9 Ways to Feel More Confident

by Sarah West Ervin

We’ve all struggled with self-esteem at some point. No one is immune to feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. For some of us, though, those feelings are more frequent and harder to overcome. My moments of low self-confidence are very situational — when I’m in a classroom and when there's a chance I might have to wear a bathing suit.

Though I’ve always been a good student and enjoyed school, there’s something about the social dynamics, coupled with my introverted learning style, that makes me feel overcome with sudden shyness and a need to retreat to the back of the room, especially during class discussions and presentations. And I’m certainly not immune to the pressures of today’s beauty standards. Why is it easier to see the things we don’t like about our bodies than the things that are beautiful, strong, and lovable?

Well, I don’t know the answer to that, but I have found more than a few simple tips for feeling more confident, whether you need a quick boost before public speaking, want to feel more confident on the beach, or are looking for easy daily exercises to improve your overall self-confidence.

1. Fix Your Physiology: Smile

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Trick your mind with some stupidly simple physical exercises (and I’m using the word "exercise" very loosely here). All you need do is smile, sit up straight, and strike a power pose.

There’s no doubt that your physiology influences your emotions and self-awareness. Research shows that smiling not only makes you more attractive and seem more successful but also improves your mood, relieves stress, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you stay positive. So start your day off right — with a smile. After brushing your teeth each morning, make an effort to flash your pearly whites at yourself in the mirror for a good, long moment of self-love. Then, throughout your day, make an effort to smile more when talking to other people. It will make you and those around you feel better.

2. Fix Your Physiology: Sit Up Straight

Next, finally commit yourself to improving your posture. You know that sitting hunched over your desk all day doesn’t feel good, mentally or physically. Scientists also know that body posture can affect your confidence — sitting up straight can make you more likely to believe your own thoughts. Try one of those balance balls at your desk and read these tips for finally improving your posture.

3. Fix Your Physiology: Strike A Pose

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Most importantly, practice a good power pose. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy found that “standing in a posture of confidence” can not only make you feel more confident but also significantly improve your performance under stress. If you find yourself in a stressful, socially-evaluative situation, like a job interview or public speaking engagement, take two minutes beforehand to hold a “power pose” (preferably somewhere private, like a nearby restroom). Doing so will raise your levels of testosterone (the dominance hormone) and lower your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), making you feel more confident and more like your true self.

4. Build Your Mental Toolbox: Meditation

Regularly practicing Buddhist mindfulness meditation improves your self-acceptance. I recently gave this a shot and found it 1) way easier and quicker than I thought it would be, and 2) crazy effective at making me feel calm, collected, and confident. Just two minutes of guided meditation was all it took for me. There are many different ways to do this; try these tips and techniques for mindfulness meditation to find a regular practice that works for you.

Check Out: The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace, $6, Amazon

5. Build Your Mental Toolbox: Visualization

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Visualizing your success, whether its finishing a workout or acing an interview, will help you achieve it. Science has shown that imagining an activity stimulates the nervous system and activates many of the same neural pathways in the brain as actually experiencing the activity. Visualizing yourself overcoming a challenge can help you feel more comfortable and confident and make the real challenge seem more familiar. Try these techniques for more effective visualization.

6. Rethink Weakness: Low Self-Esteem

Once you’ve committed to correcting your posture and started a habit of meditation and visualization practices, take time to embrace your low self-esteem. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. Low self-esteem and moments of self-doubt and unhappiness are actually pretty important. They are the necessary evils that force you to change what you don’t like about yourself. By repressing your negative self-views, rather than coming to terms with them, you’ll likely never take the first step toward improvement.

Start by acknowledging your insecurities, then focus your efforts on improving your competence, rather than your feelings, in situations that cause your low self-esteem. Taking action to improve your skills and abilities will inevitably lead to more self-confidence.

7. Rethink Weakness: Failure

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While you’re accepting your self-doubt, reframe how you think about your specific failures. Believe it or not, failure is inevitable. Everyone fails at something. Breakthroughs depend on failure. Failure challenges you to become more patient, mature, grounded, resilient, humble, objective, and creative, while teaching you more about yourself then success can.

Once you’ve come to appreciate your failures, turn your focus to learning. When you focus on the process of growth, failure becomes just one part of the journey.

8. Rethink Weakness: Your Body

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I could talk for a bajillion years about body image and women’s health. But I’ll spare you. I’ll just say one thing: Try shifting your fitness motivation from how you look to how you feel and what your body can do. Also, seek out body-positive imagery. Bust’s collection of “Fitspo That Loves Your Body" is a great place to start. And maybe give the lotion challenge a try to improve your acceptance of your “problem areas." OK, so that was more than one thing. Sue me.

9. Be Wary of Threats: Negative Nancys

And finally, changing your confidence also requires changing the context for it. Don’t neglect the importance of having a supportive social circle. Be wary of people in your life who negatively impact your sense of self, and work to spend more time with those who believe in you. We can’t help but live up to others’ expectations for us — it’s what psychologists have termed the self-fulfilling prophecy. Just make sure that the expectations others have for you are high.