“Happiness and confidence are the prettiest things you can wear.” – Taylor Swift.
Hearing this come from Time’s Person of the Year 2023 is empowering, especially if you’re working on the second part of the quote. To build confidence off a celebrity’s words is the start of a very fulfilling journey, and it’ll undoubtedly take you far.
People say that confidence is the key to success, and it’s true.
When you build confidence, you put yourself out in the world, and the doors to opportunities open up. You dare to seize chances, get your messages across, and get seen and heard by people.
Having confidence makes you willing to try and try again.
In school or college, it sets you apart from the many faces in the lecturer hall; in a work setting, it could be the push you need to succeed in your role.
Charisma and confidence go hand-in-hand, and you become a more attractive version of yourself not just to your professors and peers but to yourself too.
It’s when you can walk the walk and talk the talk, knowing that you feel assured in your entire being and unafraid for the world to know it as well.
So, how do you get to that point?
5 ways to build confidence in yourself
Start with small goals
It’s good to have ambition – it’s a positive trait anyone can appreciate. Dreaming big and shooting for the moon doesn’t always mean you’re naive in the ways of the world; it’s a sign that you’ve got dreams you hope to achieve, and not everyone can boast that.
While sometimes it comes down to that leap of faith, more often than not, it’s just a simple step forward.
If you have goals of becoming president of a university sports club by your final year, the first step would be to sign up for the club as soon as possible (which, in likelihood, would be your first year).
From there, set a goal of actively participating in a specific number of club activities. Small steps like these make the big goal less daunting to achieve.
It helps things feel more manageable, and ticking them off as you go gives you a greater sense of achievement and can help motivate you to take that next step too.
You don’t have to jump the gun and join every event. Quality is more important than quantity.
It’s important here to make sure that you’re enjoying yourself. To build confidence, you’ll have to push yourself out of your comfort zone; there’s no point in making yourself miserable from commitments you don’t enjoy.
The opposite is true as well: too much comfort, and you’ll be stuck in the same place forever.
So, start small, and little by little, you’ll be way ahead of where you once were.
Dress for success
In the words of Edith Head, the most awarded woman in Academy Awards history for Best Costume Design: “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.”
In Barbie’s world, that saying goes, “You can be anything.” Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the fashion icon has outfits to match her many occupations, from Astronaut Barbie to Rappin’ Rockin’ Barbie.
Here, it’s about dressing for the part, and if you want to build confidence, you’ll have to dress for that too.
What you wear can dictate how you feel, so ask yourself these three questions:
- Do I feel good wearing this outfit?
- Is the outfit appropriate for the occasion, if any?
- Do I feel confident in this outfit?
If there’s an instance that even one of the questions has you unsure or answering with a “no”, then it’s time to get changed.
This doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your wardrobe though.
You can’t go wrong with timeless and classic pieces like a good blazer or a simple white t-shirt, but you can still incorporate your favourites into the style.
Bruno Mars, a 15 Grammy Awards-recipient, has the same creative process for music and fashion, with music targeted at how he wants people to feel and fashion towards how he wants to feel.
The same goes for seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who is undoubtedly the best-dressed on and off the grid.
At the end of the day, it’s about looking good and feeling your best.
If you’re presenting your (very important) final year project to a board of faculty, channelling that Steve Jobs-black turtleneck and blue jeans look might be better than your usual sweatpants and hoodie.
Surround yourself with positivity
You are the sum of who you surround yourself with, so keep good people around you.
Like how children emulate parents, you can pick and embody the best parts of their confidence and attitudes.
Whether it’s a professor’s unwavering composure or a classmate’s total ease of being in a crowded room, just trying to imitate those mannerisms is already a step forward in the right direction.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t watch out for toxic positivity – it’s in acknowledging the bad that we can recognise and build on the good.
People who refuse to see the negatives can harm your overall outlook on life. This can make it hard to be vulnerable and authentic to your emotions and feelings, and it helps no one in the long run.
This goes for how you treat yourself too.
Eliminating negative language within your vocabulary and having a more positive mindset do wonders for your life.
A healthy dose of optimism keeps you on track – and excited – for your goals, and staying realistic and owning up to your shortcomings helps you stay focused on what you need to work on to become the best version of yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
There is a universal fear of being wrong and being labelled as dumb – everyone understands that.
For children, teenagers, and adults alike, embarrassment comes as easily as getting called on in class and being unable to answer the question.
It also strikes when you ask a question everyone seemingly knows the answer to.
But the fear of asking the wrong questions leads to not asking them at all, making us uncertain about the topic and wary about our every move or word.
That’s a sure way to stagnate your growth and definitely not a way to build confidence.
Asking questions, no matter how stupid you think that question may be, is the best and fastest way to get the correct answers.
Whether in a classroom or workplace setting, asking questions shows your desire to learn and understand the topic.
It’s a show of curiosity, a virtue that no one should feel ashamed of.
The same goes for asking for and accepting feedback.
While not always easy, being able to accept criticism is a crucial skill to have and a big step in the right direction when you’re trying to build confidence.
Learning to take constructive criticism will help you leaps and bounds in whatever your pursuit is, offering clarity and insights that would have otherwise left you fumbling in the dark.
It just takes one moment of courage, and luckily, it gets easier after the first few tries.
Don’t compare yourself with others
As former American football player Tim Hiller once said: “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end. Don’t compare the start of your second quarter of life to someone else’s third quarter.”
It’s easier said than done, especially when we live in a time where everyone posts their life’s achievements on social media.
LinkedIn, in particular, is a go-to space for (humble) bragging about all things education and work-related.
Seeing people pile on accomplishments while you struggle to finish just one task can be depressing. It leads to an endless cycle of doubt, and your self-confidence and self-esteem take hit after hit.
It’s why you should take everything – especially posts on LinkedIn – with grains of salt.
And while many things can be turned into competitions, life isn’t one. Learning to stop comparing yourself with others is the ultimate power move to build confidence in yourself.
It’s taking the time to understand that everyone has had and is going through different chapters in their lives and that no two journeys are the same, even if some factors overlap.
The only person who should have a say in your value is yourself – don’t let someone else’s story dictate how you see yourself and how you build confidence.