30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 24: When It All Changed

“As I stopped feeling like I couldn’t do things, I began acting confident and successful, and I realized that the better I felt, the more opportunity was coming to me.” -Amy DuBois Barnett

I was waiting on something to happen. I was waiting to feel content, to feel as if I could accomplish something, to feel good about my life and about myself. As I hoped and prayed for my life to begin, I cried some nights and zoned out most days.

Why didn’t good things happen to me? I wondered. Why was everyone else so lucky, so fortunate? Where were my blessings? What had I done to deserve such a life?

I waited. And waited. And cried. Wasted time. Wasted money and energy. I wanted what others had and didn’t appreciate the things that were right in front of me, however small. I had nothing to be proud of, so I thought. I had nothing to show for myself. When was it going to be my turn?

Then something happened. Tired of wallowing in despair and blaming the universe and my elementary school teacher for my problems, I opened my eyes. I began to search for knowledge, for truth and wisdom. I devoured everything I could on being a better me. I took a deep, difficult look at myself and saw some things I didn’t like. But with information in hand, I was able to begin the long process of change. I was able to accept full responsibility for my life. I was able to change.

No longer could I blame others for anything I didn’t like in my life. I gained mastery over myself, over my thoughts and feelings, and over my actions. I became the woman I had always wanted to be, the woman I had not fathomed would be me. I made up my mind to accept myself and be bold, fearless, and strong. I became powerful, and that’s when my situation changed. I became confident, and that’s when my situation changed. No more bitterness. No more longing for the past. No more wasting the present. I changed, and everything around me changed.

Of course I still have more to learn, more ways in which to grow. But I’ve done what it takes many years to do: I’ve begun. I’ve realized that I want to live in peace and on purpose, and, with the support of family, friends, and mentors, I’ve made it happen. I decided to stop being a victim and start feeling empowered and confident. I didn’t wait my turn–I took it. When I made that decision, that’s when everything changed.

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30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 22: 7 Tips for Building Real Confidence

I used to think that if I smoothed foundation over my face perfectly, showed enough of my curves, and delicately curled every strand of my long luxurious weave, I’d be confident. If you looked pretty, feeling confident had to be the next step, right?  So I buffed, flipped, and sculpted my face and hair. I did everything magazines and YouTube videos instructed me to. When I finished the heavy-duty labor, I took digital photos of myself to make sure everything looked natural. I had no choice but to be confident after that.

But I never felt it.

I wondered how I could make myself look like a model but still feel like hiding. Weren’t fly hair, makeup, and clothes an “upgrade”? I thought for sure that good looks made people bold. If I didn’t look pretty, I couldn’t imagine any other way of feeling confident. What’s more, all that attention to my looks without any focus on my intrinsic worth was making me pretty vacuous.

Then, after deep sessions with the book that changed my life—”Boosting Self-Esteem for Dummies” (yes, I know)—I had a revelation: If I had a strong sense of my worth as a human being, I could feel courageous regardless of whether my hair was done or I had impeccably cat-lined eyes. When I discovered I was worthwhile, I understood how confidence transcended physical appearance. Ask yourself how you’d act if you believed you were as valuable as anyone else, and do that. It’s a long process, but that’s what true confidence is all about. Here are just a few of my hallmarks for building healthy, sustainable confidence.

1. Maintain good eye contact. Nothing conveys confidence more than the ability to look someone squarely in the eye and speak. Eye contact shows that you value yourself and the person you’re speaking to. Shifting eyes express uncertainty, shame, or fear. It’s easy to look down or away when you don’t feel good about yourself. I made a habit of avoiding others’ eyes. Start looking—not staring—into people’s eyes and watch how they open up to you.

2. Smile. When I struggled with self-acceptance, people asked me if everything was ok because of the down-and-out expression I wore. It was terribly annoying to hear that question, and I’m sure it’s just as annoying for others to have to wonder. I always admired people who looked pleasant, eyes alert and mouth curled slightly upward, but I thought I’d look weird if I tried. After my revelation, though, I found smiling much easier. When you know you can’t control what other people think and you have a right to your own existence, you can smile as you please. It may feel funny at first, but it makes you feel good—and makes others comfortable, and more likely to approach you. I’ve gotten so many positive responses since I started smiling. And I do it everywhere—on the bus, at the grocery store, at work, in the mall. I sit alone and smile now because it makes me feel good. A warm, easy smile beats a frown any day.

3. Breath deeply, walk slowly. Have you ever held your breath in an uncomfortable situation? Doesn’t help much. I used to shrug my shoulders up tight and hold my breath when I felt nervous. Far better for your confidence is to take a few deep cleansing breaths. You’ll feel much more relaxed, and it’s also really good for your lungs. Don’t forget to walk slowly, too. Doing so gives you time to take in your surroundings and feel calm. Take a deep breath and walk like you belong—you do.

4. Speak in your natural voice. When I’m talking to good friends or siblings, my voice feels smooth, slightly mid-pitched, and comfortable. I noticed that when I’m in class or speaking to someone I don’t know, my voice gets really deep and growl-like. Pay attention to how your voice changes when you’re in different social situations. The voice you use when you’re with the people you’re most comfortable with is the voice you should aim to use all the time. Also, speaking slowly appears self-assured. It’s not easy, though. Sometimes my voice volleys between grumbling deep and airily high-pitched. I have to make a conscious effort to meet that mid-range tone, but with practice, it will get easier.

5. Accept that you’re not perfect. Confidence means rolling with your good, bad, and neutral points. It means you can go for things without worrying about how others perceive you because they’re just as human as you are. If you believed that, you’d take risks and feel fine about not getting things perfect. Mistakes are part of life. When you accept that you’ll never be perfect, you’ll feel more confident to try things.

6. Appreciate what you and others have without making comparisons. You may not like some of your facial features or body parts, but you’re better off accepting them. Be generous in complimenting yourself, knowing that your worth is on the inside. Likewise, appreciate and compliment others without comparing yourself to them. I used to wish I were taller or had smoother skin. But as many billions of people there are on Earth, we’re all unique, so don’t waste your time beating yourself up about what you think others have that you don’t. Accepting yourself, flaws and all, is very confident—and attractive.

7. Keep it positive. During my freshman year of college, I hung with a girl who was so down on herself that it was tiresome. She’d constantly complain about her how unruly her hair was, how much weight she’d gained, and how she couldn’t find a boyfriend. I found myself encouraging her more than just hanging out, and it got old fast. I was still struggling with myself at the time, but it was enlightening to see how low self-esteem comes off to others. No matter what, remember to be positive. It’s tiresome to hear someone constantly berate themselves. Lift yourself up—don’t wait for someone to tell you’re ok. You already are. Accept it, enjoy it, and keep it positive.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 18: You Can Do It!

I’ve never heard of this poem by Edgar A. Guest, but the next time I think I can’t succeed, I’ll remember it. Have faith in yourself and know that you can achieve whatever you desire!

 

It Couldn’t Be Done
By Edgar A. Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Ask Right Now: The Power of Opening Your Mouth

She should ask her doctor why her co-pay is so high.

My 3-year-old nephew has not yet learned to bite his tongue. When he’s try to “drive” his big plastic police car across my bed and I’m in the way, he will shout “Move over!” a million times in the same tone. When we took him to a Mexican restaurant, the hungry fella matter-of-factly requested rice and eggs, period. And he got it.

Adults, in contrast, tend to be more lax about obtaining their specific desires. We want time off or better customer service at Ulta or more time to pay our Verizon Wireless bill (they’re great!), but we bite our tongues because we think it’s just not worth the trouble. We’re afraid of rejection, or we may even think we have no right to ask.

But no matter how disillusioned you are with the cliche about closed mouths, most of the time, we don’t get what we want because we don’t ask. It’s as simple as that.

Every human being–from the fun-loving toddler to the hardworking grownup–has a right to speak up. It’s highly unlikely that someone other than the associate at McDonald’s will ask you, specifically, what it is you want. During a recent doctor’s visit, for example, my physician insisted everything was hunky-dory, but I wasn’t convinced. When I asked her to check again, she realized I was correct. If I had just taken her word for it, I wouldn’t be on the road to answers right now.

The next time you want something–a few days off from work, a closer examination when the doctor insists you’re fine, more beans in your Chipotle burrito bowl–say so. Even if you don’t get the results you were looking for, your confidence in your own voice will increase. You don’t have a right to get everything you ask for, but you do have a right to open your mouth.