instinctive it becomes. You have control over your thoughts. Your thoughts are what shape your reality. So you can look at all the universe has to offer as terrifying and too much for you to handle. Or you can look at it all as a bounty of infinite possibilities just for you.