When I was a kid, we had very little money. This didn't seem like a problem to me until I went to my friends' homes and saw that they had actual houses (we lived in apartments and sometimes shared housing). The kids all had their own bedrooms and a nice dining room table—some even had big gardens.
As a kid, I liked what I had until I got older and saw that people with bigger houses and more money were considered better and more important. Then I realized this made me feel like I'm less than other people. I had less, so naturally, I felt like a lesser human.
Of course this damaged my self-esteem. If I'd had no clue or paid less attention (hard but not impossible), my confidence in who I was and what I had would have stayed nicely intact.
Comparing and looking for validation outside yourself is a recipe for feeling like sh*t. The root of real confidence is knowing who you are and being OK with yourself just as you are. If you want to be a more self-assured and confident person, here are some steps you can take to experience your best feelings of self-reliance and inner security:
1. Make the decision.
There is no magical formula for feeling confident. It's not something that anyone is born with—lack of confidence is universal. But the most empowering decision that only you can make is to decide you are a confident person.
And if you feel like you need permission to become confident, I'm giving it to ya right now. Yes, it's that simple. Even if it doesn't feel like that's true. It's your call to be a confident person. No one else can do it for you.
2. Sound the part.
Have you ever noticed how self-assured types speak differently?
Confident people also don't say things like, "I don't know how," "I can't," and "I'm not good at." Their language is intentional and commanding. Think: How can you switch up your own language?
Consider the difference between two people discussing their travel adventures. One might say, "I love to go to off the beaten path and really explore the world. I have a travel budget and a plan every year. Oh, you like traveling for extended periods too? Awesome! Hey, you can even follow me on Instagram where I post my favorite travel snaps..."
Another fellow traveler might avoid eye contact and laugh nervously, saying, "I should document my travel more, but I haven't figured out how to properly do that yet."
Who do you think has more fun globe-trotting (and in general)?
Statements like "I love," "I do," and "I can" have a very different effect on our energy and our impact on others compared to "I should," "I try," and "I don't know." When you use stronger, more intentional language, it impacts your mood, your confidence, and even how other people perceive you.
High-achieving, happy people have consciously mastered the art of tuning out their inner critic and dialing up the volume on their inner coach. Your inner coach is there for you—on demand!—and she's ready to support you whenever you call on her. You have the power to choose to focus on words that feel good.
Confident people also carry themselves differently. Their body language allows them to take up more space—they sit taller, gesticulate when speaking, and stand strong.
Comparing and looking for validation outside yourself is a recipe for feeling like sh*t.
3. Appreciate that everyone has insecurities.
Rachel in HR with her perfect style and easy laugh is no exception. Neither is that speaker on stage with the scary-good comedic timing and overall poise. Every single person on planet Earth is plagued with self-doubt in some area, to some degree—always.
Negative thoughts don't escape anyone. The difference is confident people do not let uncertainty and doubt drive their decision-making. Courage is moving forward when your heart is still beating fast—not when you feel cool and relaxed, going about your daily routine. Confident people learn to master their inner critic and drown it out with something stronger: their inner coach.
4. Compare differently.
When I was working in sales, there were a couple women in my field who were known for being business badasses. They spoke their mind, they were forging new advances in tech, and they were often congratulated for their innovation. But…
"Ugh—Sarah is SO fake!" people would say. Or "Becca's just a CEO kiss-ass."
And were they? Maybe. But these words of spite were definitely coming from a place of envy.
Instead, these women made me think to myself: Look what's possible! Sarah was only in the ad tech industry for four years. Imagine what I can do in the next 12 months!
Can your triggers from other people show you what's waiting in store for you instead of leading you to negative thoughts and feelings? When you decide to get busy and focus on what you can control, your confidence level skyrockets. Imagine what could happen if you stopped paying so much attention to the people you see in your life, channeled all your force into the mirror, and started getting busy.
5. Keep compliments close.
Austin Kleon, best-selling author of Steal Like an Artist, recommends keeping a "praise file" full of compliments, positive feedback, and kind notes that people have sent you. These can be from anyone—your boss, a friend, an old teacher, a client—heck, even all the nice comments on your Facebook pics and/or blog posts.
A praise file lets you dwell on the good stuff. The negativity bias (our tendency to focus on one mean comment over nine positive ones) can prevent us from enjoying all the wonderful feedback we've been given in our lives. When I pop open my praise file, I smile big and feel 10 pounds lighter. It works—trust me! Store it on your desktop for easy access.
6. Stop fearing failure.
Confident people know failure is inevitable and don't fear it. Worrying about failure can keep us from doing anything at all, but confident people are still confident—even when they fail. When the tide is against them or they've had a negative result, they know it will pass; their bounce-back rate is fast. Can yours get up there too? I mean… haven't you survived everything that life has thrown at you so far? Why would that change now?
7. Laugh more.
There was an Insta post I saw that made me chuckle. It said, "You found that offensive? I found it funny! No wonder I'm happier than you!"
When did life become so serious? Joan Rivers said, "Life goes by fast. Enjoy it. Calm down. It's all funny." Doesn't that idea just provide some pretty immediate relief? And once you get to the point where you can laugh off life's mishaps, everything becomes easier. You relax. Opening up allows more good to flow to you, and you become a magnet for more laughter. Like attracts like, and I can think of nothing better than attracting more laughter into your life.
8. Take baby steps when you're scared.
My brilliant friend Ruth Soukup's mantra is "do it scared." Because we are all scared, almost all of the time. But you don't need to quit your job tomorrow to start a business you love; you can start at the beginning. Get clear on what your passion is. Ask yourself some deep questions. Research others who share similar interests to you and speak to people in the field you'd like to be a part of. Find out who else is successful in doing what you want to do. Read all you can about the industry you want to enter.
The rest unfolds in time if you stay committed and allow it to. You don't have to have it all figured out in order to get started. You just have to begin. Each small step—like one brick being laid after one another—can build something greater than you can even visualize in the beginning. And the good news is, the more action you take, the teensy bit easier the next action piece is. What can you begin?
Bonus: The confidence-competence loop works in your favor here. Put simply, this means the more you do something, the more confident you become in it, and then the more you continue to do it (more competently each time). It's a wonderful cycle. Taking action builds your confidence, which then leads you to greater things that can make you satisfied. That means even if you don't get the exact results you want, you'll still have gained something valuable from the process of taking action.
You don't have to have it all figured out in order to get started. You just have to begin.
9. Focus on what you want (not what you don't want).
Confident people have a positive vision of the future—of their savings account, their body, their relationships. They expect good things to happen to them, and as a result, good things do happen more often. Expectation is a very powerful force. What are you thinking about right now? How can you turn it around to be thinking about the precise outcome or result that you really, really want?
10. Do YOU.
As a kid I would try to compete for first place in ways I could control (because I was not gonna have the biggest garden any time soon). I was top of the class. I did my best to be funny and popular and always in a good mood. These things "worked.” And they still work, to some degree. But when I'm motivated by an external limiting belief that I'm not enough, that leads me to believe I have to perform, whereas if I follow my natural human desire to feel good and authentic, I get a different result.
Whatever highs or achievements I experience don't last when it's coming from external prompts.
Doing me feels different. It allows me to be in a receptive mode—not just hustlin' all day to impress my ex-husband's new wife's sister's neighbor.
Doing you means feeling inspired, acting on internal instinct, and moving forward in your decision-making from a place of alignment and joy (not desperation, fear, and the old compare-and-despair mentality).
My friend Jim Kwik says development and growth are like an egg. When external forces break them, that means it's over. When they break open from the inside, that's life. That's possibility. Are you allowing yourself to be driven by inside forces? Your intuition is your greatest advisor and a huge source of confidence—when you learn to trust it.
11. Live on purpose.
A mentor of mine says, "You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion." Knowing your purpose—why you're here—brings tremendous confidence. Are you in alignment with your purpose? Are you the friend, spouse, or boss that you know inside that you secretly could be? This is why plenty of people start side hustles—to allow their inner creativity to spark.
Holding back doesn't feel good because it isn't good. Confidence grows when we become who we really are, expand our comfort zone, and make progress in maturing and developing. How will you ever know who you really are until you explore it fully? Taking strides in living on purpose may be the most radical confidence-building act of all.
The magic of confidence is once you start to take control of your life—your inner narrative, how you feel about yourself, and what you spend your precious time doing—your life transforms. (And hey, you can still Netflix and chill sometimes!).
You are the chicken inside the egg breaking out. Deciding what's next. Creating your future. And when you do that, not only do you move toward the highest manifestation of your life, you inspire other people to do the same. Confidence inspires and begets more confidence—so commit to it for you, yes. But also to the echo you create for everyone else.
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!