Confidence. It’s such a big, powerful concept and informs so many of our decisions. Some of us seem to be born with it, and some of us work hard to achieve it. It also means very different things for all of us, depending on what we’re focused on in a given moment. But it’s that voice in the back of our minds following us wherever we go, either filling us up, or tearing us down before we even begin…

Growing up, I always felt very confident in art, and no so confident in math. I was fearless when I worked on a painting project, unafraid of trying new things or making mistakes. I was well aware that my “mistakes” often led to pieces I was ultimately very proud of. The opposite was true for me in math. I carried such negative feelings with me. I was terrified to make yet another mistake. That little voice in my head was constantly telling me, “This is too hard… I’m going to mess it up!” that even when I got help, I couldn’t focus, and my negative perceptions constantly clouded my assessment of my own capabilities.

When I get into conversation with people about their wardrobes, I hear confidence (or lack of confidence) statements come up within the first couple breaths. “I can’t pull that off,” or “That’ll never work for me,” can be such a harmful way of looking at your closet. It’s one thing to try different styles and learn what works for your figure, and quite another to refuse to try something on because you’re afraid of how bad it might look. In my retail career, I found that most of my conversations with men and women while I helped them shop became more of a chat about confidence than about clothing style.

Although I have always seen myself as a confident person in many areas, sometimes I’m blindsided by my own insecurities. Will I be good enough? Can I really do this? What if I mess it all up? None of us are immune to these feelings, but having a growth mindset is all in how we confront a momentary lack of confidence when it comes up in our lives.

Here are five of my favorite tips for finding confidence, even when you’re unsure of how things will go in your life.

  1. Stay true to you. Every time I set out to do something, whether it’s trying a new fashion trend, taking on a big presentation at work, or having a tough conversation, I find that I feel more confident when I listen to my gut. If you get into the habit of always doing things to please others, or rather to not disappoint others, often you’re the one who’s missing out. No matter what you’re doing, listen to that little voice within yourself. When you take to do this, you’ll quickly realize what’s important to you. Sometimes this means asking for help. Sometimes this means saying no where you may have said yes in the past. Either way when you listen to your gut you’re better able to focus your energy on what’s important and let go of the things that are holding you back.
  2. Give yourself a little high-5. Not to sound totally cool or anything, but when I finish a tough task, meet a little goal, or make progress on something, I often give myself a high-5. Yep. Literally. I slap my hands together in celebration and say something awesome like, “You did it!” Partially this is because I live alone and when I want that pat on the back, Ruby’s purring doesn’t always do the trick. But it’s bigger than that. As women we can be so incredibly hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves towards unattainable perfection. It’s exhausting! It’s important to get satisfaction and recognition not only from others, but from ourselves. There are many ways to do this. Give yourself a compliment, recite personal affirmations, treat yourself in some small way. For me, it’s the personal high-5. Works every time.
  3. Try new things, even if they scare you. Usually when we feel fear in trying something new, it is because it’s the first time we’ve tried something and we’re not sure how we’ll do. I give a lot of big presentations for work and although I teach a classroom of second graders all day, I felt huge nerves thinking about standing in front of my colleagues and teaching them about instructional strategies for the first time. It was an important step in my career, and since that first time I’ve had the great opportunity to lead many more workshops and training sessions. I couldn’t say that, had I not “felt the fear and done it anyway” on that first go ’round. If something is important enough, push on, have faith that things will go your way. Remember there’s a reason you’ve been given an opportunity. If you envision things going well, I find, they often will. And if they don’t…
  4. Remember, life isn’t all or nothing. There’s this great saying that goes something like, “Perfection is the enemy of the good.” I’m such a project person, and this sticks with me often when I’m feeling frustration while working on something. As my sweet boyfriend reminds me, I am constantly coming up with new things to work on, my “projects”, and I hold myself to a ridiculously high standard while working on them. This leads to stress and at times breaks my confidence. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m working on improving my personal finances. This can be a treacherous process. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing a great job and meeting my mini goals, and sometimes I get stuck in that mid-set of thinking I made a mistake (oh no!) and it’s hard to push on. In these moments, I regain my confidence quicker when I stop and take time to remember that I don’t have to be perfect to be making progress. One little slip-up does not negate all of the progress that you’ve made while working toward a goal. Give yourself that little high-5 for the progress you’ve made, remember the hard work you’ve done so far, and make a plan for getting back on track without the stress of over-shaming a misstep.
  5. Find the lesson. When things aren’t go your way, and let’s face it sometimes they don’t, it’s important to look for the lesson that can be learned from an experience. I always remind my students, friends, and myself that the first time you try something is undoubtedly the hardest, but as you build skills it begins to feel easier. There’s this great saying in teaching that’s always been one of my favorites, “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better at it.” I think that’s so true and applicable in so many areas of our lives. It’s okay to try new things. It’s going to be messy. You’re not going to be perfect. That should be expected, and it’s okay. Take time to reflect on your discomfort with the outcome and find the lesson that can be learned. That way you can take what you’ve learned and make the next time even better. When you know better, you do better.
This photo originally came from this post, detailing the outfit I wore to be on (gasp!) TV.