Perception is reality.

No matter how beautiful, how smart, how well-mannered you are, if you are not feeling yourself, you are doomed.

Low self-esteem can do you no good. On the contrary, you will come off as too self-aware, too distracted, self-conscious…

It is a simple rule. If you think highly of yourself, other people will assume they should think highly of you.

Having higher self-esteem is not only a change in your perspective. It has the power to change your personal and work relationships for the better, to earn you better attitude and, ultimately, better opportunities.

This article will give you fourteen powerful ways to boost your confidence, classified in three distinct categories.

First, we will go through the very practical, science-based ways to gain confidence. Call them hacks, if you wish.

Next, we will give you several ideas how to adjust your perspective so that you can see yourself in a better light.

Third, we will work together on your outlook – understanding other people better will help you get an improved idea of who you are in your surroundings.

PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR BETTER SELF CONFIDENCE

In this section of the article you will discover our five proven-to-work life hacks for better confidence.

Have in mind they are simple to follow but they are not always easy to follow. However, stick with it, and you will have a lot of success.

1. Get in shape

Unlike other health conditions, being overweight is immediately obvious to people in your immediate surroundings. There is a stigma around carrying extra weight; that it is the result of gluttony; that you are bringing health risks upon yourself because of your poor life choices…

Surprisingly, fat shaming is way more widely accepted than shaming people for other nasty habits such as smoking, drinking, gambling, shopping addiction, etc. Habits that can actually be way more devastating to your life than a few extra pounds.

Let it be noted that we do not condone fat shaming in any way shape or form, but we do want to stress on the fact that it is one of the first criteria people may judge you against, and therefore tackling that beast may put you on the fast track towards being more confident.

Careful! Losing weight will only work if you have weight to lose. Talk to your doctor, or have a good look at your BMI and measurements before you take a decision. There is an app for that now. Wink.

Making little changes in your lifestyle will get eyes on you and set people’s opinions of you in a positive direction. You will look better but you will also be perceived as more determined, more careful, and even smarter.

Give up some sweets, go to the gym several times a week. Stick to it for a month and compliments will follow.

2. Money. You are not it.

We live in a world where you can pretty much monetize your every skill. In addition to your nine-to-five job you can easily run a gig, freelance, give lessons and basically earn money for any talent you may hold.

We are rewarded for our efforts with money, we are penalized for our mistakes with money.

It is very easy to think that the money you own is equal to how much you are worth.

There is a high chance that your self-esteem is too closely linked to your money spending. In extreme cases, that will come to signify a money disorder.

According to Psychology Today there are several categories of those disorders. With money avoidance and money rejection, you would try to dissociate yourself from the subject of money. You would not pursue high-paid jobs, you would feel a sense of guilt, whenever you are getting paid. You would avoid tracking your bank account.

On the contrary, money worshiping will lead you to an obsession with money, which in itself may lead you to workaholism and compulsive spending.

You will be tempted to pursue every opportunity that could bring you financial gain – not just work related, but also investments and gambling. You will base your self worth entirely on the amount and price of things you can buy.

The link between money and self-esteem works in both directions. Work on handling your money better and you will feel better about yourself.

Having a healthier attitude toward money will help you realize financial problems and financial accomplishments are not personality problems and personality accomplishments.

3. Better posture

Alright, so sometimes you feel tired and broken and you could care less for the shape of your back, or how you look… You just want to slouch over your desk, read the last pages of that boring document and get it over with. You just want to go home.

But there might be more to it than meets the eye. Studies have been performed to check if a better posture affects what someone thinks about themselves:

‘Participants were asked to think about and write down their best or worse qualities while they were sitting down with their back erect and pushing their chest out (confident posture) or slouched forward with their back curved (doubtful posture).

Then, participants completed a number of measures and reported their self‐evaluations. In line with the self‐validation hypothesis, we predicted and found that the effect of the direction of thoughts (positive/negative) on self‐related attitudes was significantly greater when participants wrote their thoughts in the confident than in the doubtful posture.

These postures did not influence the number or quality of thoughts listed, but did have an impact on the confidence with which people held their thoughts.’

In other words, standing tall works!

4. Smile

A lot of high self-esteem has to do with social acceptance. You are prone to seek acceptance from others, as they are from you.

Smiling will make people around you feel accepted by you. When the barista hands you your coffee in the morning, thank him and give him a smile. When your Uber picks you up from the airport, smile. When your boss criticizes your work, flaunt a smirk.

A smile can be used in more than one occasion. It can show gratitude, it could accompany a request, it may be used to convey understanding, or just good will.

Whatever the occasion, it is difficult to imagine a case where smiling made it worse. It usually contributes to better understanding, more effective communication, easing the tension between two or more sides… it is a gesture meant to relax a situation.

Alright, so how does that affect YOUR self-esteem?

Reciprocation. Smiling is one of those body language expressions that just call for the same response.

As this Forbes article tells us: ‘Two studies from 2002 and 2011 at Uppsala University in Sweden confirmed that other people’s smiles actually suppress the control we usually have over our facial muscles, compelling us to smile. They also showed that it’s very difficult to frown when looking at someone who smiles.’

Smiling asks for smiling back. Smiling to other people increases the chance of getting a smile yourself. You will suddenly feel yourself not as tense, you will feel less stress when talking to other people, you will feel less judgement and scrutiny in your surroundings.

5. Chat

Looking fit, standing straight, and smiling will all contribute to people’s first impression of you. So far so good.

Now all you need is a few tips at small talk so you avoid those awkward situations: How often has it happened that you fell into the deep sizzling hell of a prolonged awkward silence.

Then you may or may not have blurted something stupid. And you hated yourself for the rest of the day. And then, in the evening, under the shower, you thought of the perfect thing to say and had a beautiful conversation with yourself…

The reason is you are feeling too much tension when you are under the pressure of having to come up with things to say to others.

So here are some small talk life hacks:

  • Remember: The true art of small talk is striking an engaging conversation on topics that do not matter
  • You should never get too personal in small talk. That is why people talk about the weather. Make it a habit of screening the news for small facts that would be a good topic.
  • Engage the other side by making a bet ‘I bet you 2 dollars the lady over there will drop that fifth folder within the next one minute’
  • Engage the other side by asking advice ‘Hey, I need you to help me out with something. Where do you think I can find a good…’

SEE YOURSELF IN A BETTER LIGHT

While the first section of our article was meant to give you very practical advice to implement in your everyday life and see quick results, now we will direct your attention inwards.

Here we aim to provide you with 5 mental exercises that will transform the way you see yourself – from the inside out.

6. Think it through

People with low self-esteem often become the victims of abusive automatic thoughts.

The way it works is they often fall into the same chain of thoughts, and after a while, thought #1 automatically leads to thought #5. And the entire logic in-between is lost.

For example:

  1. ‘I had an awkward encounter with Jill today where I could not say much to her in the elevator‘
  2. ‘Jill must think now that I am not a good conversationalist’
  3. ‘I am probably not a good conversationalist’
  4. ‘I am probably not a good conversationalist because I am stupid’
  5. ‘I am stupid’

This train of thoughts becomes: ‘I had an awkward encounter with Jill today where I could not say much to her in the elevator, therefore I am stupid.‘

The problem with this thinking is it often leads from objectively unpleasant situations that are not necessarily your fault, to self-blame.

While you can really attack the logic leading from Thought #1 to thought #5 with various arguments, people with low self-esteem miss that part and take every awkward situation as a proof they are no good.

Counteract by giving yourself some well-earned compliments, whenever you find yourself in a good social situation.

7. Set goals

A huge contributor to your self-perception will be the feeling of being accomplished.

Make it a habit to set short term, mid-term and long term goals for yourself.

Remember! Your goals must be achievable. Setting yourself some unachievable goals will be devastating for yourself esteem. You are not dreaming here. You are planning. Set for a little lower than the optimum result or optimum timing. Think about best or worst case scenario.

Short term goals will be your daily tasks. Every Saturday sit down and write down some things you need to do throughout the week. Maybe you want to go out and vote, or do your taxes, open a bank account, go to the gym 3 or 4 times. Start small. Read your list back to yourself and ask yourself if you do the entire list this week will it make you feel accomplished.

Mid-term goals would be your goals for the year. It could be the couple of extra kilograms you want to shed, or finally take that exam and certify your skills, or it could be to learn to garden. Plan for success until mid-year. Extending till the rest of the year will be Plan B.

Your long term goals would be goals about your career, your family, your traveling around the world plans. Long term goals will only be successful if you work on them through your short and mid-term goals – to save money, to issue documents, to have meetings in the name of the end result.

8. Build your self image

Poor self-confidence may be the result of bad self-image, but it could also be the result of an ambiguous, unclear or changing self-image.

Ask yourself who you are and who you want to be. Where are you coming from? What were your circumstances? How have you grown? What are your true religious beliefs? Your political beliefs? Who do you admire? Are you a cat or a dog person? Pepsi or Coca cola? And the most important question of all: Why?

Working on clearing your self-image will help you feel more confident in your opinions, your goals, your actions and the sacrifices you have to do to continue on your path.

If you are criticized for not spending enough time with your children, you will know it is not because you are a bad mother, it is because you are a businesswoman.

You are laughed at because you are not good with technology? Well, you are an artist, you rely on the tangible.

When you know who you are and where you are going, you will feel more at ease about your place in society.

9. Get out of your comfort zone

Another step towards feeling more accomplished is to try and surprise yourself.

Setting goals is a good idea but your goals really have to be achievable in order to work. They have to do with your everyday life, being productive, being good at your career, being successful and loved in your family.

And while that is important, there is always the risk for low-balling yourself. Your short term, mid-term and long term goals SHOULD fall within your comfort zone.

However, low self-esteem could be debilitating. Thinking you are not particularly good looking, or smart, or capable could very well leave you in a bubble, leading a boring, safe life.

What scares you the most? Is it confrontation? Is it standing up to your boss? Is it dealing with family? Or is it flying? Or heights in general? High speeds?

Write down a different set of goals to regularly challenge yourself. Work on being more talkative, go out more often or even schedule some high-adrenaline experiences. Forbes recommends trying to consciously step out of your comfort zone at least 3 times a week.

Slowly but surely you will realize you have become braver, more adventurous and ready for the challenges of life.

10. Acknowledge your flaws

The last step of looking inwards is to make sure you keep your balance. It is impossible to appreciate your strengths without coming to terms with your imperfections.

You need to analyze your fears about yourself and turn them into points to improve.

Step 1. Try to objectively identify your flaws. If you do not feel good about your figure, do you really need to lose weight, or is it just how you see yourself? Are you really stupid, or do you lack knowledge on certain topics?

Step 2. Define if you can work on the source of the issue. If you are facing discrimination because of the color of your skin and you feel the unfairness, that could lead to low self-esteem, but you cannot change how you were born. If you are feeling the consequences of a serious disease, such as diabetes for example, that could be a source of your low self-esteem. But you cannot magically cure yourself. Those could be sources of bad self-image, but they are not your flaws. You only want to concentrate on the things you can work on.

Step 3. Come up with an improvement plan for everything that you do not like in your life that depends on you and your behavior.

SELF-ESTEEM AND RELATIONSHIPS

While self-esteem has to do how you perceive yourself, that self-perception can change drastically if you work on the way you see others.

This last section of our article concentrates on the idea that if you look at other people more closely, try to walk a mile in their shoes, and imagine them holistically, you will end up feeling better about yourself.

11. Don’t compare yourself to others

A very important rule in the age of social media. When all of our friends find bigger and better ways to share with us the high points of their lives, we can’t help but feel unaccomplished, boring and stuck.

People with low self-esteem tend to constantly compare themselves at their worst to the others at their best.

What is bad about that logic is that A) you do not have all of the information. If you are comparing, you will need to know the worst parts about your friends’ lives, too. And no one shares that. B) Even if there was any sort of objective way to score your wellbeing against others’ overall, there will always be at least one aspect of their life where they are doing better than you.

Life is a journey and no two lives are alike. Comparing yourself to others will always make you feel life is unfair, that you are doing something wrong, that you are not where you could be in life. It will only leave you with jealousy and self-esteem issues.

12. Change how you see others

Not comparing yourself to others is just half of it. The other half is changing your perspective of others.

If you were the only person on earth, you probably would not suffer from low self-esteem. You would be the smartest, most handsome, most capable human being that ever walked the earth.

So what changes when there are people around? Why comparing ourselves to others makes us miserable?

Because it gives us unachievable goals or unreasonable expectations for ourselves.

When we focus on the fact that someone is more educated, we rarely think they were brought up in another environment, they had more money around to invest in their education, we rarely think about the personal moments they sacrificed for this achievement. All that we think about is that we wish we would have been more educated.

When we focus on the fact that someone is getting married or having kids while we are single and dreaming of a family, we neglect the money, the time and the efforts that went into creating their home. Suddenly we forget how important we thought higher education is, too.

When we concentrate on others we forget the resources in life are limited and that in order to achieve something you always sacrifice something else.

Most importantly, we always neglect asking ourselves – Does that make them happy? Does that make THEM feel accomplished.

It is just a childish instinct really. Going: ‘I want that. I don’t have that. Therefore, I am unhappy.’

13. Be nice

So simple, so underestimated of a rule.

Low self-esteem often comes from a place of feeling unaccepted, rejected for the great amount of flaws we feel we hold. It could involve feelings of jealousy towards others, of constantly feeling you have to defend yourself because others don’t like you. It could create animosity out of thin air.

By creating animosity, low self-esteem could perpetuate a viscous circle of feelings of being rejected, causing tension in relationships, leading to actually being rejected.

Break the circle. Make it a rule to always be nice and civil to people who surround you.

Remember, improving upon your relationships may be a journey. You need to heal from the downwards spiral of rejection and hate.

Dissociate your feelings from your behavior and you will feel the downwards spiral change direction where your positive attitude will reinforce others to be on their best behavior around you and appreciate you more.

14. Nourish your friendships  

Working on a good first impression, on being good at small talk, on being nice is all a good start.

Now you are ready to work on your long-term relationships with other people.

Start by doing something nice and surprising for your existing friends. Keep it simple. Small gesture or a gift that comes from the heart.

Expand your idea of what ‘a friend’ means. It doesn’t have to be people you know from your hometown or from school. It could be your colleagues, it could be your doorkeeper. It could be the cashier at your neighborhood shop, or the bartender at your local pub.

Now, don’t overstep any boundaries, just make sure you are always friendly to people, and even more so to people you see everyday.

Your capability of building long-term relationships is your best proof of your worth. So, work on it!

CONCLUSION

And there you have it, 14 steps towards achieving a better self-image.

It is not an exact science and it does take time to start taking yourself more seriously, to work on your personality and your perspective.

But you are always worth it. Work on yourself and you will be happier and happier with every step of the way.

It gets easier. It gets better.

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