Confidence isn’t always easy to come by. In fact, the language you likely use to describe yourself when your jeans are a little tight, you’re stressed about an upcoming meeting or you feel defeated after breakup is a far cry from how you would comfort your best friend. But confidence is an important and valuable asset — in both your professional and personal life. That’s why these women took a ‘pause’ and figured out what would actually improve their sense of self. From entering a beauty pageant to running a marathon, here are nine things women have done to boost their confidence. Use their stories to fuel your own — and remember, there’s no better person to be kind to than yourself.
“I started my own company.”
Not everyone has entrepreneurial dreams, but if you envision a life where you set your own hours and make the rules, you may be on the path to CEO of YourCompany.com. For those who are on the edge of making the decision, stepping into the vast unknown of self-employment is terrifying, to say the least. But for certified mindset coach and author Tracy Litt, nothing has helped cultivate her confidence more than starting and building her own business. It took her two years to finally leave her cushy job and chase her dreams — but she’s so grateful she worked up the courage.
“When I first started out, my doubt was swirling and my stomach was in knots. Could I do this? Would I be good enough? What if it doesn’t work? What it I fail? Is this too big of a risk? The reel of doubt went on and on and on,” she says. “But with every day and every new choice to take action anyway, the feelings of doubt and concern got quieter and quieter, and the feelings of confidence got louder and louder. I was showing myself what I was capable of, and my self-esteem and confidence skyrocketed — and continue to do so. I learned that confidence is a skill that is available to all of us.”
“I changed my diet and health dramatically.”
After a week (or a month or a year…) of working non-stop and eating whatever is easiest, how does your body feel? Probably not great. A poor diet and a lack of movement will have everyone feeling sluggish and less than their best. This leads to plenty of negative self-talk and, for some people, guilt since they know their health needs to be front and center. For Julie Nguyen, the CEO and co-founder of Methodology, making the choice to lead a balanced lifestyle changed her confidence dramatically. She felt as if she finally was clear about what she wanted to do with her life, and shifting the way she approached daily rituals was essential to change.
“I started exercising six times a week, removing junk food from my house, educating myself about food and fitness, and eating more mindfully. In doing these things over the course of many days, weeks, and then eventually years, I built confidence in myself from knowing that I’m capable of being and becoming whoever I want to be,” she shares. “What could make you believe in yourself more than experiencing how powerful you really are?
“I bought the clothes I actually like.”
When you’re meeting your partner’s parents for the first time and you feel the need to constantly adjust your top, you won’t focus on their sweet stories from childhood. Or, when you need to bring your A-game to a client meeting, but your current dress just doesn’t feel right, you’ll be thinking about it throughout the presentation. Choosing clothes that made her feel comfortable and confident was a game-changer for Jessica Wright, MD, the founder of Rejuvenate Austin.
“I’m more relaxed and engaged in conversation with friends, colleagues, and even my patients. Just because a certain trend is hot, doesn’t mean you will like it on your body,” she says. “I would rather feel put together than trendy at this point in my life. After all, trendy or not, clothing can be distracting and can kill your ability to be present if you are constantly rearranging it!”
“I stopped scrolling through Instagram.”
If you open your current Instagram feed, you’ll probably be thumb-to-face with plenty of celebrities. Some Insta models. Lots of influencers. Even if it isn’t your intention, you may compare yourself to the folks you see on the other side of the filter – the comparison trap. Though normal, aspiring to look like someone else can rob your joy and be a major bummer to your sense of self. It was a habit that Arielle Olfers, the founder of The Southern Influence, had until she decided Instagram wasn’t worth her self-esteem.
“I find confidence through meditation and journaling, and persistence towards myself and others. To that end, self-reflection has taught me time and time again that I feel more confident on the outside by reminding myself internally that I have a voice and a certain zest to share with the world,” she shares. “Listening to my inner voice allows me to roll my shoulders back, push out my collarbone, and throw on a smile with flare — something I had to teach myself through repetition and many years of practice.”
“I created busy work for myself.”
Though it’s freeing to be your own boss and have control over your company, it also comes with (totally expected) ebbs and flows. This can be a tricky territory to navigate since you have to remind yourself — over and over — that you’ll get through the slow periods. For co-owner of 1001 Dark Nights, Liz Berry, moments of self-doubt came frequently at the start of her self-employment, but she’s learned a way to overcome them: staying busy.
“Early in my career, I realized that those feelings had the power to steal not only my creativity, but also my productivity. So, I made the decision to always be a ‘mover and a shaker,’ so to speak. I scheduled everything: trips to the bank; the post office; the grocery store; back to the post office the next day, etc.,” she says. “During that time of being out, I made work-related appointments and stops. Basically, I forced myself to get dressed, get out of the house, and get busy. Because when I’m busy, I get things done. When I’m not, I procrastinate. It’s a vicious cycle. My new and improved ‘busy life’ was an incredible confidence builder because not only did my business take off, my circle of peers increased.”
“I put on red lipstick.”
Even if you don’t feel your best, dressing the part can be a way to put you in the mindset. This means something different to everyone — maybe it’s putting on a bra when you’re working from home. Or maybe it’s the one blazer that always carried good karma. For founder of the CRH Collective, Carolina Ramirez Herrera, her red lipstick does the trick.
“I know it sounds silly but every time I have a big event, presentation with a client or even I’m just having a weird day, I always whip out my NARS velvet matte in Cruella and it instantly changes my mood. It’s my girl boss go-to, I mean who doesn’t feel on top of the world with a bold lip?” she says. “Being Hispanic, I remember my mother always said to never leave the house without lipstick, as you never know what the day will bring. As superficial as this sounds, I can honestly say it’s the one thing that makes me feel put together no matter the situation. Whether I’m getting on a 15-hour flight or leaving at 5 a.m., lipstick just makes it work.”
“I prioritized self-care.”
When was the last time you took a single day to yourself to reboot, recharge, and reconnect and do your thing? For many busy professionals who are attempting to balance a major career with a killer social life or a growing family, ‘me time’ is a distant dream. For co-founder and CEO of Squeeze, Brittany Driscoll, a traumatic back injury gave her a serious wake-up call on how to practice — and prioritize — self-care.
“Since then, I’ve changed many of my daily habits to ensure consistency and balance in my life, which has in turn led to an increase in confidence. I started practicing gratitude, I work out almost every day, and I, of course, get regular massages,” she explains. “Changing my daily behaviors to prioritize my physical and mental state has not only improved how I look but also how I feel. My mindset and outlook have shifted from surviving to thriving. When I’m taking care of myself, I feel invincible, which naturally gives me the confidence to tackle anything I want to achieve. So far, so good.”
“I ran a marathon.”
Ashley Davidson, a public relations director says she always struggled with self-esteem, but she found a way to feel accomplished, strong, and proud of her body: pounding pavement. For the past eight years, running has played an important part in her life, and eventually inspired her to go for gold — or rather, run a marathon. What she didn’t expect was that a few weeks into her training, she and her now ex-husband decided to separate.
“I was devastated; it was the lowest point of my life. But I knew training for and finishing 26.2 miles would help me find that confidence I knew I had but lost,” she explained. “It wasn’t even my best race, but when I crossed the finish line, I burst into tears and wanted to hug myself for being so strong in the midst of everything seeming like it had fallen apart.”
“I entered a beauty pageant.”
While most people stand in awe of fireworks that light up the sky, they hold a different meaning for Hilary Billings. She was hit with a malfunctioning firework on the Fourth of July and suffered second and third-degree burns on her body. Unsurprisingly, this caused her confidence to suffer. But once she spent six months feeling sorry for herself, criticizing her body, and feeling negative, she decided to get up and overcome her fears. What did she do? She entered a beauty pageant.
“Through this experience I learned two very important things: Confidence is a belief that you’ll survive your fears, and it can be cultivated by being of service to others. Confidence grows when you take ownership of how you choose to feel in an uncomfortable situation, regardless of how foreign that experience is, or the outcome,” she says. “I decided that even though it terrified me, to look at the pageant as an adventure. I knew I was a long shot to win, but it wasn’t about the result – it was about me experiencing the process and learning I would be okay. It’s a mantra I still utilize today: Even if the worst-case scenario happens, I’ll live.”
And guess what? She became Miss. Nevada. Billings is now a keynote speaker around the country.
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