It is safe to say that confidence comes with an ebb-and-flow. I don’t believe it is something that comes to you and stays forever. It requires maintenance, you have to build it up. When we aren’t taught that from the beginning as children – what true confidence is and how to gain it – it can be so much harder to figure it out as you grow up (at least, in my opinion). As we grow into adulthood, who are we supposed to look to for those lessons? Society? Magazine covers? Friends? There are so many influences, some good and some…not so much.
The more I learn about it and grow comfortable in my own skin, the more I realize that confidence is internal at its root. The more you exercise and grow it inside you, the more it will affect your external – how you talk, carry yourself, establish relationships, and navigate the world. I’m not talking about the “confidence” that we often think of: an almost-abrasive, nose-in-the-air, toughness where our chests are puffed out with our arms on our hips. That’s not confidence, not in my book, *that* is an act and one that won’t get you far long-term.
I wanted to write about the specific things I’ve been working on to build up true confidence in the hopes that it can help others. Especially in law school, where imposter syndrome seems to be lurking around every book and casebrief, true confidence is of the utmost importance. So, read on!
Get To Know Thyself
Confidence is rooted in trust, how can you trust yourself if you don’t know yourself? Who are you at your core? This is why confidence is something that needs to be maintained over time – because we each are constantly changing overtime. At our core, though, is the stuff that makes us who we are and while, yes, we are always evolving, there is a part of our personalities that stays with us. Get to know that part of you. Reflect on your core beliefs, desires, and goals – why do you believe those things? Why do you want what you want? Why are you working towards those dreams? Write down your ‘why’s and even practice saying or writing them out. If you’re unable to pinpoint these things then you’ll be unable to present these critical details of your personality to the world around you.
Yes, you will feel like you’re bragging but I’m not saying to put them on Facebook (although LinkedIn might be a good idea!). Sit down and write down all your greatest accomplishments. If you have crippling insecurities this could be very difficult so ask family and friends who you feel comfortable with what they think are your greatest accomplishments or traits. Write them down. Every night before bed, read over them and reflect on each thing: what was accomplishing that thing like? What did it require of you? Why were you successful? Give your brain evidence as to why you are a successful person. This is especially helpful if you are insecure in a specific area. For example, if you feel insecure in public speaking, sit down and think of all the times you’ve ever talked in public (ALL the times – classes, speeches, toasts, group studies etc.) and read over it until you start to see yourself as a successful public speaker.
Get Feedback & Constructive Criticism
Go to friends or family members for feedback (perhaps even coworkers or bosses depending on what you are trying to build confidence in). Be sure to ask for both areas where you are doing well and areas of improvement. People who avoid feedback are in the same boat as those who say they can handle it but then get defensive when presented with criticism. When the people you’ve asked for feedback give it to you, just listen. Write what they say down. Say ‘thank you’ then walk away and forget about it for a bit. This is just one interaction, one opinion – it doesn’t define you. When you feel like it and have a moment, reflect on what they said, how you feel about it, and if it is something you agree needs work or not. Maybe get a second opinion if you don’t agree. This is more about the process of putting yourself in a situation of objective criticism (someone else’s point of view and not your own) to get to hear about things you are good at as well as could use improvement in.
Open Yourself Up To Rejection & Discomfort
Much like the tip above, open yourself up to awkwardness – dating, job interviews, public speaking…pick the thing that scares you and try it out. The only way you’ll show yourself you are capable is by doing it, even if it requires taking baby steps to get there. For every baby step you take to get out of your comfort zone, write it down on that list. That way you are constantly reinforcing to your brain: “hey, I CAN do this, I am GOOD at this, and I am IMPROVING.” Confidence is rooted in trust and we gain that trust by our actions. Someone may tell you “I love you” but if they don’t act like it, will you believe them? Show yourself why you are worthy of confidence, because you ARE worthy.
Challenge Your Inner Critic
We are our biggest critics and our inner critics always rear their heads right when we need confidence the most. Learn to challenge that voice – come up with sentences or affirmations to tell yourself both when that voice is speaking up as well as when it isn’t. Practice saying them before bed and don’t just say them, really think over every word. Let’s use the public speaking example again: if you feel insecure about it, tell yourself “I am a strong public speaker.” As you say that, picture it – what does a strong public speaker look and sound like? Then maybe look at that list you wrote and reflect on the times you did well in public speaking. Remind yourself that you are capable of it and doing well at it! Yes, you may feel like you’re lying or an imposter when you write these sentences out but something my therapist told me is: “that’s the point.” It feels like a lie but it isn’t. So, you keep proving to yourself why it isn’t until your brain learns the Truth.
I hope these tips helps! Remember: they only work if you try them. So schedule in some time each week to work on it (I would venture to say every day if you can) and see if you notice any differences. Let me know if you do!