After weeks of social isolation due to the pandemic, I went out for a coworking day with fellow remote workers yesterday.
There was another gorgeous woman there with long blonde hair. She was beautiful, and every single person present was talking directly to her. Men seemed mesmerized by her, while they barely spoke to me. They hardly even looked at me.
Has this ever happened to you?
I stood there for most of the day, feeling sad and bothered because I longed for appreciation and connection.
In the past, I would have tumbled into self-blame and a sense of unworthiness. But instead, I went to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and said to myself: “You’re beautiful. You’re amazing.” Later, when I got back home, I held myself and repeated, “You’re worthy and precious.”
Just a few months ago, what happened during this coworking event would have tanked my confidence for days. But this time, I noticed a massive shift from how I used to be.
I used to be insecure, and it was painful. I second-guessed everything that I said to anyone. I was anxious during most of my conversations: “Is what I just said okay? Do I look good? Do I have something in my teeth?” I spent years worrying about whether or not I was pretty enough. If I was too skinny.
Today, I consider the social anxiety and self-doubt of my past to be one of the biggest wastes of my life. Now, being confident and embracing charisma is something I hold dear to my heart. I did a lot of work to feel good about who I am and confident about my interactions, and the work was worth it.
I’d like to share the tools and techniques that have helped me get to where I am over the last few months.
If you look at most young kids, they have natural confidence. They’re alive, they’re happy, they’re expressive. Many of us lose that confidence over time because we live in a high-pressure environment where judgment and criticism are the norms. The result is that we carry this fear that being ourselves will make us unlovable or cause us to be rejected by the people around us, so we put on a mask because it feels safe.
Confidence is about having the ability to express what’s going on inside of us and to feel okay about it.
Humans are more dynamic, messy, and raw than what a simple mask portrays. If you always second guess yourself, you’re trying to control how others perceive you to feel okay about yourself. However, this is not authentic. Your mask is not going to resonate with people because that’s not what makes you beautiful; it’s not what makes you unique.
Gaining confidence is about taking back the sense that it’s okay to be you.
Below I have 3 tools and exercises for you that will help you gain confidence and reclaim your inner freedom.
#1: Get in your body
Looking at animals out in nature, we see another example of natural confidence. These animals haven’t been abused or put in cages. They are in their bodies fully and move around naturally.
In the same way, you can tell the difference between humans who are not fully in their bodies and those who are. Those who aren’t fully in their bodies have bad posture. They’re disconnected. Now if you look at athletes or artists who spend a lot of time in their bodies, you’ll see that they exude natural confidence.
To know if you are in your body, check to see if you’re present with the sensations and emotions that arise during the day. Are there feelings you don’t want to have, such as fear, sadness, and anxiety? What do you do with that? Sometimes there’s this “energy in motion” — emotion — inside our bodies that we don’t want to connect with.
The first tool for gaining confidence is tuning in to your body, while giving yourself the space to release any uncomfortable emotions.
The following exercise is an amazing way to release stuck emotions that are keeping you from being fully in your body:
- Widen your stance.
- Get low in your knees.
- Start breathing rapidly in and out of your lower belly.
- Scream, shout, and let sounds come out from your lower belly — rage with all your guts.
Do this exercise before any social situation, or even early in the morning before you go to work. It may seem intense in the moment, but you will feel very calm and centered afterward.
#2: Get rid of shame
Shame is a “meta-emotion”: it’s a feeling about a feeling, and is one of the most damaging emotions for people. It’s uncomfortable and makes you unconfident.
It’s time to start loving, accepting, and embracing all the different parts of yourself. When you love every single part of you, you change how you interact with the world.
Love and embrace the parts of you that everyone else can already accept. Understand that every human being has something they’re ashamed of, whether it be their thoughts, actions, or feelings.
I used this tool to go from having constant social anxiety to feeling good in my interactions with other people.
- Start noticing when you feel ashamed, especially in social situations, and let the feeling come up.
- Notice what the feelings are that you’re ashamed of. Are you ashamed of feeling frightened? Nervous?
- As you catch yourself and identify the feelings associated with your shame, observe how there’s one part of you feeling fearful, embarrassed, anxious, etc., and how there’s another part of you that’s able to notice that.
- That part of you that notices can love and embrace the part of you that feels the shame.
- Now, instead of criticizing yourself and saying, “Oh my God, I’m messed up,” you hold that part of yourself and say, “I love you, and I accept you. It’s okay.”
With this exercise, I went from feeling anxious to feeling good about myself over time. I am not perfect, but I notice when I’m embarrassed about what I just said or did, and I hold this part of myself dearly. I repeat to myself, “You’re amazing the way you are, and I love you.” I’m accepting of my imperfections, and that’s the key to real confidence.
#3: Give yourself unconditional self-love
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s the foundation of confidence.
A lot of people wonder: “Am I worthy of love?” These thoughts push you to chase external approval and outside proof that you’re worthy of love. It puts you in a vulnerable position where others have control over what you think of yourself.
So let’s switch this dynamic around by asking this question instead: “How can I always love myself?”
Self-love is a muscle. It’s something that you have to strengthen.
If you’re not in the practice of loving yourself, it’s going to be hard at first and might even seem impossible. But it’s the same way if you’ve never worked out and then go to try and lift weights. It seems like the most challenging thing ever. Once you get in the habit of doing it, however, it becomes easier.
Self-love is the same. The more you actively practice it, the more you’re willing to keep up with it. Even when it’s tough, you’re going to get better and better. And when parts of yourself that you don’t like come up, you will start accepting and loving them with ease.
If you had been unconditionally loved your entire life, you would be naturally confident. Self-love is about returning to a space of unconditional love and not waiting until you’re perfect, successful, or look the “right way.” You are worthy of love regardless of having met any of those conditions.
When you love yourself in the here and now, you develop confidence.
Choose an activity that you do daily as a reminder to practice self-love. This is going to be your gym time for developing the strength of that self-love muscle.
- Pick an object you use daily as a touchstone that reminds you to love yourself.
- Stand in front of the mirror.
- Repeat, “I honor you, I respect you, and I love you as part of myself.”
It seems so simple. It may even seem silly. But I promise you, this tool is the most effective one I’ve ever found. Your conscious decision to choose self-love every day is powerful.
I want you to know that everything that comes out of you is okay.
Confidence is about being present in your body and loving and accepting every part of yourself. It’s about remembering that not only are you enough, but your being is full of love and life that should overflow from the inside out. So, radiate your light by embracing confidence and offering the gift of your presence to the world.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Thomas Mowe on Unsplash