5 Ways to Gain Genuine Self-Confidence
A huge thanks to the wonderful team that is Athleta for sponsoring this blog post, and for empowering women through their #PowerOfShe movement that inspires women every day to be confident in themselves and their worth.
The concept of confidence was demonstrated and told to me in so many different ways while growing up. Particularly in my formative years, while struggling to transition out of an athletic career that was all I had known my whole life, knowing who I was outside of the bravado of competitive skating was a completely disruptive experience.
All I desperately wanted was to feel confident and comfortable in my own skin, so I started chasing after what I had been told what confidence truly meant:
"True confidence is walking into a room and not having to compare yourself to anyone."
"True confidence is knowing that you're the best in the room."
"Confidence is quiet."
"Confidence isn't afraid to speak up and roar."
"Confidence is not caring what anyone else thinks."
"When it comes to confidence, fake it 'til you make it."
Here's the thing though: none of that worked for me.
All that those little cookie-cutter definitions of confidence that I tried to embody gave me was a fleeting, false sense of confidence in myself; the kind that was quickly able to be shattered by a simple cruel comment, negative feedback, unreciprocated feelings, and anytime I felt like I didn't "fit in."
When it comes to genuine, true self-confidence, you want that foundation to be real. You want that foundation to be solid-- something to fall back on when life hands you a less than pleasant hand or when we get knocked down. Because true self-confidence for me? It's about being able to own your power and reality, exercise resilience, and to stand all on your own.
But how do we get there?
I certainly didn't think I had it in me. The thought of speaking to my best friends, let alone publicly on a panel, about things like my eating disorder and struggles with depression made my stomach do things only seen in Cirque du Soleil. The idea that I could ever posting photos of my body in swimwear or activewear with no cover up for thousands of people to see? Ha what a joke! After all, I barely felt comfortable staring at my own reflection in the mirror and I winced at seeing photos of myself.
I'm proud of how far I've come and how much work I continually do to feel at ease with and confident in myself-- and I've realized (that for me, at least) that it has nothing to do with a certain attitude, affirmations (not denying the power of language!), or faking anything.
After reflecting on what helps root my self-confidence now, I narrowed it down to these 5 specific habits that I've established over the years to help me gain genuine self-confidence-- and I hope these help you!
1. Get off your crutches.
Stop relying on all your crutches you use everyday. Heavy makeup you don't even like, Spanx, wearing your hair down, bangs, social lubricant aka alcohol, the need for a new outfit every day, and yes, even the number of likes on your Instagram.
When you place your sources of validation or worth in external factors like your appearance, coming off a certain way, or what people think of you, you simply give your power away. These "crutches" are little things we lean on to make ourselves feel worthy sometimes-- and I'm in no way invalidating the awesome power of a little red lip or your favorite LBD, because those are awesome too. But they're only awesome if they're added bonuses and not necessities.
2. Get intimate.
Get intimate with all of you: the things you don't love about yourself, the things you think other people won't love about you, the things you're embarrassed to admit, and the things you are in denial about. Instead of sprinting away like Usain Bolt at the approach of those feelings and thoughts, pull up a little chair for those things and let them hang out with you for awhile. Get to know them and stare at them in the eye. The little monsters aren't usually so scary when you get to know them. And if they are? Guess what, you sat next to them and you're still here and working through it. That's all you gotta do.
3. Get physical.
I don't think I even need to explain the immense mental benefits that come with building and experiencing a strong body, and just exerting it every day through exercise. It has nothing to do with physique or what percent of body fat is hanging out on you-- it's about the amazing thrill you feel when you think you're about to collapse but your body keeps hanging onto that yoga pose a little longer. It's about that exhilarating burn in your lungs from running through your favorite park. It's about playing like a little kid, hiking on mountaintops, and seeing the world.
The mind is truly a muscle (human brains are literally canvases to be continually wired each day depending on our input), and exercise is one of the best ways to reinforce that resilient, growth-oriented mentality.
4. Get rid of stuff that doesn't fit.
While this most definitely applies to things like friendships you've outgrown, work that doesn't grow you, relationships that don't evolve you, I am actually talking about clothes!!
How many of us have hung onto the pants that fit 10lb ago in expectations that we will once again wiggle (more like lay down on our bed) into? Every time it doesn't fit, you are basically reinforcing to yourself that you failed. Failed some sort of strange little standard that you somehow assigned some sort of happiness value to... and for what?
Get new pants.
5. Get out there.
We always seem to wait for "the right time" or until we are ready-- to start working out, to start eating well, to date, to love, to commit, to get out of our comfort zones.
No one is really ready for anything. And even if you are? Chances are, the situation will be different than you anticipate it to be. So just dive in. Get comfortable with the discomfort of novelty and unfamiliar environments.