One thing I have been learning to do over the past few years is to create my life where I am confident— not only with who I am, but how I choose to live my life. I enjoy living my life to the fullest, even if that image is of me sitting on my couch, with my boyfriend, and two french bulldogs on a Saturday night at 7pm watching Netflix. (which is a common theme on Saturday nights btw)
I had so many interests and activities that had been difficult for me to pursue in the past, because I didn’t exactly have the perceived “approval” of others. It started when I was in High School with the type of social activities I wanted to do. If a friend wouldn’t approve, I didn’t do it. Who wants to lose friends in High School, right? After graduation, it got worse when I joined the U.S. Army. Not many people understood why I joined at the time. I was too embarrassed to tell people that my parents filed for bankruptcy and couldn’t afford a traditional college degree. But, I felt proud to be leaving my small town, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to explain. Still, there was a pang in my chest when I would overhear people saying that I would “fail” and just end up coming back home within a year. They were right. BUT, only for a brief time. I’ll get back to that…
While I served in the Army, I ended up in a serious relationship with someone that I thought was “smarter” than me. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my relationship. I was just a small town girl from Milo, Maine…. what did I know. I was 18. This relationship started my downward spiral into the “lack of confidence” phase. He assured me frequently that I had zero concept of how the “real world” worked and since he was “so experience and worldly” he obviously knew what was best– even for me. Side note: He was from Texas and had never been out of the country.
He was the reason I returned back to Milo, Maine. After we were discharged from the Military, he thought it was best for us to move back there. I really didn’t want to go. I was living in California for nearly 5 years and loved it! (Little did I know at the time, he had already met someone else and they were waiting for him there, but I was the last to know) Sadly, I agreed. I moved back to the place where I started. I was a failure. I just went away for a few years and came back. I felt destroyed. Luckily, for me…. he left. A week later, I was living with my grandmother in Philadelphia (at her request) to rebuild my life. The best decision I have ever made.
I had a few relationships over the years and still I couldn’t rid myself of the thoughts and feelings that I wasn’t good enough for anyone. I had such doubt in how I should act, dress and be around them. I was pretending to have interests in things that I couldn’t care less about. I gave up what made me happy. I was never acting as myself. I was too afraid if they would see the real me–they wouldn’t like it. Masquerade continued. A key memory that lives with me to this day– I stopped a very enjoyable hobby because one of my boyfriends made fun of it. I had been a very crafty and creative person, and when he stumbled upon one of my scrapbooks that I made about my grandmother, he told me to “stop being a senior citizen”. I felt mortified. I thought he was so cool and interesting. He was different. He was so good looking and, oh my, was I attracted to him. I wanted him to accept me. So, I stopped— for 10 years. Even though our relationship only survived two. That moment had such an effect on me that I didn’t want to go back to it. I had been scrapbooking since I was a child. What the hell was I thinking? I wasn’t. Years went by before I actually had the confidence to live on my own terms. They need to teach this skill in schools.
You see, if you aren’t living authentically and keeping your actions aligned with other peoples approval, you will end up unhappy, depressed and stressed. Guess what? Some people will not approve of what you do and your pursuits. Some may never understand. That is not only normal, but it’s also none of your business. Just as what you are doing is none of their business, either. I stopped allowing the opinion of others dissuade me from my path– my life. This takes time. I know this more than anyone. It took me over 30 years to get comfortable in my own skin, especially with life choices that others may not understand and even question.
There are many ways to build confidence and live the stress-free and happy life you always wanted. Here are a few to help you get started and remember…. it’s a practice. It will take some time. Just keep practicing these techniques and life will feel easier to navigate once you have strengthened these tools. Go live abundantly!
*Practice self compassion. We can be our own worse enemy. Why do we treat ourselves like that? We say horrible things to ourselves and we forget that no one can appreciate us if we cannot appreciate our own lives. Say only nice things about yourself every morning and evening. Stop the negative chatter. Be your own best friend.
*Get to really know yourself. When you can finally understand what your likes, dislikes, passions, habits, needs and desires are, you will no longer be living for the acceptance of others. Stop living for others and live for yourself. Be proud that you are different. Being like everyone else is boring anyway!
*Make your opinion #1. You can certainly remove negative people from your life. We don’t need to have people in our space that don’t support us. But, sometimes they are still there waiting to greet us. A good practice is to stop placing so much value on other opinions and value yours more. Stop making their opinions more important than your own.
*Face your fears head on. This is my favorite tactic. When you do this, you will start to realize that you are more confident than you think. Letting things fester only creates an untrue story in your mind. You get fearful if you let it go too long. You end up creating something bigger over time. The mind is very powerful and will run wild if you allow it. It’s a master at illusion. It’s always better to face it quickly and get it behind you so you can move on–mentally.
*Do what you love. Life is short. Living in the parameters of others will make you feel unhappy. Doing what you love will attract like-minded people towards you.
*Vulnerability is a superpower. Brene Brown describes this the best. She unlocks the very reasons why being vulnerable is a revelation of your true self and your intentions towards others. Vulnerability connects us deeply with others.
*Don’t be afraid to fail. A study revealed the biggest regret for people on their death beds were the chances they didn’t take. Who cares if you fail? Try again. Every successful person has a failure story that shaped them into who they are today. It’s why we want to know how they got there. We want to know the back story to their success. It is the most intriguing part of their journey. So, get out there and fail if you must. But that doesn’t mean you should quit! You will have a great story to tell when you finally arrive at your success.
*Do more things that make you uncomfortable. Is your comfort zone really that comfortable? Your comfort zone is define by your willingness to push the edges of it. This is why you should regularly do things that make you feel uncomfortable. Nothing unethical or stupid, simply things that make you step up in a whole new way. This also ties in nicely with the vulnerability superpower.
Final note: Confidence isn’t always thinking that everyone will love and support all that you do. Confidence is thinking to yourself, “It’s okay if they don’t”.