how to be more confident

by Krystal Bick
August 1, 2018

I have a confession: I’m 32 and it’s taken me most of my 32 years to build up my confidence.

In fact, for most of my childhood and young adult years, I struggled a bit with my self image and self worth — it wasn’t that didn’t like who was staring back at me in the mirror (inside or out), it was just that I felt awkward in my own skin at times, unsure how to share that person I saw with the rest of the world. Simply put, I was shy, uncertain and anxious — feelings that I still face on a regular basis today, but things that I’ve learned to stop avoiding, and instead tackle head on.

And, despite a lot of trial and error over the years, it’s still very much a work in progress — a point I literally cannot underscore enough. And it’s a work in progress that I think we can all relate to, especially in an age where comparison, whether we like to admit it or not, is a daily ritual and as easy as swiping through our phones.

Today, I wanted to share a few tips and techniques that have helped me quiet the negative thoughts in my own head, and turn up the volume, so the speak, on the positive ones. Let’s dive in.

  1. Speak positively to yourself. Seems obvious right? So why is it so hard? I read somewhere once that we say around 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves PER MINUTE. That’s a lot of language to police, if we’re looking to change the message from negative to positive. What’s helped me, especially in moments when I’m feeling nervous or stressed about something, is to literally tell myself in my own head what I know I’m good at and what my strengths are. It helps slow some of my racing thoughts down so I can actually assess the situation and see it as a challenge or an opportunity, as opposed to a problem. Be mindful of the tone you use with yourself and ask yourself, “Would I talk to a good friend this way?” If the answer is no, then refrain.

2. Don’t confuse memories with facts. When you boil it down, our memories are pretty selective, and usually for good reason — it helps prevent our brains from getting too inundated with information and recollections. And, more often than not, we hold onto to the general idea or feeling from an event, usually aligning with whatever our current beliefs and value systems are. So, if you happen to have lower self esteem, you’ll catalogue most events with that lens on, whether or not it’s an accurate depiction of said event. Case in point: I detest public speaking and would get extremely nervous whenever I had to present in large team meetings when I worked at Google. At the end of each presentation, I would feel drained, focusing on what I felt I could have done better. After chatting with several coworkers and managers for unbiased feedback, I realized that I was holding onto selective moments from the overall presentation and letting it cloud my overall perception of how it went.

3. Accept the reality that not everyone will like you. And be OK with it. If I’m being really honest, this one is SO hard for me. To this day, I have a difficult time letting situations go when I feel I’ve disappointed or let someone down — or even if someone just plain doesn’t like me, for no other reason that I’m me. And after spending the better part of my 20s trying to please everyone and to get everyone to like me, I can assure you, it was a.) impossible and b.) emotionally draining and unsatisfying. Instead, I focus my time and energy on number 4 here.

4. Surround yourself with people you admire and build you up (and vice versa). It really is true: you become like the people you surround yourself with the most often. Make sure you choose them wisely and with intention. I’ve learned this lesson numerous times the hard way but I have to say, it does get easier over time to recognize when someone brings incredible energy into your life, with no other agenda than to be your friend and support system. Hold on to those folks tight and return the favor. Many times over.

5. Be able to laugh at yourself. Laugh. At yourself. Often. Every day. It’s quite possibly the best way to bring perspective back to things.

6. Make self-celebration a habit. I started really embracing this idea toward the end of my 20s and now early 30s and it’s a funny concept, given that most of our lives, we’re waiting for others to celebrate us. Whether it’s a birthday or an engagement or some other special milestone, we’re taught it’s far more socially acceptable to wait for others to celebrate us, because singing your own praises seems too — tacky? rude? boastful? All of the above? But what I’ve realized in the past few years, is that the more I stop to actually recognize how far I’ve come with something, the further it propels me forward. If that means I throw my own damn party or gift myself that set of rings, than so be it.

7. Comparison is the thief of joy. Stop that thief in his tracks. Ooph. This one is the elephant in the room, isn’t it? When everyone is seemingly living their best lives quite openly on social media, it’s easy to fall into the self-loathing trap. I know I do it. And I’m also aware that my online presence could possibly have that effect on someone else. That’s why I try to open up about my struggles as often as I can, in hopes that it reminds you that behind every perfectly posed photograph, there’s another human being, with struggles, with pain, with doubt. Just like you.

8. Stay curious. Never stop learning, never stop asking questions. I joke pretty often that I love the game of 20 questions — I can literally spend an entire conversation asking someone else questions about themselves or some topic they know a lot about. I blame it on my reporter background — I’m nosey I guess? 🙂 Other than helping with dinner conversation, I’ve also noticed that it helps me recognize what I know and what I don’t know and being comfortable with the latter. I encounter many things throughout my day where I don’t know how to do something or how to tackle a particular project — instead of letting that slow me down or getting discouraged by it, I find a resource — whether that’s a person or online forum — who can help me answer that question.

9. Raise up the positive thoughts, squash the negative ones. This is a little practice I started years ago when I really got into running and was training for my first marathon in college. They say distance running is largely a mental game. If you can stay positive, it’s much easier to finish that 26.2 mile race, despite what your training might have looked like. Whenever I would get discouraged or think negative thoughts like “There’s no way I can finish 13 miles today.” I would picture that thought as a tangible spot in the road ahead and stomp on it as I passed. It became a mental game of sorts until I eventually only had room for (mainly) positive thoughts. I try to do this in my work environment as well. It’s true what they say: mind over matter.

10. Be kind. There’s a Mister Rogers quote that I particularly love and it goes like this: “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” And god damn it, it’s so true. Kindness follows kindness. And success usually isn’t far behind it.

11. Think about how you carry yourself: Speak slowly. Stand up tall. I had a particular manager while working at Google who was INCREDIBLE at speaking in front of large team meetings. He held the room’s attention well, his cadence was calm and collected, he even managed to sneak in a few well timed jokes along the way. And I studied him. Every time he would present. The two biggest takeaways I usually noticed was that he never broke his timing — he spoke slowly (albeit not too slowly) and stood up tall, shoulders back, head high, making a lot of eye contact along the way. Now, whenever I take on public speaking engagements, I think about this particular manager. And even if I’m nervous and anxious, I run through this mental checklist and tell myself to: slow down, the audience can’t keep up if I’m vomiting words quickly and to square my shoulders back, even when I’m waiting for my turn to talk.

I’m curious — any tips you’d like to share about finding your confidence? Please share in the comments below! Also, I’m sharing more confidence and career advice over on Who What Wear today! 

Photos by Terry Gates for What What Wear

13 thoughts on “how to be more confident

  1. Thank you so much for this post! It’s always a good reminder to know that confidence is something everyone struggles with and continually works on. I’m often pretty anxious and I struggle with not getting really down on myself when I face moments of self-doubt – which obviously spirals into more self-doubt and makes it worse. Practicing talking about these feelings – rather than keeping it bottled up – has really helped and thankfully I have a partner who is kind enough to listen while I try to talk through these feelings – even if that means letting me ugly cry while talking. I have also found that regular exercise, journaling, and positive self talk in the mirror each day are helpful for building confidence. Also, dance parties in the kitchen or my classroom make a big difference too. Thanks as always for your insight and honesty!

  2. 1. These photos are stunning.
    2. You are such an inspiration to so many people (myself included), so it’s refreshing to hear that you’ve too been vulnerable.
    3. Your tips are so helpful, and you couldn’t be more spot on!
    4. To answer your question before…. yes to drinks soon 😉

    The Champagne Edit

  3. I find myself thinking hard on what to add to your list, and currently nothing comes to mind – your list seems comprehensive as is! These are all good advice. I struggle with confidence from time to time myself and constantly find ways to combat it. One tends to forget the advices and tips learned as we advance in life, so I personally am really happy to have read your post as it serves as a reminder to me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, so thank you for writing it! And of course, beautiful imagery to accompany the lovely writing. I am so glad I discovered your blog recently <3

    xo, Liyana | Affordorable

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