Recently, I was having a relatively perfect day. My work was flowing, my health was good, my loved ones were happy and safe. Then boom. That little voice inside my head started screaming. Are you really the right person for this? What are you thinking? You’re not cut out for what’s ahead. These ego thoughts, all of which were based in scarcity and fear, came pouring in. I felt myself starting back at square one, wondering how to build self-confidence. It was as if everything I had learned in the past came crashing down alongside my spinning thoughts.
What I’ve learned in my 40-plus years is that wild voice of negativity and self-doubt just happens, I believe to all of us. It can come in like a tornado—and there’s often no clear way to forecast it. Yet, simultaneously, self-confidence can always shine back. The key is to cultivate and nourish it. When we do this, we push back against the self-sabotaging energy and negative societal conditioning. We regain a power that is wholly ours.
Featured image from our interview with Sanetra Nere Longno.
The Benefits of Self-Confidence
Confidence serves as a powerful catalyst for personal and professional success. If you feel confident in your abilities, pursuing and achieving your goals becomes much easier. Being confident can also enhance your relationships, fostering effective communication and collaboration with those you love. This mental state positively impacts our mental well-being, reducing anxiety even when we face setbacks.
Confidence vs. Insecurity
Our self-trust—or lack thereof—can greatly influence our personal experiences and perspective. Confidence is characterized by self-assurance and belief in one’s abilities, which can lead toward success in many areas of our life. In contrast, insecurity is driven by self-doubt and fear of judgment, which can impair personal growth.
A lack of confidence can turn into insecurity and lead us to question our self-worth. The choice between confidence and insecurity significantly shapes our journey.
How to Build Self-Confidence in 10 Simple Steps
Over the years, I’ve gleaned all that I can to help me through these bouts of low self-confidence and honor my power. These following 10 tricks—you may call them life hacks, simple supportive practices, or self-care exercises—are the tactics that always help me build self-confidence. They’re free, instant, and easy. And I promise they will help pull you out the next time you find yourself in the throes of negative self-talk.
1. Practice the Power Pose
This exercise, which is a favorite of Camille’s, does the job—every single time. And it’s all thanks to the brilliant social psychologist Amy Cuddy. The power pose theory is simple yet revolutionary. You position yourself with your arms high, your chest lifted, and your legs spread out and firm on the ground. The goal is to make yourself bigger.
Cuddy posits that our body language and the way we carry our physical bodies has a tremendous impact on how we view ourselves (and how others view us). You could say Cuddy started a revolution with her power pose after her 2010 Ted Talk, which has more than 23 million views. In the talk, Cuddy explains how her research findings unveiled that a physiological change happened after people do this pose, including a drop in the stress hormone cortisol.
Now, I do the power post at least once a week. Before a meeting or interview, I’ll step into my bathroom, look in the mirror, and hold my arms high. But where it mostly comes into the fold is when I’m feeling low. A quick pose and my self-confidence waves come flowing back.
2. Go On a Hot Girl Walk
People wondered how to build self-confidence, and as always, TikTok delivered. For the past few years, the social platform has abounded with the hot girl walk fitness trend—or as Mia Lind officially coined it, Hot Girl Walk™—and for good reason. Just as its name suggests, a hot girl walk encourages a positive, self-empowering, loving state of mind while doing one of the most highly beneficial forms of exercise. You go on a walk and think wonderful things about yourself: I am beautiful. I am sexy. I love my body.
Lind started this trend in 2020 when she started walking for her mental and physical health. When she put a positive and structured spin on what she would allow herself to think while walking, she found that she always got out of a funk and into a place of empowerment. Her concept took off. This exercise has easily become one of the most accessible and impactful ways for how to build self-confidence. No matter where I am, I’ll take five to ten minutes, put on a positive song, and go pound the pavement.
3. Do a Mental Declutter
When negative thoughts enter my mind, I’ve learned to view them as physical objects. This helps me envision physically pushing those thoughts out of my mind to allow room for confidence to fill the void. It’s a unique practice I’ve come to lean on after finding inspiration from author and therapist Peggy Fitzsimmons. An expert on what she calls “mental clutter,” Fitzsimmons believes that our ego mind, which fuels negative self-talk and suppresses confidence, can keep us in a trance.
Simply put: When we start to think “you’re not good enough,” we really believe it and live it. In turn, when we take the time to observe our thoughts, we find room for choice—i.e., we realize we don’t have to let that thought overtake us. So when a swell of negativity takes over, Fitzsimmons says to observe what we’re thinking. If our thoughts don’t serve us or make us feel good, push them away and choose to think of something positive instead.
I love this practice. I used to believe that if a self-sabotaging thought came into my mind, I was its hostage. No longer. When this happens, I witness it momentarily and then push the thought out of my mind. Then I select a happier image. Almost instantly, my confidence swells.
4. Talk to Yourself Like a Friend
We’re always there to say nice things to a friend, especially if they’re in a rut. But how often do we speak to ourselves in this kind manner? Psychologist Dr. Kirsten Neff believes not often enough—and she’s out to change this. Dr. Neff feels that we need to have more self-compassion. This means treating ourselves with concern, warmth, and support, just as we would a loved one. Essentially, it’s all about how we treat ourselves during hard times and it’s a key to bolstering confidence. One practice is to literally talk to yourself as you would to a friend. You can look into the mirror and says such things as, “You’re amazing.” “You’ve been through such hard times, you can get through this.” “You are a brilliant, kind, unique soul.”
I’ve used Dr. Neff’s practice and it’s always helped me climb out of a funk and into the self-confidence light. In truth, sometimes I’ve laughed at myself while doing this. But that helps me realize that if I feel positive self-talk is a little goofy (albeit healthy), negative self-loathing is downright a waste of time.
5. Submerge Yourself in Nature
We all know it: Nature is the ultimate confidence booster and stress buster. Study after study shows the physical and mental benefits of walking in the forest, touching a tree, or simply gazing out into a field. The research spans centuries and countries, starting as far back as the origins of Ayurveda, and has more recently been receiving the Western attention it deserves. It asserts that we are one with our environments, and thus nature can help lift our spirits. The surrounding earth reminds me that my time here is fleeting, so I must try to lean into it with gratitude and positivity as much as possible.
When I’m lacking confidence, I put down whatever I am doing at that moment, throw on a coat, step outside, and walk anywhere there are trees. Ideally, I submerge myself in a forest. But if I’m in a city, I’ll seek out greenery wherever it is, making sure to look up at the trees and touch the leaves. I will instantly feel a release of tension and a swell of positivity. I’ll also feel humbled. The surrounding earth reminds me that my time here is fleeting, so I must try to lean into it with gratitude and positivity as much as I can.
6. Take a Social Media Cleanse
If I’m being honest with myself, much of my faltering confidence comes from comparing myself to anyone on social media. You don’t need to have her hair, and you’re not a lesser person if your eyebrows don’t look a certain way. Learning to generate confidence from within is the key to true happiness and contentment—no matter what you may look like that day.
If taking a total social media detox isn’t within your capacity (all those who use social media for work—I feel you), try filtering through your followers and following to clear out content that doesn’t serve you. Trust me, you won’t miss seeing your high school classmate’s global travels.
7. Read a Self-Help Book
Reading (and actually finishing) a self-help book not only makes you feel accomplished, but you’ll step away having garnered so much wisdom and insight.
After reading a book, it’s always a great feeling to acquire and apply a new perspective to your life’s challenges. If you haven’t yet found a self-help book you necessarily connect with, do a little reflection to uncover one small skill or habit you’d like to work on. I can guarantee: there’s a book for that.
8. Refresh Your Wardrobe
Buying new clothes can be a great feeling. But… shopping can leave you with regret for spending loads of money on a new staple item. Instead of shopping till you drop, try cleaning out your closet and doing a wardrobe edit each season to find inspiration in the pieces you already own.
The biggest issue I face when it comes to my wardrobe is finding items I previously loved that are just a tad too small. Not fitting into your clothes should never hinder your confidence. (Clothes are supposed to fit you, not the other way around!) Comfort is key, even if that means going up or down a size.
9. Take a Safe Risk
Ever tried a Pilates class? Or attended a running club in your city? Sometimes, doing the things that scare you the most can greatly boost your confidence. The risks you take don’t have to be mega-stressful or panic-inducing. Just choose something you’ve never tried but feel can add value to your life.
Safe risks are some of the least harmful ways to exercise our full potential. If you’re feeling particularly drawn to something, someone, or someplace, maybe pursuing it is the safe risk you need on your self-confidence journey.
10. Practice Mindful Movement
When I think about how to build self-confidence, mindful movement immediately comes to mind. After stepping off the yoga mat, I can safely say it’s the best feeling. Whether you walk, run, or take a low-impact exercise class, mindful movement will leave you feeling much more confident than in the gym. (Yes, those large mirrors don’t help.)
There’s something to be said about exercising for the mental benefits as opposed to the physical. Oftentimes, when something is causing you stress or worry, shaking things out and up can help unleash your true confidence.
This post was originally published on November 23rd, 2022, and has since been updated.