Everywhere we turn, we’re told to increase our confidence—that confidence makes us sexier, more appealing, more dynamic, happier.
But if you don’t already feel confident, it can be tough to know what to do with that advice.
Confidence is a fantastic thing—but how do we get it if we don’t already have it? It’s easy to beat ourselves up if we can’t figure out how to access a feeling that we know is good for us. And we can’t make ourselves feel something.
But what we can do is practice. I’ve learned it can be more helpful to focus on courage than on confidence. Courage is something you can practice—it’s an action you can take.
And the great news? Practicing courage results in feeling more confident! The more we step outside our comfort zone, the more we do the things that scare us (in a good way), the more confident we become.
The way to increase your confidence is to practice courage.
Here are a few ways I’ve discovered to practice courage—and all of them have made me more confident over time!
Try something new—then try it again.
We might love novelty (there’s a reason travel can be so intoxicating), but on a neurochemical level, it’s also a little bit scary.
The oldest parts of our brains developed when we lived in small groups on familiar territory, so anything new was a potential threat to our survival—and that response is still wired into us.
However, our brains also change and develop throughout our lives. So if you make a practice of trying new things, you train your brain to understand that novelty isn’t always dangerous.
The protein in our brains that helps us learn is called myelin—and science has shown that the more new things we learn, the more our myelin strengthens and the quicker we learn. Then—once you’ve tried something new—try it again. Especially if it didn’t go so great the first time.
It takes courage to try something again when you didn’t nail it the first time—to keep learning, even through the bumps.
Succeeding at something you’ve previously “failed” at can be incredibly transformative and confidence-boosting—because it takes courage to do it!
Find a challenge that inspires you.
When we accomplish a goal or complete a task, dopamine—the “feel-good” chemical—gets released in our brains. This creates a reward circuit that motivates us to do it again.
The trick is to find a goal that’s challenging, but pleasurable—and not something you have to do for your job. Think along the lines of dancing two times a week for a month, learning to cook three new, delicious recipes or planting the vegetable garden. Or, depending on your personality, learning to skydive or hiking the Appalachian Trail.
It can be as big or as small as feels pleasurable to you—the key is that it’s both fun and a challenge. Try picking something that’s at least a little bit hard. When you meet the goal, you’ll get a rush of feel-good chemicals that give you a boost and a sense of accomplishment.
Have courageous conversations.
Most people I know are scared to speak up in certain situations—whether that’s a difficult conversation with a loved one, standing up for yourself at work or having a long-overdue talk with a friend.
For me, sometimes it feels easier to just “live with it” than to take the leap to bring up something that might be confronting.
But I’ve found that when I do, it’s almost always better for the relationship—and it’s always better for me because I took the leap to say what’s on my mind, even though it felt scary.
If it’s a really tricky topic, it can help to practice in the mirror, write down what you have to say in a journal ahead of time or talk it through with a neutral friend first.
Support and prepare yourself however you need to but then take the leap. When I do, I always feel courageous afterward. Over time, it becomes much easier to speak my mind. Courage practiced over time builds confidence—naturally!
How do you practice courage in your day-to-day life? Let us know in the comments below.
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