6 Steps to Lasting Confidence
You know that thing where you ask people to describe someone in three words? Well, I guarantee if you ask just anyone in my life, one of those three words would be confident. Apparently that is what people associate with me.
Now, I exist in my own brain, so for a while it perplexed me that this seemed to be a constant personality trait people saw. I knew when I was nervous, faced doubt, or was overly concerned with my shortcomings. I wasn’t always confident, but I was always seen as such.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought about this a lot. Not only because I wanted to know why people saw me as such, but to be able to respond to the inevitable, “I wish I was as confident as you.” There is a certain sadness behind the eye’s of the people who say this to me that I desperately want to help go away. So, after quite a lot of introspection, I think I have an answer, or at least some answers, to achieving real and lasting confidence.
1. Be honest about yourself
Confidence doesn’t mean thinking you’re the best at everything. It’s important to be aware of areas in which you can grow. There will be some things in which you may never excel. Be willing to challenge yourself, but still accept who you are today. Also, a willingness to not be the best at everything allows you to find joy instead of jealousy in other people’s success. Feelings of inadequacy will leave as you become truly confident. You will realize one persons achievements are not a threat to your own.
The sibling of vanity is self deprecation. Humility has often been misinterpreted as putting one’s self down. Lets say you are a gifted artist. You have years of training and have had many pieces featured at notable art galleries. If someone says, “Wow, you’re a really talented painter,” the “humble” response is to say, “No, I’m really not.” But guess what? That’s not humility. You’re just lying. Saying, “Thank you! I really put in a lot of practice, and I’m pleased with my work,” is not bragging. It’s honest. Humility is about being able to still learn, accept criticism, and not boast of your strengths.
The opposite of both vanity is self deprecation is a loss of self. In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis wrote,
“[T]housands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible.
[God] wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy…to restore to them a new kind of self-love – a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours…
His whole effort, therefore, will be to get the man’s mind off the subject of his own value altogether. He would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one.”
2. Don’t avoid failure or rejection
Confidence does not come to the person who hears an endless barrage of yes’s in their life, but rather the person who knows they can weather the no’s. Avoiding difficult situations cannot build your confidence. While it may seem scary to put your self in places you may not succeed, you will learn infinitely more about yourself than if you never try at all.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” – J.K. Rowling
3. Maintain your spiritual health
Much of my confidence is rooted in the fact that I have a good relationship with my Heavenly Father. People often ask the question, “If you were to meet God tomorrow, what would you do differently?”
Don’t get me wrong. I do not think that I’m perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But God knows where I am. He knows my weaknesses, as do I. I constantly turn to Him to seek help in overcoming my own shortcomings. Daily honest prayer has helped me get to a place of introspection within myself, and honesty with the divine.
When you are right before God, you find a peace that gives you confidence in all your doings.
4. Stop associating your appearance with your value
I love all the body positive push that is happening right now, but here’s the thing; it’s only a step. In the end, you have to move to not thinking about your looks. At the end of the day, they really contribute absolutely nothing to who you are as a person.
Now, I’m sure part of whoever is reading this may be thinking, “Easy for you to say. You’re 6 feet tall and beautiful.” Yes, I am. But my life has not been free of body issues. I had an eating disorder for years, and even before that I had issues living within my own skin.
When I was a child, all I ever heard was, “She’s so beautiful!” I can hear you through that computer screen saying, “Oh, how difficult for you.” But I hated it. Nine year-old me didn’t understand why it was a compliment or even something to be commented upon. I wanted to be the smartest or the fastest. Something that reflected what I had achieved. As I got older, I began to feel like if I didn’t maintain a certain standard of attractiveness, I would loose value. After all, that is all anyone seemed to care about.
As I’ve worked through my own problems, I found the answer was not to take a selfie with #IAmBeautiful (not to knock a good selfie), but rather just stop focusing on my appearance. Now, this isn’t to say I never wear makeup or exercise, but I simply refuse to let what I look like be the dominating thought in my mind. As it should not be in yours either.
I have two quotes for you on my personal philosophy on how to heal the way we think about out appearance.
“We need to raise girls to see bodies as tools for mastering our environment.”
“If you’re using half your concentration to look normal, then you’re only half paying attention to whatever else you’re doing. You want society to accept you, but you can’t even accept yourself.”
I don’t know if you’re beautiful, so I’m not going to tell you you are. But I will tell you that it 100% does not matter if you look like a Italian model or a dumpy babushka. You are remarkable, and that is of infinite more value.
Bonus points to whoever guesses where the quotes are from.
5. Befriend vulnerability
This may be a terrifying though to some people, but frequents acts of venerability can often teach us about compassion and honesty.
I live a life where most of the world knows most of my business. Now I’m not saying you all need to start a blog where you write about the personal details of your life, but there is something cleansing about not living behind a false facade. People are not perfect, although we would like to maintain that appearance to others.
President Deiter F. Uchtdorf taught, “The Savior was understanding and compassionate with sinners whose hearts were humble and sincere. But He rose up in righteous anger against hypocrites like the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees—those who tried to appear righteous in order to win the praise, influence, and wealth of the world, all the while oppressing the people they should have been blessing. The Savior compared them to ‘whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.’”
There is no need for us to fear venerability, fear others knowing that we are not perfect. Not only will you feel more confidence around others when you live an honest life, they will feel more confident around you. When we are venerable, others feel safe around us. They feel that they are allowed to be honest, too.
6. Buy a pair of killer heels
“Rebecca! Why do you wear such tall shoes? You’re already six feet tall!”
Because when you rock a pair of five inch stilettos and treat the ground like it’s your own personal catwalk, you will feel like you can conquer the world.
And don’t give me any of that, “I can’t pull them off!” YES YOU CAN. “I don’t know how to walk in them!” LEARN.
Ok, this last one is a bit of a joke, obviously. What I said in #4 trumps this. But the serious part of me that says rock those pumps, doesn’t associate it with appearance. There is something about being physically lifted up that seems to lift you up emotionally. Also, last I checked…
BEYONCE DOESN’T WEAR FLATS.
(Ok she probably does, you know what I mean.)
Real confidence takes time to build. It requires patience with yourself and others. But with genuine confidence comes bravery, a greater capacity to love, and a sense of optimism that will carry you through the challenges of life. It is worth the effort, and I encourage all of you in your efforts to get there.