We live in a world where mass media, gender inequality, and a strong culture of girl-to-girl bullying can make us feel, for moments or days, like we should be prettier, smarter, more popular versions of ourselves. It’s easy to blame external factors like advertisements, degrading lyrics, and bullies for our own feelings of inadequacy. After all, there’s no denying that airbrushed images, sexism, and rude comments can get a girl down. But the truth is that each of us can have a greater, stronger, longer-lasting effect on our self esteem than the cultural influences – negative or positive – we encounter.
How? True confidence actually grows from adopting various confidence-boosting habits over time. The following is a list of actions to help you take your confidence into your own hands.
1. Fuel your body with nutrition, exercise, and sleep. First, good eating, sleeping, and workout habits help stabilize and lift your mood, naturally making you feel happier and better about yourself. Second, these habits give rise to the mental clarity and strength needed to really fulfill your potential and achieve your goals (see #2). Finally, consistent self-care also has a TON of beauty implications, and while feeling pretty isn’t enough on its own to make you feel awesome all the time, it doesn’t hurt.
2. Set some goals and achieve them. It’s ok to start small. Listen up. This is a super important one. There have been numerous studies confirming that personal accomplishments are significant building blocks of self-confidence. Why? Because the positive feelings associated with overcoming a challenge or achieving a goal (acing a test, running your first 5k, even starting your own non-profit) make you feel good in the short term while also giving you the confidence to pursue other confidence-building opportunities in the long term. It’s a big cycle of overcoming challenges and feeling successful. See how that works?
3. Surround yourself with the right friends. We’ve all encountered bullies, been excluded, felt generally concerned about whether we’re “good enough.” Make sure you’re hanging out with the right crowd, one made up of accepting peers and supportive mentors. The freedom to “be yourself” is enough on its own to make you feel better about yourself. Having trouble finding friends at school? If you’re feeling left out or bullied, try researching volunteer opportunities, jobs, or other extra-curricular activities that will allow you find your people. They’re out there.
4. Balance your “media diet.” As we mentioned above, and as non-profits like SPARK Movement or The Representation Project remind us, popular media can undermine our self-esteem. But this doesn’t mean we have to give up our favorite guilty pleasures all together. Some of us at ShimmerTeen would be lost without our weekly dose of Pretty Little Liars. While you may want to cut out certain magazines or shows all together, simply being aware of the potential negative impacts of certain shows and images, limiting your intake of damaging media, and making an effort to bring more positive media into your life can lessen some media’s harming effects.
5. Change your attitude. Low confidence is often connected to false, negative beliefs about yourself and your place in the world. You may think you are unlucky or that you will never be popular. But while these thoughts may seem like facts, learning to think more positively will help you realize that you have other options. Tools including affirmations, visualizations, and therapy can help. Check out our tips for changing negative beliefs. These are the tips that make us feel more confident on a daily basis. We hope they work for you, too!
Sources & More Information: The Representation Project Michigan State University. “Multiple media use tied to depression, anxiety.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121204145557.htm>. University of Chicago Press Journals. “How do consumers revise their unreachable goals?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110810093752.htm>. University of Toronto. “Moderate exercise not only treats, but prevents depression.”
ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028163003.htm>.