Grow your inner strength.
- Loves themselves (feels deeply their value, lovableness and loves their body, mind, and spirit).
- Can bend with change and embrace it.
- Can say ‘no’ when it feels right without regret second-guessing.
- Knows who they are — what they like and what they don’t — and how they feel.
- Can ask for help when they need it.
- Is open to learning and is curious.
How do we get inner strength? The answer: Learning how to build our self-confidence.
Here are 5 ways to build self-confidence that can help you flourish:
1. Knowing what you feel.
This is primary — essential to knowing, loving yourself, and having a strong core. Pay attention to the area below your head! The information about how you feel is in your body. What sensations are in our chest and your belly? Are you tense, jittery, or nauseous? Ask yourself, “What sensation do I feel in my body?”
Then, try this exercise: Identify which feeling that physical sensation is connected to — are you mad, sad, glad, scared, or some derivative of one or more of those? Once you can identify a feeling, you find out if you accept or reject that feeling. (“I don’t like it that I’m still sad about my breakup. I should be over that by now! It’s been 5 years.”)
Having inner strength means embracing all your feelings as good because they’re part of you and you’re amazing! Feelings aren’t bad, they just are. Think of it this way: Little kids don’t stuff their feelings nor censor them. When they’re really sad, they cry. When they’re happy, they run around yelling with joy. They don’t worry what others think — and you shouldn’t judge your emotions, either!
2. Having boundaries.
So you can identify how you feel! Awesome! You start to know yourself and begin growing a strong core. Once you learn how you feel, you can create boundaries — saying ‘no’ when you don’t want to do something.
Some folks say “yes” to everything, partly because they think more people will like them and they’ll get some of that good-feeling-about-themselves aimed in their direction. They get stuck in “my value has to come from outside me”. They’re not loving who they are.
We all need outside affirmation as we’re growing up (we’re mammals — we’re relational). But if we get good enough parenting (not perfect, says the research), we grow a strong inner core that says we’re wonderful. We feel solid and happy with ourselves.
When you feel good about yourself, it’s not as hard to say “no” when something doesn’t feel right. Being able to set a good firm boundary comes from a strong inner core. You don’t worry about being rejected. You want to speak your truth.
3. Bend with challenges.
Life brings us challenges — sometimes unexpected, maybe painful. Can we bend with them, can we go with the flow and let ourselves move with, feel the feelings, and adapt to what’s happening without breaking?
These times are amazing opportunities for growth. We get stretched, maybe going beyond what we have imagined we can endure. But as we move through a challenge, even getting help along the way, we discover that we have an amazing resilience. We expand our capacities. We grow more inner strength.
4. Be open to learning and asking for help.
When someone is open to learning they are saying, “I’m not threatened that you know something I don’t, I’m curious. Tell me so I can discover that too and enrich my life. And while we’re at it, I will validate you by listening and absorbing what you know.”
When you’re stuck and don’t know how to make yourself feel better or create something in your life, can you ask for help?
Some folks feel that they need to do everything themselves. It’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. But if you are good with you, you won’t have a problem reaching out and finding that person or source who can add wonderful things to your life.
5. Answer this question: Do you love yourself?
Are you good loving friends with your body? Do you love your body as it is? Do you ask your body what food it wants to eat, what exercise feels good, and what rest does it needs? Or do you ignore what your body is telling you? Do you stay disconnected from the messages it speaks to you?
Life becomes so much more fun and easier when we have a loving relationship with our body. Look at how far your body has taken you up to now! And still truckin’! When we make friends with our body and appreciate it, our body responds in kind and we feel happier. This helps grow inner strength.
Do you love your mind? Or are you at war with your own thoughts? Do your thoughts race around in endless cycles of negativity? Do you hate it or can you calm your thoughts and find peace? Knowing how to relax your head, to accept that sometimes our mind needs tender loving care too, goes a long way to supporting your inner core.
And do you have a spiritual connection that feels awesome? Many people gain much strength from their relationship with the spirit or whatever it is that feels right to them. This is an amazing source of inner strength that helps create calm and loving and accepting you as you.
Having a strong inner core is possible!
Sometimes it takes a little work, but it’s completely doable. And that moment when you arrive and you realize that you’re amazing, you’re loving yourself, you’re at peace, you have the energy and passion to pursue your goals.
You can be on fire with loving life and be so glad you are here!
Building Confidence and Self-Esteem
17 simple suggestions for building confidence and self-esteem.
Low self-esteem can be deeply rooted, with origins in traumatic childhood experiences such as prolonged separation from parent figures, neglect, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. In later life, self-esteem can be undermined by ill health, negative life events such as losing a job or getting divorced, deficient or frustrating relationships, and a general sense of lack of control. This sense of lack of control may be especially marked in victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or victims of discrimination on the grounds of religion, culture, race, sex, or sexual orientation.
The relationship between low self-esteem and mental disorder and mental distress is very complex. Low self-esteem predisposes to mental disorder, which in turn knocks self-esteem. In some cases, low self-esteem is in itself a cardinal feature of mental disorder, as, for example, in depression or borderline personality disorder.
People with low self-esteem tend to see the world as a hostile place and themselves as its victim. As a result, they are reluctant to express and assert themselves, miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel powerless to change things. All this lowers their self-esteem still further, sucking them into a downward spiral.
If you feel that you suffer from poor self-esteem, there are a number of simple things that you can do to boost yourself and, hopefully, break out of the downward spiral. You may already be doing some of these things, and you certainly don’t need to be doing them all. Just do those that you feel most comfortable with.
1. Make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your achievements. Try to get a supportive friend or relative to help you with these lists, as people with low self-esteem are not usually in the most objective frame of mind. Keep the lists in a safe place and read through them every morning.
2. Think positively about yourself. Remind yourself that, despite your problems, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself. You are, after all, a miracle of consciousness, the consciousness of the universe. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts about yourself such as ‘I am loser’, ‘I never do anything right’, or ‘No one really likes me’.
3. Pay special attention to your personal hygiene: take a shower, brush your hair, trim your nails, and so on.
4. Wear clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. All things being equal, wear an ironed shirt rather than a crumpled T-shirt, you get the idea.
5. Eat good food as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Make meals a special time, even if you are eating alone. Turn off the TV, set the table, light a candle, and make a moment to feel grateful.
6. Exercise regularly. Go for a brisk walk every day, even if it is cold or rainy, and take more vigorous exercise (exercise that makes you sweat) three times a week.
7. Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep.
8. Reduce your stress levels. If possible, agree with a friend or relative that you will take turns to massage each other on a regular basis. For other suggestions, see my article Managing Stress.
9. Make your living space clean, comfortable, and attractive. Whenever I clean my windows or just water my plants I seem to feel much better. Display items that remind you of your achievements and the special times and people in your life.
10. Do more of the things that you enjoy. Go ahead and spoil yourself. Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day.
11. Get artistic. Activities like painting, music, poetry, and dance enable you to express yourself, interact positively with others, and reduce your stress levels. You might even impress yourself! Find a class through your local adult education service or community centre.
12. Set yourself a challenge that you can realistically complete. For example, take up yoga, learn to sing, or throw a small dinner party for some friends. Just go for it!
13. Do some of the things that you have been putting off, such as filing the paperwork, repainting the kitchen, or clearing out the garden.
14. Be nice to people, and do nice things for them. For instance, strike up a conversation with the postman or shopkeeper, invite a neighbor round for tea, visit a friend who is sick, or get involved with a local charity. Putting a smile on someone’s face is bound to put one on yours.
15. Get others on board. Tell your friends and relatives what you are going through and ask for their advice and support. Perhaps they too have similar problems, in which case you might be able to band together and form a support group. Don’t be overly shy or reserved: most people do want to help!
16. Spend more time with those you hold near and dear. At the same time, try to enlarge your social circle by making an effort to meet and befriend people.
17. Avoid people and places that treat you badly or make you feel bad about yourself. This could mean being more assertive. If assertiveness is a problem for you, ask a health professional about assertiveness training.
Finally, remember those wise words of Lao Tzu:
Health is the greatest possession.
Contentment is the greatest treasure.
Confidence is the greatest friend.
Neel Burton is author of Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking, Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception, Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions, and other books.
About the Author
Neel Burton, M.D., is a psychiatrist, philosopher, and writer who lives and teaches in Oxford, England.
In Print: Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking