Building Yourself Up: Tips for Gaining Real Confidence

Building Yourself Up: Tips for Gaining Real Confidence

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.

List Accomplishments

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!

Sincerely,

Should You Go To School? Tips For Deciding on School, Graduate School, and Work

This is a big topic and it’s one that is so underrated. I wish that I had more people in High School (honestly, before then) who really sat me down and taught me how to reflect on my skills, interests, and passions to come up with a game plan for my future. The main focus when discussing college, was always: which school are you going to and how to get in. Never was it: is school the next best step for you right now? If so, what kind of school? If not, what kind of job or experience will you pursue next?

I wish the discussion as to whether I should go to school or not had been more of a pronounced conversation. I remember having two counselors at school who questioned me as to why I wanted to go out of state but they never took the conversation further. So, I want to have the conversation that I wish I had because this discussion is not just for those in High School. The questions at the heart of this matter is not just: “what college are you going to?” but “what is your vision?” and THAT is a very important question for anyone at any stage of life.

School vs. Work: What ‘Should’ You Do?

First things first, let’s talk about the most glaringly obvious question here that everyone faces in our American society at some point: will you go to college or not? School is a wonderful privilege to have. It is a tool. Some people have sharper tools than others when it comes to this arena and some people have the completely wrong set of tools for what they’re trying to build. Yet, we live in a society that treats school as a Rite of Passage instead of a toolbox and I firmly believe that is setting us up for failure and financial insecurity.

There really is no ‘should’ in this situation – it depends on your plan for yourself. Looking back on my experience, I didn’t have a clear-cut plan, I knew the subjects I was interested in and had different ideas of careers I might pursue but nothing solid enough to make college the best next step for me, and yet, I went anyways. It is at this point where we face a crossroads in trying to figure out what we should do with our vocations: do you not go to school simply because you don’t have your whole life mapped out? No, I don’t believe so. However, going to school simply because “everyone does” or “you need to to be successful” as many people would have us believe, are not good enough reasons either.

As with many things today, there needs to be a balance between having an end goal that we work for and being flexible when times and visions change. Most importantly, we really need to teach this balance to the upcoming generations; otherwise, they run the risk of getting stuck like many today over decisions they made when they didn’t have the proper tools and discernment to make them in the first place. Essentially, the skill I am talking about is resiliency and boy do we need that now more than ever.

We Need To Have A ‘Why’ As Well As A ‘How’

Here’s my opinion: school is good and I think people should go to school if it is necessary for your end-goal, whatever that may be. If it is not necessary for what you want to do in life, then there is no need to go. We often equate our degrees with intelligence but this is false equivalency – think of all the people who cheat their way through school, who “just get by” and end up with the same piece of paper as those who work hard for it. Can we really measure intelligence and success just by getting a degree alone? Plus, there are many people who didn’t go to college, and some even high school, who are incredibly intelligent and successful now, how do they factor into the equation?

So what are we missing?

We’re missing our reasons for pursuing school or work – the ‘why.’ This will ultimately determine our decisions. If you are in my situation and realize that you want to be a lawyer, school is the next best option. If you were like me in high school and kind of all over the place with interests and passions: working for a year to get a concrete experience of some sort or getting your basic requirements done at a community college would be the next best step. I believe that would have been the next best step for me because my solution would have allowed me to experience different developmental settings (still being in school but also while working) thus matching the state of life and mind I was in. I was nowhere near ready to commit to a specific school and degree so I should have put myself in a situation that allowed me to try and do different things to determine what was right for me.

Why are we investing and committing years of our lives to things we have not properly discerned are right for us?

This isn’t to say that you take so much time thinking about your options that you never make a move. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to taking action and making a decision to see what the result will be. You may pursue a career only to find out five years later that you want to do something different. Who says that you made the wrong decision? It’s not wrong, you just evolved and that’s normal. That being said, what we should be aiming for here is that balance we talked about in the first section – resiliency. The first decision we make shouldn’t put us in a situation where we can no longer evolve or change our mind if we do. Again, a balance between commitment and flexibility is key and yet, sorely lacking.

How We Can Change The Game

So how do we change these extremes? How do we create a better atmosphere for education and career development that can nurture people of all talents and backgrounds for their vision? A few suggestions of mine would be:

  1. Stop treating a school or career decision as if it will determine the rest of your life. You may spend twenty years working for the same business or twenty months. Neither one is wrong as long as you are able to sustain yourself. We need to be able to set goals, pivot on those goals when challenges arise or opinions change and then put an action plan in place to pursue those goals.
  2. Stop treating college as the only option: college is good but not for the person who doesn’t know what they want to do or knows what they want to do but it doesn’t require a four-year school. You do not need a degree to be successful.
  3. Stop having these conversations about school until we can make the financial side of it the majority of the discussion: if you can afford to go to a four-year school “for the experience” that’s great! But that’s not the case for most people. I am now inundated with private loan debt (that I brought upon myself) for going to a school that I should have thought much longer and harder about attending. I accepted because they offered the biggest scholarship but that scholarship was not big enough to offset the out-of-state tuition. People need to have a better understanding of personal finances if they are going to decide whether they go to school or not – and that applies to anyone at any age.
  4. Stop treating graduate school as if it’s worthless: there are in fact some people who need to go to graduate school to get the career that they want. That path is not for everyone just like not going to school is not for everyone. The problem in this situation lies in why people are needing more and more degrees to do what they want to do but that issue does not rest upon the shoulders of any one person. Nor can it be solved overnight.
  5. Stop treating community college and trade schools as “less than” liberal arts or four-year schools: there is an unspoken snobbery that comes with pursuing these options instead of going to a four-year university and/or a liberal arts college. If I could go back, I would have stayed home, taken my General Education Requirements from a community school, and worked part-time before deciding on going to a university or not. These options are GREAT options for those who are in an interim period where they are deciding what they want to do next or know what they want to do but don’t need to go to a four-year school to do it.

One of my friends knew she wanted to be a nurse and she knew the nursing school she wanted to attend. She ended up going to community college and nannying for the first two years out of high school to take the pre-requisite credits she needed to get into her first-choice nursing school and to work on her application. She is now graduated from said school and working full-time in her dream job.

I know of people who never went to school who are working hard in fields they love and those who are still in school going on their sixth year of higher education to receive their Doctorate in a field they are passionate about – what do they all have in common? A vision. That vision doesn’t necessarily have to be a lifelong one but it does need to help you decide as to whether you should go to school or enter the workforce (or something alternative, which I’m going to discuss in a video tomorrow!) Everyone’s definition of success and happiness is going to be different so why would we treat our careers and education as a one-size-fits-all system?

Final Thoughts

If you are in the process of deciding what to do next in terms of school or career, I encourage you to reflect on the following three things to help make your decision:

  1. Finances: will the reward outweigh the cost?
  2. Result: will it move you forward, closer to where you want to be in life?
  3. Why: why are you pursuing this decision?

If you can not answer these three questions then I would step back and not make any decisions until you can. Even if you are in High School – I don’t care what people say, it is okay to not go to school right off the bat. And to the young adult (or even older adult) who is considering a career change or going back to school, these reflections still apply! The goal here is to make a decision knowing that it moves you closer to what it is you desire; if you’re not sure if it does that then stop and re-consider. Can you even say in detail what your goal is? Stopping to re-evaluate or deciding to take time to think things over doesn’t mean you never go to school or change careers, what it does mean is that you are being more intentional about this decision-making process than what society is currently encouraging us at the moment. This is your life and you deserve to treat every decision as an important one because it is.

At the end of the day, if the only thing holding you back is fear of failure then you’re in a good spot…pursue the next best step that will put you in a situation where you are closer to your dreams.

“Pursue the next best step

that will put you in a situation

where you are closer to

your dreams.”

KimberMarie Faircloth