1. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR PAST SUCCESSES
We live in an "on to the next one" world. It's rare to get time to reflect solely on things we've nailed in any given week. And on days where it feels like I can barely finish what's on my plate, the thought of spending extra time to "celebrate me" used to feel insane. But wow does it make such a difference.
Instead of having a toothless goal like "reflect on success", I've added it to my Friday to-do list. Every Friday I write down one accomplishment. It could be big or small, professional or personal, the accomplishment doesn't matter. What does matter is the act of writing it down. Taking this time to pat myself on the back has stopped me from carrying a frazzled mindset into the next week. It's also been a nice confidence boost to look back on everything listed.
2. PRACTICE SPEAKING OUT LOUD
Speaking out loud used to be—and who am I kidding, still is—something I struggle with. While I am confident in my ability to research, write, and deliver a speech to a crowd, where I struggle is the back and forth afterward. My brain immediately shifts to "Am I speaking too much?" "Oh my god did I just cut her off?" "Do people even care about what I'm saying?" This brain Jenga can lead to staying quiet during meetings and networking events (not ideal for advancing professionally.) My solution, speak up! Even if you're alone.
Use a commute, a shower, or a couch session to practice speaking out loud. This might look like replaying a past interaction, practicing an upcoming elevator pitch, or even car singing, the choice is yours. I use these solo pow-wows to rehearse bullet points, reflect on my pacing, tone, and cadence, as well as finding opportunities to pause. But more importantly, these solo talks remind me to actually use my voice. No one will know your brilliance if you don't share it!
3. LEARN A NEW SKILL
Whether it's as big as learning a language or as small as trying a new board game, trying new things acts as a great reminder that you can adapt to whatever life throws at you. Sometimes even trying something you think you'll be bad at can help you flex your confidence muscle. This was the case for me; partly because conquering something new feels amazing and partly because trying new things can sometimes mean failing at said thing.
Processing failure is a huge factor in building confidence. At one time or another, we will all fail. And boy does it stink—especially when you're feeling a confidence low. But learning new skills has acted as a way for me to practice failure so I have the mental tools to dust myself off and try again.
4. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
People have written entire books on how to live your life with gratitude, so I'm not going to share anything too groundbreaking here. Instead, I want to share a game I play to help keep me thankful when times get tough.
If you've had a particularly rough day, you can often trace it back to a specific moment (or a few moments) that truly tested you and your confidence. Count the actual moments you've felt overwhelmed. Let's say there were four of them. We're now going to list four things we're grateful for. (No one said it was a particularly complex game.) One item that I've been using a lot as of late is "I'm grateful for getting to wash my hands in hot water." So clearly, it doesn't have to be something big. Chances are, you'll finish your list of four and still have items to show gratitude to. That feeling of having more to be grateful for has really helped me shift my mindset from "I can't" to "let's try".
5. HAVE A TOTEM
Before you write this one off, hear me out. I'm using the word totem to describe a designated object to touch when you're feeling unconfident, uncomfortable, or overwhelmed. Popping on your object signifies that you know you're going into a situation that you find challenging.
It acts as a physical manifestation of the tools your brain has to cope with the challenge. As an added bonus, having something small like a pin, coin, or ring can give you something to fiddle with—to distract your mind or give your hands something to do. My totem is an enamel squirrel pin in case you were wondering.
6. TALK WITH YOUR INNER CRITIC
Your inner critic can be THE WORST! A dash of self-reflective criticism is key for healthy growth, but when your confidence is low, chances are it's because this inner critic has gone off the rails. Give this inner critic a name (sup, Judy) and start questioning them.
When faced with a problem, try asking your critic these questions to get started:
Is the cost of inaction worth it?
Am I seeing the most accurate picture of me?
Is there an aspect of my life that I move through with a question mark over my head? What is something I can do to resolve this?
I know that confidence is something that will always ebb and flow. But building habits that build confidence can help the bad days feel less bad. What are some habits you've built to keep you feeling confident and capable?