Happiness. How can some people be blissfully happy, while others like me spend all of our time on a seemly endless treadmill as if were running our whole lives and can’t quite seem to grasp the carrot at the end of the rope? In all honestly, I used to be extremely jealous of people who were happy. Yeah, I know I seem cynical, but honestly, for years I was playing a game saying that if I played by the “rules,” then one day, I’d be happy.
If they weren’t playing by the same constrictive “rules” that I was playing by, then how could they be happy, and what was their secret?
What were these “rules” I was playing by? Basically, what society tells all of us that we need in order to be confident or happy. That I needed to be charismatic, smart, charming, skinny, pretty, well-spoken, polished, successful, get a prestigious career, drive a nice car, and for the cherry on top- be in a relationship. Help! Some days I can barely remember where I put my car keys- let alone be all of these things on this list at once :,)
And I would see people who weren’t playing by “the rules,” who maybe didn’t have everything on my “checklist of stuff that successful people do,” yet they seemed… happy. What? That’s not fair. Really. I spend all my time and energy trying to measure up to these “rules” so that I can feel good about myself. How can they be happy? And more importantly, what is their secret?
So, I went on a quest and found (drumroll please….) the secret to self-confidence! (Really.) But before I tell you the oh-so-coveted secret…
Can you relate to this?
It may feel like no matter how good of a person you are, how nice you are to your friends, how successful you are in your career, the happiness you seek just isn’t there.
Yeah, I felt like this. It was making me hate myself. And I couldn’t live with my brain anymore- I was sick of getting beat up by my harshest critic, me.
So here goes, here is the secret to self-confidence.
(hint- you’re already awesome and I’m going to tell you why.)
The secret to self-confidence lies in changing the way you think about yourself, in reframing the way you see yourself and talk to yourself in your own head. And I’m going to break that down for you into actionable steps:
Before we start; a brief background on self-confidence:
In our culture, we think that success = confidence.
We think that if we are successful, then we can allow ourselves to be happy about our achievements. And therefore, we can then allow ourselves to have self-confidence.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, I’ve found in my own life, the more success I had, the less confident I felt.
This is why:
I would feel like I had to keep stacking my list of accomplishments with bigger and bigger things, just to feel that same sense of joy that I once felt from accomplishing small things.
Getting an A on an exam? Yeah, maybe that would have helped 10 years ago in middle school, but for me to even be happy for a small amount of time, I had to achieve something massive, like landing a new job or creating a business.
It’s simply “the law of diminishing returns,” where small accomplishments stopped giving my brain the same sense of reward, so I had to seek bigger and bigger accomplishments to get the same sense of happiness and satisfaction.
The only problem is: when I wasn’t accomplishing big things, I felt awful about myself, and even when I did accomplish something good, I only congratulated myself for about a day until I went back to my same sense of low self confidence.
I had it all wrong. And like almost everyone else, I was seeking happiness in a place that ended up causing me great pain.
Because no matter how much we try to build our self-confidence from outer things, we won’t feel that sense of happiness and self-fulfillment until we actually learn how to have a confident mindset.
Confidence is an inner game- and anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea what they are talking about.
In order to be confident, you need to create a confident mindset.
And by a confident mindset, I mean a mindset that supports you and makes you feel like a winner- whether you are accomplishing a big career goal or chilling outside by the pool with friends. No matter if you are hustling to achieve your goals or simply allowing yourself time to relax, confidence stems from a mindset that helps you see your value and worth in all situations.
So how do I create a confident mindset?
1. You need to talk to yourself the same way you would want your best friend or an employer to talk to you.
Basically, start talking to yourself in a kind way. Think of it this way: if you had a boss who always talked to you the way you talk to you: (i.e. you’ll never accomplish anything great, everyone thinks you’re dumb, why are you even trying if you are just going to fail), how long would you still be working for that person? Exactly. You would quit as soon as possible.
So stop talking to yourself in the same tone of voice that would make you speak to HR and file a complaint if anyone in real life started talking that way to you.
Honestly, most of the thoughts I used to think, I wouldn’t even say those things to my worse enemies.
And that’s why my brain hated me. Because I used to bully it, without even giving it any reward for doing a good job.
Which brings me to my second point:
2. You must reward yourself for the good things you do.
After you’ve stopped beating yourself up inside your head, you must begin to replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.
The best way to do this is to start noticing all the good you do and actively congratulating yourself for them.
Like, really taking the time to notice all the good things about yourself and replay those over and over in your head. Your brain will start to release tons of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and your self-confidence will skyrocket fast.
The best way to do this is:
A. Celebrate the small victories.
Did you do a great job with your presentation today? Did you go to the gym? Did you talk kindly to someone even though you wanted to throw a brick at them?
You better play that up and start celebrating it, because that is the stuff of champions, my friend!
It’s as simple as this:
Start talking to yourself how you would want your dream employer to talk to you. You did a great job on the presentation, right? Well any good boss would talk to you afterwards and say, “Awesome job with the presentation today! Keep up the good work!” So begin saying that to yourself.
Say, “self, you did a rockin’ job! I know you were worried about giving that presentation today, but you went in there and gave it your best, and it was awesome! You did a great job preparing the material and you gave it your all in that conference room. Way to go!!”
(This might seem hard to do at first or even silly when you first start, but trust me, once you start talking to your mind like this, you’ll find that your self-confidence will soar through the roof.)
B. Be kind to yourself if things don’t go right
We are all human, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. If you make a mistake, learn from it but you don’t have to keep beating yourself up.
In fact, more important than congratulating yourself when things go right is being kind to yourself when things go wrong.
If you make a mistake, it’s really ok. We are all human, and this hiccup does not- in any way!- affect your worth as a person. Laugh about it and move on.
Once you start to think thoughts about yourself that are more supportive, you’ll start to see a big difference in how you feel about yourself. <3