“How do I build self-confidence?”
This is one of the most common questions I would get when I used to run my teen girls empowerment groups.
Now, as a life coach to grown women, I still get that question.
I remember being a teenager and really struggling with confidence and self-love.
Being a teen is hard, there’s no question.
Struggling to find “true” friends
Struggling to feel acceptance, support, love, and connection.
Struggling with body image.
Struggling with identity.
The list goes on and on.
As adults we find ourselves still asking those same questions, often from a place of secrecy and shame that we haven't figured it out yet.
We expect and accept it from teens as a rite of passage.
As adults we’re embarrassed that we still grapple with it.
Then we find ourselves mothers and/or mentors to young women and teen girls we feel ashamed that we don’t have all the answers and therefore can’t guide them better.
So we make shit up.
When girls ask us how to feel better, how to have more self-confidence, and how to love themselves we tell them what we *think* should be the answer, but deep down know that we are as lost as they are.
I know because I used to do the same thing.
Girls would ask me how to build self-confidence and I would read them the riot act about how they shouldn’t care what other people think and they should just stand proud in their truth, meanwhile I actually had no idea if that was the right answer.
What did that even mean, exactly? To “stand in your truth”...??
I thought long and hard about how I’d built self-confidence in my own life.
I’m a very confident woman.
But I wasn’t always this way.
I, too, was once a teenage girl after all.
So how did my confidence grow?
How did I evolve to become a woman who believes she can do whatever she sets her mind to?
Three words: I built self-trust.
Here’s an example
I failed miserably out of high school.
And then proceeded to do the same for two solid years in community college.
I would enroll, drop out. Enroll, drop out. Enroll, drop out.
Start. Stop. Start. Stop.
Begin. Fail. Begin. Fail.
What was happening each time was I was LEARNING:
I was learning how the system works.
I was learning how my mind responds (by default) to it.
And I was learning to then intentionally MANAGE MY MIND to get to my goal of graduating from a four-year university.
Yet, I couldn’t even make it through one semester of Algebra 1 in community college.
So how did I manage my mind to achieve that goal?
I never let giving up be an option.
There was no alternative.
I had a lot to learn.
A lot to overcome.
But quitting was not on the table, ever.
So I would drop out and then re-enroll the next semester.
Over and over.
But the point is that I kept coming back.
And each time I came back, I got a little stronger.
A little more confident.
Because I KNEW, without a doubt, that one day I would make it.
No matter how hard and uncomfortable I got.
I did, after six years of community college, transfer to a four-year university-- UC Berkeley, nonetheless-- and graduated magna cum laude.
I went on to get a Master’s degree from Stanford.
If you think I’m bragging, you’re right.
And I’m not apologizing.
When I became a life coach I learned that what I had experienced in college has a name coined by Dan Sullivan: The River of Misery.
The River of Misery has four distinguishing parts, each one the prerequisite for the next:
First comes the commitment: I’m going to go to college!
Then shit gets real.
So then sets in the doubt: Maybe I can’t do this.
This is where, if success is to be had, courage must come into play.
Courage to be extremely uncomfortable and do it anyway: “I’m not capable... I’m embarrassed at how behind I am... I can’t do this... I’m so overwhelmed.”
It’s important to note that having courage is not being fearless.
It is the opposite.
It is feeling fear and doing it anyway.
THAT is courage.
And that is what most people are unwilling to do-- feel fear and proceed anyway.
That is uber uncomfortable.
So they stop.
And they never achieve their goal.
For those of us who don’t stop, who feel the fear and do it anyway-- that is where capability is born.
We fail, get up, and do it again.
We practice until we get it right.
Until we become capable.
We learn to trust ourselves.
We learn that we can do ANYTHING because the worst that can happen is a feeling, and we know we can handle it by feeling it and proceeding anyway.
The more you practice feeling fear and doing it anyway the more capable you will become.
And capability is the last stop before confidence.
That, my friends, is how confidence is built.
By committing to a goal, hauling ass through the fear (courage), developing your capability, and feeling the confidence that follows.
These steps work with anything-- college, marathons, weight loss, career goals.
How to Build Your Confidence in 5 Steps
Set a goal for yourself.
Maybe you want to start exercising regularly, get a promotion at work, start your own business, run a marathon, or stop overeating or over-drinking.
Choose a goal that would impact your life substantially-- you deserve it.
Find Your Why
Ask yourself why you want to achieve this goal.
What would be different in your life if you achieved it?
How would your relationships be different?
How would you feel different?
Write it down!
Now ask yourself, what is at stake if you don’t achieve this goal?
How will your life be impacted if you don’t do this?
Again, get pen to paper.
Get serious here. Don’t waste your own damn time.
Look at your why from above and decide to commit to this goal no matter what.
No. Matter. What is crucial here because when shit gets real (the courage part of the river of misery) you’re evolved brain will get overridden by your toddler brain (also known as your lizard/primitive brain) and all bets are off-- the toddler brain wins everytime.
Make a plan to achieve your goal. If you need help figuring out how to get started, google that shit.
While you are drafting up your plan you’ll need to also anticipate what you’ll do when the fear sets in and you want to quit or change course.
Remember, the worst that can happen is a feeling. Do it anyway.
Follow Through On Your Word to Yourself Every. Single. Time.
This step is the absolute number one secret sauce to building self-confidence.
This is the step that separates the achievers from the quitters, and thereby the confident from the insecure.
And this step, especially for women, and especially for mamas or those who work in the helping professions, is by far the easiest to brush off and skip.
This is the number one reason that we women don’t have the self-confidence we want: we don’t recognize the life-changing potential of keeping our word to ourselves.
We think “Oh I can skip this one run today, it’s no big deal.” or “I didn’t plan to eat any sugar today but this cake that my co-worker gave me looks so good-- one bite won’t hurt.”
And sure, when it comes to your goal to run a marathon maybe skipping one day’s run won’t make a real difference, or when it comes to losing 30 pounds maybe that one bite won’t hurt.
But what it does hurt, without a doubt, is your CONFIDENCE.
Because you just taught yourself, and likely reinforced the neural pathway, that you can’t be trusted to do what you say you’re going to do.
That you will make decisions and commitments to yourself everyday that you’ll go back on.
And that, my friends, is not how the race is won.
And what’s funny is that if our spouse or friends were doing that to us, we likely wouldn’t stand for it.
“She always goes back on her word.” or “He never follows through on what he says he’ll do.”
We’ll criticize and blame others for the exact same behaviors we commit to ourselves.
And that sends another message: we aren’t worth it.
And we are.
We are worth follow through for.
We are worth betting on.
We practice loving ourselves enough to be there for ourselves when we say we’re going to be.
Just as we would for our kids, our friends, and our family.
We make up our minds to achieve a goal for ourselves and no one else, and we come through for ourselves.
Every. Single. Time.
Lia Pinelli is a weight loss coach and educator who helps women put an end to emotional overeating and lose weight, permanently.