Confidence is something you are born with. Have you seen the confidence of a child learning how to speak? They don’t even know a single language and they’re babbling all day. Sometime in between early childhood and now, you have been conditioned to shut up, to be “humble,” to walk on eggshells around others, to feel inferior compared to others, or to be insecure.
I was a very confident child growing up in the Philippines. I performed in school plays, recitals, dance competitions, I literally thought I was THE shit. Then I moved to California to live with my dad and his abusive now ex-wife. Every day, I was told I was ugly, a beanpole, ditzy, careless, a burden, book-smart but useless in real life, etc. I was 14 years old when it started and I endured it for two years. My culture looked down on talking back so I just took the abuse. Those two years did a number on my self-esteem. Years passed, and now I’m so freaking confident I’ve been told I’m “too confident.” It took me a lot of work and therapy to get here, so I actually took that as a compliment. Here’s a few things I did and still do to maintain my high self-esteem.
Be kind to yourself. Most people have a voice in their head that helps them verbalize certain feelings. Like when someone parks too close to your car, the voice says, “What a dick.” Or when you see a cute puppy, the voice says, “Awwwwwww.” Well, for me, the voice said, “You’re so dumb,” “No wonder no one likes you,” and a bunch of other self-deprecating things. These are what my therapist called “negative self-talk.” Would you talk to your closest friends this way? No, right? Then why are you talking to yourself like that? Listen, you may not love yourself right now, but if you start acting like you did, then that love will grow. You need to stop the chicken or the egg problem of what comes first. Act now and the status will follow.
Be your own dog parent. You may not have a dog, but if you did, they’d think you’re awesome. Imagine the joy and excitement they feel when you walk in the door. They’re so excited to see you they’re peeing themselves. Aside from the reason that they have been bred to love us, they act this way because we’ve been kind to them and have never/rarely been mean to them. Now pretend you are the dog and the owner is you. Give yourself cuddles, treats, exercise, and love. When you nurture yourself, you are showing yourself the ultimate self-love. This is not meant to be self-indulgent, but simply, self-loving.
Practice preventive self-care. Self-care has been so overused and is now monetized by companies trying to sell you face masks, butt masks?, junk food, and other crap you don’t need but now think you need. True self-care is taking care of present you and future you. It’s not exclusively an activity you do or a product you use. It can be setting boundaries with toxic people or not reading emails during non-work times or not working on weekends. True self-care is taking care of yourself before you even need care. Think of it as preventive self-care. You don’t need to destress from work if it’s not stressful to begin with. And you don’t need to watch sad Netflix movies if you don’t go through the breakup/make-up cycle for the 7th time with your partner/ex/partner again/ex again. Be astute at recognizing unhealthy patterns and distance yourself from these situations. People may think you’re an asshole for doing so, but you’re being a bigger asshole to yourself if you keep engaging. Your number one priority is YOU.
Take care of your appearance. Now, you’ll think I’m vain and a typical Orange County babe, but hear me out. Ever wonder why when someone posts a picture of a severely disfigured child on Facebook, everyone comments, “She’s so beautiful”? Or why the Fat Acceptance Movement wants everyone to believe “Fat is beautiful”? It’s because, in our society, we equate beauty with worth. Do I think it’s right that we do that? Big fat nope! But this is a visual world we live in, and anyone who tells you they don’t care about looks is lying or seriously hates the way they look or both. There’s a whole group of people online dedicated to, as objectively as possible, rating people’s looks on a scale of 0-10 with 5 being average and a good score. From my “research” there, it is apparent that people “tap out” on their attractiveness at a certain level. There are 5’s that, with the right haircut, skin care regimen, and exercise, can be 6.5’s. All I’m saying here is, you don’t have to be born runway-ready, but you can be the best possible version of yourself there is. When you present your best self, you are showing yourself that you care, that YOU ARE IMPORTANT.
Be inspired, not insecure. We all have that one person in our life who has a seemingly perfect life: great hair, perfect skin, money, great relationship, amazing personality, whatever. I’m not going to tell you that something is probably wrong in their life, because that would be a lie. Some people’s lives are absolutely perfect and they are also good people and are good-looking and are at peace with themselves. So why is it that their life is so awesome and yours isn’t? For one, it’s because life is unfair. And number two, it’s because they have allowed themselves to have this life. When you allow yourself to have good things, guess what? The good things keep coming. I’m not selling you on some Law of Attraction ideology, butshifting your mindset to accepting good things will make you an overall more pleasant person that attracts these things. You won’t get a good partner if you’re highly insecure and negative; there goes your potential great relationship. You won’t get that well-paying job if you’re not a good team player due to your toxic gossipy behavior or low self-esteem that you don’t take credit for your work. Money buys procedures + products to improve attractiveness so there goes your good looks. Instead of begrudging these “perfect” people, be inspired by them. Observe what they are doing right and mimic them. Not in a creepy way, but like internalize their positivity and maybe even make friends with them. Throw your insecurity and negativity out the window, though. These people don’t allow that in their lives.
Don’t be arrogant. So there’s definitely a line between high self-esteem, arrogance, and delusions of grandeur. Arrogance is confidence with a negative attitude. By putting others down, you are bringing yourself up. That’s insecure-type behavior right there, and should not be considered confidence. Tell yourself YOU ARE THE BEST, but you’re not better than anyone.
Practice. This process takes time so give yourself the grace to work on your self-esteem. There’s no magic pill or a mantra that will cure you of your years of anti-confidence conditioning, but you’re a goddamn adult. You only get one life, so live it well. If it helps, you can fake it, but honestly, that never felt right with me. If you put in the work to fix the broken foundation of your self-esteem, then you’ll actually FEEL CONFIDENT.