How to be Confident

If you’ve read part 1 and part 2 of the job hunting series, you may have seen a few things about confidence. This part of the guide is going to be less step-by-step and more sharing experiences and finding out things that will work for you. I’ve noticed that a lot of friends have been asking me for tips about how to be confident, especially in a professional setting, and let me be the first to say that I’ve definitely struggled with confidence – especially in the workplace. But I’ve come significantly far in the past several years, and I owe it to a lot of select individuals, and of course, MYSELF!

I remember being 15 years old and working at McDonald’s (trust me, it was the cool place to work in my neighbourhood) and being SO nervous to serve customers. I remember being yelled at in the drive thru, dropping the order of a really cute senior guy from my school by slipping and falling on a greasy floor, and scrubbing bathrooms or frying fries to avoid serving customers. I was SO shy, and SO lacking confidence. I left that job, and got a job at Shoppers Drugmart (a big chain in Canada) which honestly was the starting point in building confidence for me. The manager there was named Fran, and she was a phenomenal mentor to me. She was so nurturing, but in a way that pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. She encouraged me to serve customers, and reminded me that mistakes will be made, but the world keeps turning. She truly helped to mold me into a more confident person, and I owe her a lot.

Since then, I’ve had many jobs. Some hard, some easy, all of which were stressful at times. But through all of these jobs, I’ve learned a lot of things that helped me to confidently move forward to the next job, and more importantly, I’ve taken the time to consider what things help me personally to move forwards with confidence. There are a few key things I need to start with:

  1. Friends/family who can support you in the way that you need
    It’s all well and good to have people who want to support you, and of course I appreciate them, but sometimes they don’t say what you need to hear. For me, I like it when people SERIOUSLY FLUFF MY EGO, like MASSIVELY. If I am lacking in confidence, I have a select few friends who will tell me things like “YAASSSS you go get this QUEEN you are a powerful angel of wisdom and you are going to kill it like it’s nobody’s businessssssss you magical unicorn of light and loveeee!!!!!” And honestly, I need that. It’s nice when people say things like, “You’ve got this, good luck, I’m sure you’ll do great!” But that’s not what I want to hear. I need my pep squad ASAP to tell me hyped-up things about how amazing I am. That works for me. The key is to take note of the things that you notice make you feel good after they are said to you, use that, and be sure to reach out to those people specifically in moments when you need a boost.  
  2. Preparation
    One of the biggest things for me, is preparation. If I feel as though I am prepared for the interview, the day at work, or whatever it is that I am doing, then I feel more confident. This ties into part 1 and part 2 where I mention research, as that really makes me feel more at ease, which in turn makes me feel more confident. If I’ve been asked to do something at work, I will go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure there is nothing that could be taken against me, which also aids my confidence because I will know that I did everything I could possibly think of.  
  3. Feel the part
    For me, when I look good, I feel good. I do not mean that in a vain way, but more so when I feel like I am put together and comfortable it helps me feel more confident going into something. If I end up wearing a dress that isn’t my style, or is too short or too tight for my liking, I’m not going to feel confident. Same goes with if I am wearing something way too big and baggy that does not suit me, or something super boring – personally I prefer things with fun colours or things with bedazzles on them most of the time. Before going into any event, day at work, excursion, or weekend adventure, I determine what I will wear/how I will look, and that aids me in feeling confident. If I know it will be raining that day, I will put together a cute rainy weather ensemble, and when I feel like I am prepared and put together and have put in that effort to feel that way, it helps me to be confident throughout that day and not worry about the little things. If you feel most comfortable and confident with blue hair, then you rock that blue hair! If you feel best in form fitted clothing, wear it! If you prefer baggy styles, go with it! The main idea here, is don’t just do your hair/makeup or wear clothes that you feel like society says you should, instead, be sure to put yourself together in a way that makes you feel confident – whatever that means to you! If someone has a problem with it, that’s their problem, not yours! Of course, there are some limitations to this – I’d suggest not wearing a bikini to an office job, or 6 inch stilettos if you’re going for a jog, but honestly within reason, just do what makes you happy, regardless of what people think.  
  4. Sit down and make a list of tangible things that you have accomplished
    If I am sitting at the office or at home and I feel like I am really down on myself, I will take a few minutes and write a list of things that I’ve accomplished. It’s cheesy I know, but when you write these things out, and can see them in front of your face, it really can be more impactful than just thinking about it. The list could have things like, went to university, got promoted, was specifically praised in this email yesterday, remembered to make lunch this morning, or got up early without my alarm. I tend to write things like, made my friends day today, helped this friend solve a problem, had great luck on the train catching the one before there was a delay, etc. They can be as silly or as professional as you’d like, but personally the professional ones and ones about friends help me a lot. When I see these things in front of me, it helps me acknowledge that I am succeeding in little and big ways, and I can keep my head up. 
  5. Accept that mistakes happen, and when you own up to it, you can get past it
    As human beings, our initial reaction to making a mistake or being in an uncomfortable situation is to deflect. We will use any excuse, and try to defend ourselves or place the blame on others. If you acknowledge that you made a mistake, apologise, and move forward, then you can set it behind you, and the more times you let it go, the easier it will be to be confident in the future. It even helps others to move past the mistake you’ve made, because you’ve completely owned up to it, and are not fighting them on it. I tend to respond with, “I have made a mistake, I’m so sorry, that is entirely on me. Let me fix it.” and then I move forwards and fix it. When you mope about it, and sit and wallow in your own self-pity, it does nothing. The best thing to do is act immediately to fix it if it is fixable, and if it is not, then to put something into place so that it does not happen in the future. Clarifying this to the others involved also helps; if it is not fixable, letting the others know you’d like to put something into place to ensure it does not happen again will really show that you are eager to make it work in the future, and it will help them to not dwell on it. Their positive reactions to this will, in turn, help you as well! When you positively and proactively move on from each mistake that you make, it makes it that much easier for you when you make mistakes in the future, and to remain confident throughout them. 
  6. Have a pump up playlist
    We all listen to music frequently, and most of us have music on our phones that we listen to day to day. Use this to make a playlist of songs that make you feel good, and before going into a meeting that you’re uncomfortable about, an activity you are nervous about partaking in, or a day at the office that will be hectic, listen to that playlist and pump yourself up before going into the day. If your mood is boosted, you’re boosted! 
  7. Start the morning off right
    Regardless of what you are going to be doing that day, a solid morning routine will work wonders to boost your confidence at the beginning of the day! Have breakfast, have coffee if you drink it, and allocate yourself more time in the morning than you will need. This really helps a lot because you will feel less rushed, more calm, and have extra time to get where you need to be – which helps if there are any transportation issues when you are en route!  
  8. EXERCISE
    This is a standard response I’m sure, but as Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy!” It’s scientifically proven that when you exercise, no matter how low-energy, it will release endorphins in your body, and that will help boost your happiness which in turn will help boost confidence. You don’t need to be a pro-athlete, just go for a walk when you’re feeling down, do some yoga, take a class, go to the gym, go for a run, ski, swim, bike, it really doesn’t matter! Get out there and get active! I find that it really helps me to just take a long walk when I am feeling like I need a confidence boost, because it isn’t too intense, but it definitely boosts me enough to help me feel as though I am confident to do what I need to do.  
  9. Find a skill or hobby you are good at, and do that when you are down
    When you need a boost, sometimes doing something that you know you’re good at can really help. For me, I feel as though I am good at talking people through things, and when I talk to my friends when I am down, I ask them about what they have going on, and after I talk through their problem with them and give them some advice, it really makes me feel confident, because I know that I have helped them. For other people, it may be yoga, photography, writing, a sport, or going for a run – the key thing is to find something that you are good at, no matter how big or small, and do that thing.  
  10. Take a moment and pep talk yourself
    If I am getting really nervous or lacking confidence, I take a moment to myself if I can (or just take a second in my head if I cannot exit the situation) and tell myself all the things I am thinking – except aggressively. I’ll say things in my head like, “Can you believe this? This is ridiculous. Ugh that’s so stupid and annoying I can’t believe I have to listen to this. Ok, Justine, you’ve got this. Who do they think they are? You’re great, don’t let them tell you any different. It was just a mistake. You’re human. I know you need to do great at this presentation, but who will die if you fail? No one. The longer you wait the worse it will be. Go on, go get it! Crush it! You’re a fierce warrior goddess! Now go fix that printer!” It honestly helps. Sometimes I give myself a little smack on the face if I can and just bring myself back to earth again, which can distract from the mental dilemma and temporarily focus on the physical. Overall, you’ve got to just shake yourself out of it! No one is in your head but you, so you’ve got to grab the bull by the horns and drag yourself up!  
  11. The worst that can happen is…
    Another thing that helps me is to think of the LOGICAL worst case scenario. Not the “I dropped a pencil in a meeting and now I will be fired” worst case scenario, but the logical one. For example, if I needed to do a presentation and I was seriously doubting myself, I’d think, “Well, I could stutter and people would think I was nervous, oh well, I am nervous. I could miss a slide and have to go back, and people would pause, and then continue on listening. I could not have enough research and people may be confused, okay then I will need to answer their questions and be more thorough next time.” And realistically, thinking of those things really helps. It brings me back down to earth, knowing that it really isn’t the end of the world, and I can only do my best. No one will remember that you walked in late, dropped a pencil, or stuttered a word. Even big things will be forgotten with time. Dwelling and worrying will never solve anything.  
  12. Stop comparing to anyone but yourself
    Comparison kills. Megan mentioned it in this article, but it can do no good, only harm. When it comes to being confident, compare only to yourself. Did you have a better interview last time? Were you earlier or later in arriving? Compare with no one but yourself and you can easily erase the lack of confidence that appears when you compare to other people. If you have done better at something in the past, then you know what you are capable of and can push yourself to a feasible goal, instead of comparing yourself to something unattainable. You are you, and that’s special – you’re special! No one can replace you in this world, you are important, and you are valued. You’re allowed to make mistakes and have ‘off’ days, but you are always important. 
  13. Stop hesitating, and just JUMP
    Whatever you are hesitating about or procrastinating, it will only get worse and be harder the longer you wait. In a literal sense, if you are meant to jump off of a diving board, the more you hesitate the more scared you will be. You need to look your fear in the face, and say £$%^ you, and go for it. The same goes for other things in life. If you are nervous about something, just take a deep breath, and go for it. Scared to tell someone how you feel? Don’t be. If they don’t feel the same, then it wasn’t meant to be, and there will be someone else. If you are scared to start a presentation, or say something to your boss, just do it! The hesitation and procrastination makes it so much harder, if you just take a moment, take a breath, and jump headfirst, it will be over before you know it. For me, I used to be afraid of everything. I kid you not, I had a list in one of my 8th grade journals of everything I was afraid of, and it was ridiculous. There were over 100 things on it, and they ranged from the more logical fear of sharks, to fear of pointy objects and other silly things. After high school, I decided I did not want to be afraid anymore. I was determined to do all of those things, and decide for myself if it was logical to be afraid. I’m not saying it isn’t completely okay to have fears, we all have them, but when they are little, or things that can be changed, I think you’ve just got to experience it and go from there. A great example of this, for me, is boats. I had never been on a speedboat until a few years ago. I was TERRIFIED. I looked ridiculous because I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the boat between the two seats, with three lifejackets on, and my head down with my eyes closed until we got to our destination. I felt so scared with how fast it was, but when we were getting back on the boat again later, I was determined to not be afraid. I put on one life jacket (safety first) and sat on the front of the boat where there was a single seat and handles. I told the driver to go as fast as they could and WOW I really loved it! I think when it comes to being afraid, you need to give that thing a chance (if it’s reasonable to do so) and then go from there to see if you’re still afraid or not. In a less tangible sense, the same goes with public speaking, and other things that come up in our day to day lives. Try it, practice, and just jump right in. Life is short, YOLO. 
  14. Always a lesson, never a regret
    When it comes to life, anything that may happen is always a lesson, simple as that. To look back at life with regrets, is a sad way to be. You can look back and empathize with where you were and what happened, and of course some situations and traumas are exceptions to this, but for the most part, everything that happens in life we need to choose to see as a lesson. If you dwell on the bad things, you will never fully appreciate the good things to come. With mistakes you make, it is a lesson to do better next time. If you lost at something, it is a lesson to work harder or in some cases to practice humility when we may be getting too cocky. There is always a bigger picture at work, and sometimes we forget that. No matter what God you believe in – or don’t – there is more to life than simple little failures or unhappy moments, there is a bigger picture to our lives. There are so many good moments in life, and so many opportunities to do something that we want to do. We live in a world of opportunities, and while there are barriers dependant on different factors for different people, I firmly believe that where there is a will, there’s a way. Each mistake you make, each job you do not get, each heartbreak, each moment where you are scraping to get by, disheartened, or at your lowest low, there is an opportunity to rise. Use that as fuel to spring up and forward, to push through it and past it, and get through to the light at the end of the tunnel. When you are hit by something painful – whether it be large or small – remember that you can and you will get through and past it, and that you can do it! If I look back today to where I was in high school, I am a completely different person. In moments where I did not think anything would ever be good again, I kept pushing, kept going, and continue to do so. Things are never easy, and nothing easy is truly worth having, but if you are willing to keep pushing, whether it takes days, months, or years, you can get to where you want to be – and if not, then where you’re meant to be.

The most important thing that I would want you to get out of this post, is that no one is 100% confident all the time. It’s okay to be scared, nervous, sad, or angry. Your struggles are valid. You are valid. You are worth fighting for. Confidence comes from the inside, and it takes time and effort, it is not an overnight thing. Experience, trials, and failures are at the very root of confidence, and you should find fuel for the future from these things. Do not let others – or society – dictate who you are, or what you should be. You are your own person, no one will ever be you, and there is power in who you are. Embrace yourself fully, flaws and all, and appreciate the masterful work of art that is you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you can and WILL do this. I can give you tips all day long, but at the end of the day, you need to find within yourself what works for you, and most importantly, find love for yourself. It is a journey, it is a struggle, and there is no set time that it takes to get to that point, so just be patient with yourself!

Love always xx