I was recently asked what I was like in high school, and honestly, the only answer I had was “the worst.” I cared so much about what every single person thought of me, while at the same time trying desperately to give off that breezy “who-cares” attitude. I had extremely low self-esteem. When you’re spending every waking minute wondering what everyone in the room is thinking, you quickly burn out and become some shadowy version of yourself that’s devoid of your actual personality.
The worst, right?
I think that would probably surprise a lot of people. These days, I spend most of my day running a podcast, which isn’t exactly a job for the faint of heart. But the downside of my podcast’s popularity means that I’m frequently getting messages from people who are upset with what I’ve said for one reason or another. It can really start to wear on a person. But thankfully, I’ve come a long way since the days of cafeteria pizza and prom.
Now, my “who-cares” attitude is much more authentic. When I get critical comments, I’m usually able to discern what to listen to so I can improve my show and what to shake off as just a difference of perspective, priorities, or just someone having a bad day and taking it out on me. But confidence is a bit like a car: It needs regular tune-ups to stay in tip-top shape. Here are four ways I keep my confidence up in order to live more abundantly and focus on what really matters.
01. Focus on what you know to be true.
When a hateful thought about myself enters my mind, whether I put it there or someone else did, the first thing I do is think about if it’s true. Sometimes writing out things I know to be true. For example, if I’m feeling left out by a group of friends, I’ll remind myself: I am a caring person with friends that love me. It stops the panic-spiral of They didn’t invite me because I’m not that fun, I don’t have any real friends, and I’m super lonely. I’m not even actually lonely—I just let my thoughts get out of control. By staying centered on the truth instead of my own panic, I can avoid falling into pits of despair and desperation. If I miss out on a work opportunity, I remind myself of things like: I have skills. I’m good at what I do. This particular opportunity doesn’t define me or my worth. I will have other opportunities.
02. Keep things in perspective.
Is this critique something constructive that could actually help me? Whether it is a lie or true, I focus on the bigger picture. My mission with my podcast and life in general are much too important to me to get sidelined by an angry comment or two. And really, if the grumpy guy at the grocery store’s opinion on my baby’s outfit (“This is how babies get colds! She shouldn’t be out in this weather!”) is less than positive, should that affect my life significantly? No. This goes for positive comments as well. If you’re able to understand your true purpose in life, you won’t be swayed too heavily in one direction or the other, and you’ll be able to embrace a steady mood and mindset instead of constantly being impacted by everyone around you. Chances are, your actions aren’t saving the world or seriously harming it.
03. Remind yourself of the good.
Whenever I get kindhearted emails about the podcast, I save them into a happy mail folder that I can look over when I start to feel super down. Nothing helps me bounce back from an angry email more than one that tells me how much I’ve helped someone. Sometimes reminding yourself of the influence you’ve had on others can uplift your spirits and remind you of the truth. Again, you don’t want to be too swayed in this direction either, but it helps to acknowledge that you’re more than the sum of the critiques against you.
04. Distract yourself.
Sometimes, you’re just going to feel down. That’s part of life, and no amount of journaling or perspective-keeping or happy-mail-perusing is going to help you feel better. At those times, I indulge in something that brings me a bit of surface-level joy. It sounds silly, but walking around Barnes and Noble can turn a bad day into a good one very quickly for me. Maybe you need to whip up some brownies, call your mom and cry, or take an exercise class you love but rarely make time for.
Confidence isn’t easy to cultivate. We all have our days when we struggle with it. It’s okay to feel however you’re feeling temporarily, but you are too beautiful to have those feeling stick around too long. So, recognize and stop negative self-talk in its tracks using whatever strategy works best for you. Hopefully what you’ll find is a more joyful life. You deserve it!