To build self confidence and sustain it requires forming consistent behaviors that boost your self esteem.
You cannot walk into a store, buy a jacket and all of a sudden be the boss lady you want to be. Although to be honest, a fantastic blazer will definitely put a spring in your step.
Self confidence is also not something you are born with naturally. It is something that is nurtured and grown through consistent lifestyle choices.
The importance of self confidence cannot be understated.
It impacts every part of your life. From your relationships, finances (retail therapy anyone?) and of course your career. In fact, Harvard Business School wrote that “weak self-confidence may hold some women back as they count themselves out of pursuing prestigious roles in professions they believe they won’t excel in, despite having the skills to succeed”.
So what are effective ways to build self confidence?
I don’t believe there is an overnight trick to becoming a confident woman. This isn’t about looking in the mirror and repeating quotes to yourself. If that is the only thing you are actively doing to build your confidence, you probably won’t see much improvement in your self esteem.
The following tips require consistent, long-term application. But if you really stick to them, I promise that they will build your self esteem.
It will increase your happiness and improve your quality of life.
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1. Read books
Read. A lot. To build self confidence books are key and the most important habit to develop.
Blogs and articles are great (and I hope you continue to read this one) but there is nothing quite like reading a book from an expert in a field. There is a reason that the most successful people tend to spend a LOT of time reading.
Reading builds your base of knowledge. It teaches you new skills as well as coping mechanisms for life’s challenges.
People that know more are more adept at life. Having a larger knowledge base will build self confidence in your decision making, coping mechanisms, skills, leadership, and so much more. There is an endless amount of information to absorb from books.
But what you read is just as important as reading in general.
You do not have to read books about confidence to build self confidence. In fact, that would get boring very quickly. You should read books that teach you something.
This can be either a skill or about the work. I find non-fiction books to be most effective and educational. But there are some very powerful fictional books that will also expand your base of knowledge.
“Self help” books (I hate that term) are really great as well. Diversify the type of books you read. Don’t read only self help books or only biographies.
I highly recommend Bill Gates’ Reading Lists. He recommends a wide variety of books on many different topics (mostly non-fiction, but occasionally he recommends a fiction book).
You should definitely be able to find at least a few books that interest you.
But who has the time to read?
It’s not easy.
And anyone that says “well Bill Gates and Mark Cuban have time to read, you should too” are only sweeping aside the real challenge of setting aside time to read.
Personally, I really love audio books. Audible is what I have been using since 2014. Their memberships are affordable and cheaper than buying the actual book (digital or hard copy).
You can absorb the information from audiobooks during your commute, when you are doing dishes, eating lunch at work, waiting for an appointment or any other activity.
You’d be amazed once you start listening to audiobooks how many opportunities you find during the day to listen to your book.
If you prefer to read rather than listen to books, a Kindle is great.
I carry a Kindle Paperwhite for books that may be hard to listen to. For example, books that have a lot of diagrams or flowcharts. I prefer Kindles to iPads because the text looks more like a hard copy book.
Also, Kindles have a nice size and weight to them that make them feel like holding a book.
Whatever your preference of what to read or how to read, reading consistently will build your self confidence.
2. Develop fitness and nutrition habits
Don’t roll your eyes yet! Hear me out.
There is certainly a component to self confidence that is linked to body image, especially for women. That is no secret.
But that is NOT why my second tip is fitness and nutrition.
If you create a lifestyle with a consistent fitness routine and healthy nutrition you will likely see improvements in your physical appearance.
More importantly, building a consistent fitness routine improves your self esteem even if you don’t see physical appearance changes (which is unlikely to happen). That is because fitness releases endorphins which is chemically similar to morphine.
It MAKES you feel good and confident.
I am a huge proponent of strength training for women. Not only is it essential to your health long term, strength training makes you feel STRONG.
It brings a feeling of being capable, independent and skilled. It’s incredibly powerful and one of the best ways to build self confidence. For a long time there was a stigma regarding women lifting weights.
Thankfully that has really turned around the past decade.
Strength training is still very intimidating to start for many women.
I highly recommend joining beginner classes (e.g. Crossfit) or hiring a coach. You can even find remote coaches that work with you through an app.
Just make sure you choose a coach that is experienced in strength training, especially beginners and women. I promise the intimidation factor fades very quickly.
What is left is an incredibly powerful feeling.
Any fitness routine, when consistent, will help you build self esteem.
Regarding nutrition, I am not here to pitch you a diet or recipe book. I am not here to talk about weight loss (again, physical appearance follows habits that make you feel good inside).
All I will tell you about nutrition is that eating foods that are good for your health will MAKE you feel good. Making simple changes to your nutrition will improve your mental clarity.
The simplest recommendation I can make is to eat whole foods. Foods that are not packaged or processed. I promise they will make your body and mind feel better.
That will certainly help your self confidence.
3. Do things you’re good at, consistently and often
Everyone is good at something. It doesn’t have to be anything related to your career.
Perhaps you’re good at drawing, writing, cooking, gardening, makeup, sports or teaching. It can be anything.
Whatever you are good at, find a way to work it into your weekly and preferably daily routine. Take time to get even better at it.
Feeling skilled is powerful for your self esteem. Everyone likes being good at something.
It also improves your self confidence to do things that you enjoy.
If you feel like you don’t have anything you are good at then you should explore a wide variety of hobbies.
Try everything. Read books about various topics (it always comes back to books…) and try different skills. Take a class, buy a cookbook, start a garden, watch tutorials on Youtube.
Find something that brings you joy and that makes you feel skilled. Once you do find it, do it consistently.
Life gets busy and it is easy for us to sweep our “hobbies” to the side. But remember, these habits are what helps build your self confidence. Therefore, they impact every aspect of your life.
Take the time to do things that you are good at, often.
4. Find a mentor
A mentor does not have to be someone at work. If you’re strictly focused on building self esteem and not career development, your mentor should be someone you look up to as a human being.
This can be someone you see as “having it all together” (they don’t). If it is someone at work, even better.
Choosing that person as a mentor doesn’t have to be awkward.
Simply, request to spend time with this person. It can start by just asking to grab a cup of coffee or lunch. Over time open up conversation regarding confidence and life challenges.
It takes time to get to know someone but once you do and are able to speak comfortably about these topics you will learn a lot.
You will also build a support system.
Learn from this person.
Remember, people like talking about themselves. It is not hard to get someone to talk about themselves and the steps they’ve taken to find success.
Ask them what has brought them success in life.
What do they do to feel confident? How do they approach challenging situations? Who do they look up to? What do they do for self improvement?
This tip may be the hardest to implement of the ones I outline. Finding an individual like this can be difficult. But you have to be persistent and keep your eyes open.
Once you do find that person, they will be invaluable.
Finding and engaging a mentor is particularly hard for introverts. But guess what? Introverts CAN learn extrovert skills. It just takes persistence.
A great way to do it is read books on these skills and implement them in your life.
5. Consistently re-examine your social circle
The people you surround yourself with are incredibly influential on your self esteem.
You need to have people in your social circle that make you feel good about yourself. It is not about being showered with compliments but rather having people that you can learn from.
People that bring positive energy. People that are taking the same steps as you to improve themselves.
As human beings, it is natural to get “sucked into the drama”. It can also be hard to remove people from your life that you know are having a negative impact on your self confidence.
This is why self reflection is incredibly important.
Take time to consistently reflect on your life and the people in it.
Who do you spend the most time with? How do they make you feel? What can you learn from them?
How do you treat them? What can you do to strengthen your relationships? Are there people that are negative or make you feel worse about yourself?
What are you doing about those relationships?
These are important questions to ask yourself. And you should do so regularly.
When there is someone that is clearly having a negative impact on your self esteem, be decisive. If this individual is incredibly toxic, a quick and clean break may be best.
Otherwise, you may consider slowly distancing yourself.
This is of course easier said than done. There are relationships that may be broken or damaged that are worth working on (especially loved ones). But remember to consistently self reflect on the effort you are putting into other people versus yourself.
If you have worked on a relationship and are not seeing any improvement, reconsider your decision and approach to that relationship.
Remember, the better you take care of yourself the better you will be able to take care of other people. Don’t be shy to put yourself first.
6. Learn to filter people’s feedback and opinions
Feedback is incredibly important for self improvement and confidence.
But it is important to know which and whose feedback is worth reflecting on and implementing.
And sometimes, it isn’t feedback at all that is given. Many times, it is just one person bringing another person down to bring themselves up.
Learn the distinction between the two.
Put less weight on peoples’ opinions and criticisms. Put no weight on peoples’ opinions and criticisms if you don’t know them and have no reason to value their feedback. Practice letting things “roll off your shoulders”.
Yes, this is very hard to do.
Often I find that this comes with age. But I have also found that you can accelerate this because it is a skill. And skills come with practice.
Be conscious when a specific comment makes you feel bad or impacts your confidence. Reflect on it.
Why is it making you feel bad? Do you care a lot about this person? Is there any truth to the comment? Does it touch on an insecurity that you need to work on?
Be honest with yourself.
Self reflection is scary, which is why a lot of people don’t spend time on it. They act on impulse.
If you are deliberate and conscious with your self reflection, you can quickly mend your confidence after hurtful feedback or comments.
Remember, feedback is important for growth. But so is knowing which feedback is important for growth.
Put feedback through your own lense, don’t take it at face value.
Not all feedback is useful and you have to trust your own base of knowledge to determine which feedback you should value.
And if the opinion is just said to inflict pain, reconsider your relationship with that person (see #5). You’re the best judge of who you are and what you need to work on.
7. Reduce social media consumption
This tip is really dependent on where you are on your self confidence journey.
Social media can be a great tool to share ideas, information, connect with friends and learn new skills. But social media is also a very filtered version of peoples’ lives.
If you are just starting to build your self confidence, social media can be detrimental to your progress.
Humans are very visual. Even if you consciously tell yourself that you are seeing filtered versions of peoples’ lives, social media can still impact your self confidence.
Be critical of your social media feeds.
Who do you follow? What do their social media feeds add to your daily life? Do they teach you something? Do they help you work on your skills? Does your feed make you feel confident? Are they providing you valuable resources?
Who you follow doesn’t have to be just Michelle Obama and Bill Gates. But you should be thoughtful of the impact that your newsfeed is having on you.
If you notice a particular account having a negative impact on you, remove it.
I usually go through who I follow on social media every few months and purge it of accounts that I don’t feel add value to my life.
I really don’t need to see another celebrity on their yacht or by their pool. And I certainly don’t need them to try to sell me another supplement or app.
Having a social media newsfeed that is inspiring will help you build your self confidence.
More importantly, it won’t damage your self confidence.
So those are my best tips to help you build your self confidence.
I really believe that if you work to implement these habits into your daily routine you will become the boss lady you want to be.
If you’re looking to work on your confidence in preparation for a job interview you should check out my tips on how to prepare for an interview.