Confidence is something we all want, yet few seem to possess. I can remember being 13 years old and lacking the confidence to pursue my own path in my close-knit, Sicilian-American family. I was torn between trying out new things as a way to learn about myself and my place in the world, and trying to conform so I would be loved and accepted. Needless to say, I suffered from low self-esteem.
We all go through times when we wish that the people closest to us—our family and friends, colleagues and coworkers, teachers and spiritual mentors—would support us regardless of what crazy thing they think we’re up to. When we don’t get their support or if they’re quick to criticize, we end up feeling crushed.
If I could go back in time, there are a few things I would tell my teenage self to bolster my self-confidence, starting with: You are truly the only person who knows what is right for you.
Developing confidence is similar to developing a muscle or a skill. It takes training and persistence. It’s easier than you think—trust me—you just need time and patience. Start with these three simple things:
1. Don’t let anyone’s words dictate how you feel about yourself. As Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” People are always trying to tell us what to do, how to feel, and whether we are “right” or “wrong.” They may not mean any harm by doing so, but the bottom line is that you don’t have to listen to or follow what anyone else has to say.
2. Treat yourself with compassion. I know it’s hard because our first instinct is to gravitate to what’s negative in our lives and in ourselves. When something goes wrong or you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, look objectively and unemotionally at the situation and find something you can learn from it or do differently in the future. That’s it. No judgment. Remember, we only grow from situations that challenge us.
We are conditioned to focus on the negative. One helpful way to turn negative thoughts into positives ones is to keep a journal of good things. Start by writing one to five things you are grateful or happy for in a gratitude journal every day. Then move on to writing about positive things in your life that are only there because you helped make them happen. We tend to easily forget how our contributions make a difference. Try this for seven days, and let me know if you begin to rewire those negative thoughts.
3. When all else fails, remember this mantra: You are not welcome to walk all over me. No one is. I know it takes courage to stand up for yourself and to set boundaries. But when you do, I promise your confidence will begin to turn around. If you’re not loving yourself and treating yourself with compassion and kindness, how can you expect others to do so?