While I have worked with a lot of folks from all walks of life in my practice, one of my favorite populations to work with is young people. Millennials and Gen Z clients are often the most insightful and forthright part of my practice. While all that insight coupled with increased comfort with the idea of emotions and mental health care can lead to extremely productive sessions, a common thread I've noticed in these clients is a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. In fact, it's possible that all that insight and self-awareness creates difficulty in managing one's view of themself. After all., how can I be confident if I'm also hyperaware of all my flaws and the flaws in the world?
I could write an entire book about the unique perspectives and challenges seen in today's younger generations. Certainly, the question of how to unpack all the facets bringing down one's confidence is complex and perhaps best answered with the assistance of a professional. That being said, there are some simple ways we can begin to improve our self-confidence and view of ourselves outside the therapy office.
Create a Confidence Mantra
When you're feeling down about yourself, having a few simple words to repeat to yourself can be surprisingly powerful. It could be anything from “I am capable” to “I will succeed” - choose something that resonates with you and use it to remind yourself of your strength and potential. Try picking a mantra that feels true to you and repeat it often, whenever you're needing validation. The words we use have power, especially the words we use to speak to ourselves.
I have written quite a bit on self-care....and I'll keep doing it because it's just that important. Taking the time to relax and care for yourself is key to increasing your confidence. Whether it's a bubble bath, a yoga practice, or a night in with a good book, taking time to do something that brings you joy will help to lift your spirits and remind you of your worth.
Fake It 'Til You Make It
It's a cliche for a reason. Even if you don't feel confident right away, you can still act confident. Make eye contact, stand tall, and smile - these small actions can make a big impact on how you feel. Our brain has mirror neurons that reflect that which we most often are around. If we are generally shying away from being noticed our brain may interpret that to mean we shouldn't be noticed. So step into 'superhero stance' for a few minutes the next time you're needing an extra boost of confidence - your brain will reflect that back to you.
Taking risks can be intimidating, but it's also the best way to push yourself and grow. There is research that illustrates that the majority of personal growth occurs when we push ourselves out of what feels comfortable. This, of course, should be done thoughtfully so as not to push ourselves too far and too fast, but any amount of willingness to step outside our norm can make lasting impacts on our view of ourselves and our abilities. Even if you don't always succeed, you'll learn valuable lessons and build confidence in your ability to try new things.
Celebrate Your Successes
Don't forget to take the time to recognize and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Celebrating even the smallest wins will remind you of your accomplishments and increase your sense of self-worth. How often do we forget the effort and energy it takes to make little progress. Applied for a new job? Pat yourself on the back! Cleaned your room? High-five!
The reality for most of us, regardless of age, is that we tend to be our own worst critics. We often set standards for ourselves far and above anything we'd ever ask of anyone else. While this may feel like motivation for personal growth, often it equates to feeling as though we've failed ourselves and our self-esteem and confidence suffers as a result. The most important key to confidence is knowing that we are doing our very best and allowing ourselves the grace to be imperfect humans that we would afford anyone else. All of our worths and values are promised and certain rather than defined by some mysterious criteria set by our family, friends, bosses, partners, celebrities, or anyone else. So go on with your bad self and be who you are, it's already good enough. If you find that you want some additional support in unpacking concerns around confidence I am here to help!