I have been thinking a great deal over the last few weeks about the question, "Why do I have self-confidence?" I should start my answer with a disclaimer- my level of self-confidence often depends on the day. If I am stressed, sick, or near “happy week,” my ability to think well of my personal self sometimes wavers. But I have certain things I do in those moments that help me to get back on track. My self-confidence is a work in progress, but I definitely feel like I have made great strides in that department.
I personally think that the majority of self-confidence comes down to expectations- are you meeting the expectations of yourself that make you feel like someone who is worthwhile? The world’s expectations, which are reinforced in movies, music, magazines, and television, tell you that you must have and be all of the following, all of the time, in order to be worthwhile: gorgeous, with perfect hair, the newest styles of clothes, and a skeletor-thin body; have a nice car; be dating someone; have a great career. While I want some of these things to some degree and am striving to accomplish them, I don’t meet any of them now (and I’m not fishing for compliments- that is just how I feel). But I don’t want to waste time meanwhile not feeling confident, just because I haven’t met my life goals yet. I have two ways of avoiding despondency in the meantime: 1. Setting small, achievable goals; 2. Changing my overall perspective of what is means to be worthwhile.
My overall life goals are to be married to my best friend, have children that grow up healthy and strong and know they are loved, to contribute to my community in a meaningful way, and to grow personally and spiritually into the best version of myself. Every year, I think about major goals I would like to accomplish to help me move in the direction of these life goals. This year I want to move out of Reno, start a grad school program, sell my photos, become healthier, and date more. In order to accomplish these goals, I set some daily and weekly goals that I write in my planner. I love being able to check things off a list, so now I have something every day that is doable that I can check off, moves me closer to reaching my goals, and helps me feel like I have accomplished something meaningful. For example, for moving and starting a grad program, I set a goal to set aside a little bit of money each paycheck towards paying for them. I set a little time aside each Thursday to research schools and areas to move to. For my goal of being healthier, I have daily exercise, water intake, and fruit/ veggie consumption goals. I recommend deciding what it is you want in the long term and then setting achievable goals that you can do that will help you feel like you are accomplishing something. Knowing that you are moving forward, that you are not stagnant, will go a long way to helping you feel your own sense of worth.
Did you notice that I spelled out the world’s standards of worth earlier? While I want some of those things, the level of priority I give them is a little different. Way more important to me than having great hair is having great relationships with my family members. Way more important to me that wearing nice clothes is to be someone of great honesty, kindness, and optimism. That’s not to say that having great hair and great clothes aren’t important. I am just saying there are other things that make me happier in the long run. I am so lucky to work at a dental office, because I see the wealth of humanity come through every day. As I see different women, I find ones that I admire and try to figure what it is about them that I like. Then I try to make those qualities the most important to me. What do they all have in common- they are kind and friendly, their kids look so happy, they are well educated, and they are movers and shakers in their community. They are not all fancily dressed, few are thin, and they aren’t always perfectly attired. But they are happy and they exude confidence. That is who I want to be when I grow and those are the qualities I work for.
Something very important that helps me to solidify my feelings of self-worth comes from my spiritual background. Every week at church, I am reminded that I am a daughter of a Heavenly, who is perfect and wonderful. As His daughter, I have limitless potential to become like Him. As I have sought out His help, I have felt ennobled and empowered to change myself for the better. I fortify that during the week by setting and accomplishing my goals, by having sincere prayer about these goals, and by reading my scriptures to remind myself of how others have overcome trials and gone on to be successful in spite of terrible circumstances. It works for me. You have to figure out what works for you.
As I have pondered my low moments, I have noticed an emerging pattern. I usually feel bad about myself when I am around people I perceive as better or more accomplished than myself. I measure my worth against the outward appearance of someone else’s virtues. This is dangerous, because you are only seeing what is on the surface, which is a seemingly unattainable standard of perfection or accomplishment. This can leave you feeling helpless. If you find yourself tempted to think this way, there are two things you can do to get out of that trap. First, picture each person as a fingerprint: unique, all having similar characteristics, but beautiful in their individuality. We all have our own pace and one is not better than any other, just different. One of my favorite lines from a movie is from “Oklahoma”- “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else … but I’ll be danged if I ain’t just as good!” Try hard to avoid comparing yourself against others and instead focus on pushing yourself to your own, personal limits, and rejoice and celebrate when you are able to do so.
If you feel like you are helplessly swimming in a pool of self-doubt, it is time to climb out of introspection and focus completely on serving someone else. In serving, you feel empowered to lift others, to affect change, to be a mover and shaker. You will forget yourself in this service and will be able to get outside of your head for a little while. As you serve, why not write down special moments, moments when you made a difference? That way, when you are feeling powerless, you can read those entries and remember that you are powerful. The most powerful time of this for me was serving on my mission. When I feel low, those experiences
When all else fails, I have one final fail safe. I sing, as loud and off-key as humanly possible, the song “Confidence” from “The Sound of Music.” It makes me laugh, gets me outside of my worries for a little while, and reminds me to not stress so much. Even if the “rainy-day-blues” Nazis are taking over the country, you still have so many wonderful things to enjoy in life, like apple strudel. (If you haven’t seen the movie, this reference will make so sense… and you should watch it, because it’s amazing!!!!)
I know that there are great things in store for you. Never forget- tomorrow has limitless potential for being a day worth remembering.