Confidence is the belief that you can take life’s challenges head on — and succeed. It requires having trust in yourself and your abilities, especially based on your past experience.
But confidence can be hard to develop if you struggle with anxiety, like I sometimes do. I started my psychotherapy practice to help clients with similar struggles cope and build self-esteem.
Luckily, there are several little things you can do to feel — and look — more sure of yourself. Here are the three exercises I use every day to be a lot more confident:
1. Break big goals into bite-sized pieces
This gives you a clear game plan of how you’ll achieve your goal. And each time you finish a small goal, you get an increased boost of motivation.
I recently committed to a 60-day fitness challenge. It was hard at first because I was so focused on exercising for 60 days in a row that before I had even finished one workout, I was already dreading the next one. I lost confidence in my discipline and physical abilities.
So I took a step back and shifted my mindset into focusing on things one day at a time. I began to celebrate each day I worked out for itself, rather than celebrating it as one of 60.
Focusing on each individual step along the way to my big goal made me feel proud and confident, making it easier to complete the entire program.
2. Look at the evidence
I have a voice in my head that I call my “inner mean girl.” She often appears when I’m overwhelmed.
For example, if I have a deadline looming, that voice might start to say things like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You can’t even get your slides in on time. You should just quit.”
That’s when I stop and ask myself, “What is the evidence that I am a failure? This company hired me to speak based on my successful track record. I have two master’s degrees and a state-issued license confirming that I know what I’m talking about.”
By the time I’ve looked at all of the objective evidence of my worthiness, I’ve calmed down and am able to think and act more confidently.
I’ll tell myself: “I know this topic well. I am having trouble getting started, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do this. I’ll start by getting some ideas down on paper.”
3. Ask my friends and family what they think
This one might sound terrifying, but the people who choose to be in your life do love and care about you — flaws and all.
Often, they see strengths in us that we can’t. I once found myself conflicted between whether or not to accept a job offer. I wasn’t sure if I would be good at the position. So I asked a few trusted friends to tell me what they thought my strengths were. Their answers were both surprising and validating.
Hearing similar themes from multiple people who have seen me in different environments helped me focus on my strengths and whether or not the position would align. Eventually, I shut down the “inner mean girl” that was telling me: “You’re not good enough for this opportunity.”
Jenny Maenpaa, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and founder of Forward in Heels, an intersectional feminist group therapy practice in New York City that empowers all women to stand tall and own their worth.