We’ve all gone through times when we feel a little low on self-esteem. Importantly, the reason that we can become aware of times when our self-esteem is low is precisely because we’ve also all gone through times when we feel very capable; when we feel that we are operating at peak performance; when we feel understood, appreciated, and valued as individuals.
The sense of power and potency we feel when we are functioning at full capacity contrasts sharply with moments of weakness and low self-esteem. Being able to make this comparison makes it readily apparent what a negative influence the internal voice of self-doubt can be.
The self-doubting voice can tell us not to reach out to other people, because they don’t have time for us. The voice can tell us not to take risks, because we wouldn’t be able to pull them off anyway. The voice can tell us not to advocate for ourselves, because we’re not worth the trouble.
And when we follow the voice of self-doubt, it can so easily lead us down a negative spiral. For example, when we don’t reach out to people, we tend to isolate ourselves. When we isolate ourselves, we tend to neglect self-care. When we neglect self-care, we tend to feel worse about ourselves. And to close the loop, the worse we feel about ourselves, the less we reach out to people!
Break out of the negative spirals of low self-esteem by choosing to boost your confidence.
Sometimes all it takes to turn things around is one simple push. Let’s take a look at 9 different ways you can boost your confidence, quiet the voice of self-doubt, and set yourself up towards the positive feedback loops that will help you feel better and better.
1. Take Care of Your Body
Very few things are more cathartic than a good sweat. As your body expels toxins through the skin, so too does your mind expel negative thoughts through hard work. In the words of William James, “that blessed internal peace and confidence…that wells up from every part of the body of a muscularly well-trained human being, and soaks the indwelling soul of him with satisfaction, is, quite apart from its mechanical utility, an element of spiritual hygiene of supreme significance.” By taking care of your body, both your physical and spiritual hygiene improve, and you’ll instantly feel more confident.
2. Clean Up
While devilishly simple, cleaning up the clutter will help you organize your thoughts, and give you a sense of accomplishment in the meantime. Even ten minutes tidying up can give you a confidence boost.
3. Look the Part
The effect that looking good has on your self-confidence is so well-known that it’s taken for granted: In the words of Charles Dickens, “Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he’s well dressed. There ain’t much credit in that.” Whether there’s credit in it or not, taking the time to shower, shave, and dress up in your Sunday best will have an instant effect on your confidence. You’ll stand up taller, sit up straighter, and be generally more alert.
The science is quite clear on smiling. In one experiment, scientists had people hold a pencil either between their teeth or between their nose and upper lip. Afterwards, the scientists asked the people how they were feeling. Surprisingly, the people who had bared their teeth reported feeling happier, overall, in that moment, than the people who had pursed their lips. We all know that smiles and laughter are contagious. With a funny thought in our minds and a laugh on our lips, our posture straightens, our gait opens, and we make more eye contact with other people. It’s no surprise, then, that we should receive more positivity in return from other people. So next time you’re feeling low on self-confidence, find a go-to comedy series or YouTube channel that makes you laugh every time: Your body will take care of the rest.
5. Write Down Things You Are Thankful For
A daily practice of gratitude – even just 5 minutes a day at bedtime – will help orient you towards the positive, and keep the voice of self-doubt quiet.
6. Follow the One-Minute Rule
The one-minute rule is simple: If it will take you less than 60 seconds to accomplish, do it right this instant. Things like grabbing the mail, taking out the trash, putting the dishes in the dishwasher – in aggregate, these tiny tasks can pile up and become bothersome. But by following the one-minute rule, you take away the power that little things have to accumulate. And for your confidence, even this simple power you exert in accomplishing such small tasks tends to spiral upward and makes you feel a similar feeling to when you accomplish something huge.
7. Let Someone Else Care for You
It’s easy when we are low on self-esteem to feel afraid to ask for support from other people, but there is always someone there. And if the countering voice of self-doubt says But my best friend isn’t available or But my significant other is away, remind yourself that letting someone else care for you doesn’t have to mean dumping 100% of your worries and fears on your most trusted confidante. Even the small amount of support you’ll receive from revealing half of yourself can be all it takes to propel you out of the doldrums of self-doubt. It’s certainly better than receiving no help at all, and wallowing alone in your difficulties. And who knows, being vulnerable with a lesser acquaintance could be the next step on the path towards a blossoming friendship.
8. Take Time to Care for Someone Else
While sometimes what we need is to be cared for, other times it can be just as reorienting to immerse ourselves in the concerns of another person. By reaching out empathetically to someone we care about, we tend to forget about our own shortcomings, and we tell the voice of self-doubt that there are other, more important things to think about than our own self-interest.
9. Take a Leap into the Unknown
One of the surest signs of decreased self-esteem is a fear or unwillingness to reach out and take risks. But in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” No matter how difficult it is to get over that hump, once we successfully take a leap into the unknown, our self-confidence grows no matter if we succeed or fail.
To conclude, you’ll notice that none of the items on this list involve explicitly addressing the actual thoughts that the self-doubting voice is saying to you. That’s because we all know what it’s like to be confident: it’s our baseline state, when we’re not held back by detractors or distractors. Even with just the slightest push from any of the tips above, you’ll find that the negative thoughts whispered to you by the voice of self-doubt just disappear, and you’ll feel more confident in no time.