The introvert/extrovert binary is one of pop psychology’s biggest money-makers right now, and it’s easy to see why. For those of us who struggle with the outgoing expressiveness required of job interviews or parties, it can be comforting to read an article which assures us, no, there’s nothing wrong with you: you’re just wired that way.
An increased acceptance of introverted personalities is wonderful, but it’s important to remember that a lack of self-confidence is not a healthy personality trait. And it shouldn’t be dismissed with a hand-wave of “I’m just introverted.”
Self-confidence is, in fact, a crucial life-skill—and like any skill, it requires cultivation and practice. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few simple steps you can take in your daily life to become happier, healthier, and more comfortable in your own skin.
1. Remember to Step Back
Confidence consists of two things at once: Your perception of yourself and your belief of how you are perceived by others.
As a result, it can be easy to confuse the two, mistaking your own negative thoughts for reality, or attributing unnecessary weight to the opinion of someone who has no real significance to you.
If you lack confidence, always remember two things:
You are fundamentally incapable of being an impartial judge when it comes to evaluating your own self-worth. When it arises, self-doubt needs to be recognized for what it is, and treated with a grain of salt.
The number of people who have any real influence on your life beyond what you grant them is miniscule. This means 99.9% of the time, someone’s opinion about you (good or bad) does not matter.
Any time you have an attack of low confidence, step back and ask yourself: who is judging me right now? Does their opinion carry any weight? Will it affect my life in any way? If not: push it out of your mind, and move on with your day.
2. Get a Haircut
There’s a reason the phrase “bad hair day” looms so large in our cultural lexicon: hair influences image. It may sound superficial, but trust us: having a haircut you like is one of the simplest ways to feel confident in yourself—and having one you hate is a surefire way to feel crappy every time you walk past a reflective surface.
3. Dress Well
They say “the clothes make the man,” but gender’s got nothing to do with it. Studies show that the clothes we wear affect both others’ perception of us, as well as our perception of ourselves. Dressing poorly is a crippling blow to self-confidence. Dressing well is a tremendous boon.
You’re an adult now. It’s time to grow up. Go shopping. Buy clothes that the confident, grown-up version of you would wear, and then wear them.
4. Get More Sleep
Lack of sleep is tied to a host of physical and mental health issues. No surprise, then, that it also leads to lower self-esteem. Take the advice of every self-help article under the sun: get better sleep, consistently, on a dependable schedule.
5. Eat Better
Like sleep, what we eat affects us in many ways, including energy level and mood. Self-confidence is also uniquely impacted by diet in another way: self-confidence is tied to body-image, and body-image is tied to health and lifestyle.
The advice here is simple, even if it sounds like something off a granola package: Eat better, and you will feel better.
6. Exercise, Even Just a Little
The mood-altering benefits of exercise are well-documented. Even something as small as a half-hour of walking releases a flood of feel-good chemicals into the brain that make you look and feel like a stronger, more confident person.
If you want to feel better about yourself and project that feeling in a way that others can see, exercise at least a little every day, even if it’s only just a walk around the block.
7. Stop Depricating Yourself
Having a sense of humor about yourself is healthy; even a little self-deprecation has its benefits. But there are also drawbacks to putting yourself down constantly, even jokingly—and there’s a thin line between good-willed self-deprecation and using humor as a socially-acceptable way of indulging in self-loathing.
The thing is, self-deprecation is just like any other addiction: it’s both cause and effect, and you don’t know you’re addicted to it until after it’s ruined your life. That means in eliminating this behavior from your habits, you should embrace the tools of addiction recovery, most prominently the use of self-affirming language.
Don’t call yourself stupid when what you mean is, “I made a mistake.”
Don’t call yourself fat when what you mean is, “I would like to weigh less.”
There’s a reason former alcoholics avoid words like “drunk” to describe themselves, and it’s not some wishy-washy sense of political correctness. It’s because dipping even one toe into the pool of indulgent self-hatred is a great way to fall right back in.
8. Eliminate External Negativity
Similarly, it’s important to recognize external forces that exert a negative pressure on your self-esteem. If someone or something is dragging you down on a daily basis, that’s not okay, and it’s not something you have to just accept. Take steps to remove it from your life.
9. Figure Out Your Power Areas
More important than the things dragging you down are those which build you up. What things are you confident about? What things do you feel proud of? In execu-speak, these are referred to as “core competencies.” They’re the warm, golden center around which a business or a person builds a sincere identity.
Identify your strengths, seek ways to expand their presence in your life, and ride the positive energy they bring you.
10. Know Your Stuff
The best way to become confident as a person is to start by practicing confidence in one specific area—and the best way to do that is to be an expert on it. Educate yourself. Work hard. Grow and get better. Find the thing you’re good at, polish it to a mirror-shine, then melt it down and forge it into a weapon.
11. Confidence Has To Be Sincere
A common piece of pseudo-wisdom you’ll often come across in fluffy pieces is “fake it ‘til you make it”—because it’s pithy and lazy and it rhymes—but when it comes to self-confidence, that’s terrible advice.
Despite what hack web writers would have you believe, confidence doesn’t consist merely of making certain gestures or facial expressions or anything else that can be learned through mimicry, like an alien studying to pass The Human Test.
Confidence is a confluence of emotions and mirrored perceptions: you, perceiving others, perceiving you. To achieve confidence, you need to screw your head on straight, get negative influences out of the way, identify what makes you feel strong, and move toward it.