Dreams aren’t always about winning the lottery, getting the promotion, or wearing a ring. Sometimes they’re about moments. Some they’re about seeing the ocean, going rock climbing, or trying a famous ice-cream shop. Sometimes they’re about watching old movies with a friend or dancing the night away. Sometimes they’re about playing with puppies or eating three different flavors of cake. Dreams can simple. Dreams can be fun. Dreams can be giving yourself a reason to smile.
You belong here. You matter. You have gifts, abilities, and so much potential to share with the world. It can be easy to compare yourself to the person next to you, to feel like you’re somehow falling behind, whether it’s in your career, your relationships, or your experiences. But this journey is yours, this path is yours alone, and no one can live your life or make your choices for you. You have so much more freedom than you realize. Stay strong. Live the life that you want to live. Be yourself fearlessly. Be bold, daring, and loud in whatever your heart’s language is. Maybe it’s through words, maybe it’s through art, maybe it’s through acts of kindness. Be loud. But also listen to the Universe that cares about you, that loves you, that supports you. Have trust. Take chances. This is your one life. Don’t pursue a happiness that only exists in the future. Choose a path that will bring you happiness, a path that will help you fall in love with the journey. Each and every day fall deeply in love with yourself. You are a miracle. You are once in a lifetime. Live your truth and be free.
Close your eyes and imagine
You are flying. Soaring above
The cotton candy clouds and
Feeling the gentle wind on your
Skin. So far from your worries
And the things that weigh you
Down. You are free, you are
Magical. Your adventure awaits.
Feel the warm sun
And the breeze through your hair
The dewy grass beneath your feet
Be in the world without a care
Let go of fears and take courage
Be the person you want to be
Pursue your dreams, live in the moment
Spread your wings, for you are free.
[Society tends to glamourize the overnight success. Here’s a friendly reminder that it’s okay to go at your own pace.]
Running, sprinting toward a destiny
That slips through your fingers like sand
So you run faster, chase harder, your prayers
Become desperate whimpers. Everything feels
Out of reach, as though the steps you take
Are leading you nowhere fast. There is so
Much desire to speed and keep up with the life
That everyone else is displaying on social media
Every time you bump into someone you haven’t
Seen in a while, they ask the same questions. Have
You climbed this particular mountain yet? Have you
Checked these tasks off of your to-do list, all the things
That will make you socially acceptable? You respond
With few words and give even fewer fucks. You want to
Hold up a sign that has its middle finger up. But instead
Of being angry you go to your own space. And you breathe
You give yourself a quiet moment with tea and a good book
Or maybe you listen to your favorite singer while you gaze
At the dim stars and setting sun. You remind yourself that
Your duty is not to fulfill society’s expectations. No, your
Duty lies in relentless self-love. You love yourself enough
To go at your own pace, to pursue the things that make you
Feel enthusiastic about life. You know what matters to you
Each small step is progress. Each small step is enough, just like you.
[Hey! So I wanted to make this post because I feel like confidence can be kind of a confusing topic. It’s something we hear a lot about, but aren’t always told about concrete ways to get to it. This post is kind of long, so I broke it up into chapters. Hope you’re having a super awesome day ❤ ]
Chapter 1: Examining the Definition
Chapter 2: How Do We Become Confident?
Chapter 3: Examples From My Own Life
Chapter 4: My Tips For How You Can Grow Your Confidence
Chapter 1: Examining the Definition
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, confidence is defined as “a feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something.” Even with a textbook definition, this can be a hard concept to understand. We are always told from a young age that confidence is an important ingredient for success, but it is seldom clear how one actually gets it. This is especially true for young adults. When so many things in our lives are yet to be figured out, how can we ever know if we are really confident or not?
Let’s start with the definition. I find it interesting that it is defined as being a “belief” or a “feeling.” I think using these two words almost interchangeably is part of the reason that trying to be confident can be so confusing. If it is a feeling, that can be troubling. Feelings fade. Who feels good and secure about who they are all the time? Probably no one, because feelings change. They come and go, and this is especially true for people struggling with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness.
As I’m sure most of us would agree, your emotions are not always within your control. Sometimes we get sad, lonely, scared, or overwhelmed. And when you’re feeling all of those things, who has time to think about confidence? No one. You’re too busy trying to find the will power to brush your teeth or make toast. On the other hand, I’m sure most us also have moments where we do, in fact, feel confident. And that’s an amazing feeling!
It’s that moment when you know you’re gonna do well on an exam, or that moment when you’ve rehearsed a piece of music so much that you believe you can perform it well, or when you wake up knowing you’ll have a good day at your job. Or even when you know you can make a loved one happy.
Next, let’s look at “belief.” I see belief as being something that’s a little easier to understand, but it can also be just as intangible as feelings are while also being somewhat vague. While feelings come and go, I see belief as something that is more like solid ground. It’s much more consistent.
A belief is something that is more in your control because you can choose to believe in something. It’s like the little engine that could. You have the ability to tell yourself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” And it actually makes a difference. If you allow yourself to believe that you are capable, smart, and strong, you’ve given yourself the proper foundation to take action, grow, and become better.
This is great! But if beliefs are basically within our control, and if they do help us to move forward and get things done, why can confidence still feel so elusive to us? The reason for this is, we run into obstacles. And that obstacle is doubt. You know how when you were little, and you believed in Santa Clause, until you started asking logical questions?
Like, how does he fly around the world in one night? How does a big, jolly guy fit into a tiny chimney? How on earth does he manage to eat all of those cookies? How could he make toys for every child in the world? If I live in an apartment that doesn’t have a chimney, how does he get inside? (I didn’t believe in Santa for very long).
Believing in yourself is great, until your mind starts playing Santa Clause with you. You want to become a rock climber, but then you start assessing the situation. It could be dangerous, and you don’t have a lot of upper body strength, so you start thinking it’s a bad idea. Or you feel good about doing your math homework, until you remember you are not really a “numbers person,” and will probably get everything wrong anyway. This is where belief becomes essential. Your doubts challenge your confidence, but you also have the ability to challenge your doubts. Believing in yourself is worth the investment because you are here, you matter, and you have potential.
Chapter 2: How Do We Become Confident?
So, how do we become confident? Where do we begin? Again, I want to start with feelings. While our feelings are not always within our control, finding ways to feel good about things is an important practice for us. Meditation is one way for us to experience a moment of peace and calm. This won’t necessarily solve all our problems, and it doesn’t mean sad feelings won’t come back, but having a moment of feeling at peace can remind us that life may not be as overwhelming as it feels. And it gives us a chance to be centered, especially on those really hard days.
Prayer can also help. Whether you are talking to God, the universe, or whichever higher power you believe in, if you connect with that and trust that you are loved and cared for, it can help to make you feel at peace as well. These practices are good because they don’t require any material possessions and they don’t even require you to get out of bed. They allow you to start from within.
I mentioned earlier that one way one might experience confidence is when you know you’ll do well on a test, or when you’ve rehearsed a piece of music enough to know that you can perform it well, or even if you know you can make a loved one happy. One key aspect of feeling confident in our abilities is preparation.
If you want to be confident as a musician, the best thing you can do is rehearse. If you want to feel confident in school, the best thing you can do is study to the best of your ability, and over time. If you want to feel confident in your relationships, the best thing you can do is practice kindness and be a good listener. How well you do something tends to depends on how often you practice it.
I think feeling confident depends largely on knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and the best way to do that is to spend time getting to know yourself. If you want to be confident as a runner, the most important thing you could do is start running. It’s not about how fast you are or how you’re doing compared to other people.
You need to get to know your own body, and how the process feels for you. Are you more comfortable as a sprinter or a long distance runner? You can only know this if you practice and listen to your body. If you can get to know yourself, you will be more confident in your abilities and in what you want.
Next, lets look at belief. I think a lot of people associate belief with religion. With believing in God or a higher power, or even in angels, ghosts, or spirits. In this sense, a lot of people may want nothing to do with belief. They prefer cold, hard facts, and I think this is especially true for people in the science community. And from many perspectives, it makes sense.
Why bother believing in things? The earth revolves around the sun, stars eventually burn out, we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon monoxide. If you toss an apple into the air, it will fall because there is gravity. The world is, in many ways, a logical place. There is cause an affect. Blue and red make purple and leaves are green because of chlorophyll. There are things we can learn, things that will always be true. And we can take comfort in those things.
The problem with confidence is that it requires uncertainty. I don’t need to be confident that gravity exists because I know it exists. It’s kind of like courage. In order to be courageous, you must first experience fear. A climber who is comfortable with heights is not brave for climbing a tree. It’s just a normal, nonchalant activity for them. But if a person who is afraid of heights climbs a tall tree to rescue a cat, that person has found courage in themselves.
There is a quote in the Princess Diaries (shout out to my Anna Hathaway fans 🙂 ) that says, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the knowledge that there is something more important than fear.” I think confidence works in a similar way. It isn’t that you don’t have doubts, it is knowing that there is something more important than doubt. It’s the ability to invest in yourself because you know you are capable of small and great things.
Facts are great. But the truth is, you have no way of knowing one hundred percent that you will do well on that performance, or if you’ll ace that test, or if you’ll be able to make someone smile. Because no matter how much you know about the universe, most of us cannot predict the future.
We can prepare the best we can, but after that, all we can do is hope. If you can hope, then you can believe in yourself. And if you can believe in yourself, you can have confidence. In the Bible, Jesus says you only need faith the size of a mustard seed. Which is basically a biblical times way of saying that you only need a tiny bit of faith. I think confidence works in the same way. You only need a little for it to make a difference in your life.
Now, do I think that having a positive attitude will necessarily make or break your ability to perform well or do well on a test? My answer to that is no. I’ve done well on exams I felt completely negative about, and I’ve done poorly on exams even if I went into them thinking, “I think I can, I think I can…” In the same way that love is not just a feeling, but a verb, I think confidence is largely defined by action. To me, a confident musician is someone who goes out there and performs no matter how unsure she may feel. A confident student is someone who goes into an exam and takes his time answering all the questions, even if he’s not sure he will remember everything.
So, where does this leave us? I mentioned earlier that feeling confident is often about preparation. And that belief is about trusting that things will work out, even if you can’t know for sure. The thing feelings and belief have in common is they require you to take action. In that way, confidence is not about your image, outward appearance, or even about your feelings. It’s about what you do.
Chapter 3: Examples From My Own Life
Let’s look at examples in my own life. I consider myself to be a somewhat confident person, but I also acknowledge that I don’t embody the image that comes to my mind when I think of confidence. Because what I picture is someone who:
Stands with their shoulders back
Fakes it till they make it
I think a lot of us associate confidence with image, which is why it can feel so out of reach and even unrealistic or fake. I am an introvert, reserved, don’t care much about my appearance, and don’t always feel sure about myself. So, why do I consider myself a confident person? This is why:
I know what I stand for
I know what I value
I know what I’m good at and pursue those things
I don’t mind being bad at something
I know that other people could always use my help
These things are very different from the image I had of a confident person as a teen. But for me what it ultimately comes down to is that I know what’s important to me, and my actions reflect that.
For example, I am confident that I am a good writer. This isn’t about comparing myself to others, or even thinking I am good by other peoples’ standards. But because it’s something I care about, I do a shit ton of it, and pretty much every time I write, whether it’s a poem or an academic paper, I try to make it as good as it can be.
I feel confident that I’m a good friend. This one is a bit trickier isn’t it? Because other people may have different opinions about that. But this comes from a place of acknowledging that I value my friends and family (I feel every good, real and honest relationship you have with a person has to be rooted in friendship on some level). And I am someone who struggles with social anxiety and feeling accepted by others.
So why do I feel confident in this area at all? I put the effort into reaching out to my friends when I can, asking how they are doing, and ultimately wanting them to know that I care about them, their dreams, and my relationship with them. Again, it comes down to action. I know what I value and I practice it.
I feel confident about my spiritual life. This one can also be tricky. I’m not currently active in a church, which is already something people might turn their noses up about. I’m also queer, which can cause it’s own issues because many people say hateful things around that topic. I don’t read the Bible every day. I’ve found religious environments to sometimes be constricting and involving a certain amount of peer pressure.
So, why do I feel confident in my spiritual life? I love prayer. Connecting to my higher power has always been a big part of my life, even when “being religious” wasn’t. There are people in my life who I trust who I can bond with over religion. I want to do kind things and lift others up in whatever way I can. I value spirituality and faith, and those things are reflective in my actions.
For me, a big confidence killer is worrying what other people think. Another is when I compare myself to others. The thing is, you build confidence by your own actions, not by other peoples’ opinions. It’s okay to do things your own way. Know what you value and let your actions reflect those values. If you practice something, you will grow, and if you grow, you will feel good about your own abilities. Your confidence has to come from within and it has to start with you.
Chapter 4: My Tips For How You Can Grow Your Confidence
So, how can you become confident? Society may tell you to make a lot of money, buy a big house, marry an attractive partner, dress nicely, and basically look really great from the outside. (much like the recipe they give us for happiness, no?). Here’s what I say:
Know what you value. A great place to start is knowing what is important to you. Make a list. Think of it like that exercise where they ask you in elementary school, “If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, and could only bring what would fit in your suitcase, what would you bring?”
You can really only value a few things in life, things that stay with you that you want to really grow in. Of course they can change, but I find mine are usually pretty consistent, even what want in life is always shifting. It can be anything from music to family to religion to fitness. What do you want to carry with you on this journey that is your life?
Do little things that align with your values. For me that can mean working on a poetry book, saying a prayer, spending time with loved ones, or eating a healthy snack. It’s not about having a set plan or setting huge goals. It’s about doing little things and letting them build off of each other.
Don’t compare yourself to others. They say “comparison is the thief of joy,” (and I’m not quite sure whether this comes from Theodore Roosevelt, the book of Proverbs, or Buddha). Whoever it is, they’re right. Social media makes this even harder. When you find yourself comparing your life to someone else’s, walk away. Find your center, meditate. Breathe. And then focus on your own journey.
Do something that you value. Something that involves taking care of YOU. Also, go encourage someone else! Because we all feel inadequate at times and need support. (Including the person you’re comparing yourself to!)
Tell yourself you’re beautiful inside and out. I have a habit of giving myself compliments. I tell myself I am beautiful and brave. It may just seem like less concrete, mindset/ perspective advice (trust me, I can’t stand that stuff). But this really has helped me. When I was in high school, I knew that body image issues affected many people, especially girls. I wanted to make sure I felt good about my body, and giving myself compliments was one way I was able to do that.
I’m petite, not very athletic, and never got big boobs (seriously, those puberty books lied to me. Mother Nature made sure I got my period though). Like anyone else, I had things that I maybe thought weren’t great about my body. But you know something? I really do love my body exactly as it is. What I care most about is being healthy and taking care of myself the best way I can. I think being able to compliment myself early on really helped with that. You should try it. It’s never too late to start 🙂
Have role models. Not people you may be envious of, but people you genuinely admire and feel you can relate to. For me, certain celebrities are big inspirations for me, especially those who are down to earth and don’t care about image or money. People whose values line up with mine. This gives me hope because I know many of them, like me, have bad days, do their best to work through them, enjoy creating things, and embrace their imperfections. Demi Lovato inspires me through her strength and living with mental illness. There are many people I look up to, and that helps a lot.
Wake up each day knowing you can practice your values. I think it all comes back to this. If you know what matters to you and how you can take small actions around those things, you will wake up each day with a part of you loving life. It’s when I don’t make time for the things that matter that I am the most miserable. It’s easy to get caught up in my obligations (applying for jobs, learning to drive, working). If you feel like your life is revolving around the things that don’t truly matter to you, of course you won’t be happy!
Be true to yourself. Whether you are an introvert or an extravert, an artist or an athlete, a good dancer or a terrible one, know that it’s okay to be exactly who you are. Express yourself, live your truth, and be kind to others with the faith that it will be returned to you. This is your ONE LIFE and you matter. Start acting like it! 🙂
These tips reflect what confidence means to me. This is a topic that can feel confusing. Most of us are told to be confident, but we are not usually told how to get there. I hope these tips are helpful. Tell me in the comments. What do you value? What does confidence mean to you?
Lastly, I leave you with an appropriate song by the one, the only, Demi Lovato! ❤
A beating heart, and a head full of
Dreams. You are spectacular. You are
Radiant. You are summer rain and
Fresh flowers that bloom in a garden
That is full of possibilities. I know it’s
Hard at times. That maybe it took longer
Than you would have liked to live
Your truth because you thought you had
To hide behind the lie of being straight
Or maybe loving a man has made you
Feel like you didn’t quite fit in in queer
Spaces while still not quite fitting in
In straight spaces and so you’ve felt like
You fit in nowhere. Living on an island
Where there’s no one around who understands
How your identity has shaped you, how
Getting to a place of self-acceptance has
Caused you to hurt and grow and break
And mend. It has made your world bigger
Maybe you still have a preference and know
That your orientation is still valid. Maybe you’ve
Heard someone suggest that people like you
Are greedy, confused, or lying. Or you’ve heard
A woman say she would never date a bisexual
Because she wanted to be with someone who
Wouldn’t cheat on her. Maybe the stereotypes
Have made you wonder if coming out is a
Mistake, even as you drowned in the anxiety
Of hiding who you are from people who
Were supposed to love you. Love should
Not cause anyone this much hurt. If no
One’s told you lately, you should know
You aren’t broken. You are brave with an
Endless capacity to be kind and strong
And filled with light. That you’ve learned
To appreciate your ability to fall in love
With a sense of humor or a smile or
Just the right person’s presence. You
Find the beauty in it. Even in a world
That may misunderstand you, you exist
Without hiding. And that is remarkable
Maybe there are times when you’re not
Sure of what you want, or times when
You’re still figuring yourself out, and
That’s okay. Don’t carry around the
Burden of the myth that your whole
Life must be planned out. Let it go
And it will drift away like feathers in
The wind and the sun will come out to
Remind you that you’re doing just fine
Maybe you’re still afraid when you meet
Someone new because you’re not sure
If they will accept you. And if no one’s told
You lately, fear is not a sign of weakness
It is the prerequisite of courage. You have
A lion’s heart. You have wings because you
Have set yourself free to be your best self
Truthful and unshaken. My darling, if I
Could take your hands I’d open your eyes
To the stars and I’d say, look. They shine
For someone as lovely and beautiful as you
I know it’s hard at times, but you handle it
So well. You are the wild flowers that bloom
In the field. Different, untamed, and fearless.