by Sonya Rhodes, Ph.D. and Susan Schneider
Sometimes, it seems as though being self-confident is the first step towards achieving almost anything you want. All you have to do is believe in yourself, we're told. With that said, most of us wish it were that simple. The dictionary definition of this elusive quality mentions trusting in our own abilities and judgment.
As a therapist, I tell clients to think of this as a process, a series of small steps that, if taken together, have a cumulative power. Hint: Don't expect to achieve a high level of confidence overnight. But here are 15 of my favorite small steps to get you started:
- Next time you're out on a date, choose the restaurant or movie yourself instead of letting your date do it.
- For every negative thought you have about yourself, think four positive ones—and keep track. Negative: I can't believe I made that stupid remark at lunch. Positive: I handled that sticky situation pretty well.
- Walk through a crowded high-end restaurant to use the bathroom. Hold your head up high, and walk as if you owned the place.
- Over-prepare for an interview or a presentation. Practice speaking in front of a mirror, a friend, or a family member. Record yourself on your phone and play it back. How do you sound? Avoid allowing your voice to rise at the end of declarative sentences. Watch out for "likes" and "ums."
- Talk to a fellow shopper while picking out vegetables at your local grocery store. Consciously do this at least twice a week.
- If someone makes a sexist, racist, homophobic, or discriminatory comment, channel Emma Stone and ask, calmly and clearly, "What do you mean?" Don't argue, just bring the topic into the open.
- Do something totally out of character. If you never wear hats...get one. If you usually dress in black, go for cobalt blue or purple. If you dislike parties, go to one anyway—you never know what might happen. And if nothing happens, so what? Give yourself credit for trying.
- Believe you're all thumbs and could never learn to knit? Try it anyway. Always thought you were a klutz? Take a dance class. Just make sure that whatever new thing you do, it is outside your comfort zone. Then stick with it until you get better—nothing is more satisfying than mastering something you believed you couldn't.
- Make a date with yourself. Go to a new restaurant, or an old favorite, and treat yourself to dinner. Or be really radical, and take a solo weekend trip to a city you've never visited, alone.
- Tell your mother (or aunt or married friends) to stop asking when you're getting married. You don't have to answer to anyone unless you feel like it. As for that dating advice you get from the older generation, it might not be right for today. Times have changed, though not everyone realizes that.
- Be a daredevil—try something a little "out there" and physically demanding. Can you imagine sky diving or wind surfing? Try the new climbing wall at the gym. Why not? Other people do it—so can you.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise. Hike, swim, ride a bike, try a new jogging path. And vary your routine whenever possible.
- At the office, take credit for work that you do as part of a team. We often hesitate to claim our contributions because we think we're coming off as aggressive or self-serving. That's ridiculous: Take your time in the spotlight. And if something goes wrong on a project, try not putting all the blame on yourself and see how that feels.
- Women, are you watching a movie on Netflix with your partner? Suggest one in the category of "strong female characters." You've watched plenty of sports programs with him, right?
- Consciously avoid procrastination, at home or at work. Procrastination is usually due to perfectionism or anxiety about not being good enough. Just line up what you have to do and get it done.