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You Don’t Have to Be the Best to Get a Confidence Boost

Confidence isn't about building yourself up in comparison to others.

Lydia finds herself greeting even her biggest blessings in life with the same troubling thought: “What’s the catch?” When she wins a big contest in her industry, she thinks, “Well, there must not have been many entries this year.” When a man she likes asks her on a date, she works herself into a frenzy—she’s sure he’s made a mistake, and she’ll soon be revealed as the big dork she is. When someone gives her a compliment, she always deflects, giving the credit to somebody else.

Photo by Gabriel Silvério on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Gabriel Silvério on Unsplash

Accept Your Strengths

If you’ve battled low self-confidence, Lydia might sound a lot like you. Resistance doesn’t just come when we face pain in life. Many of us resist compliments and good fortune, too, because we just don’t think we deserve them. Women, in particular, are often averse to acknowledging their strengths, believing they’ll be guilty of braggadocio or seem egotistical if they do. Unfortunately, we miss out on a confidence boost when we deflect well-deserved positive feedback.

But accepting your strengths isn’t about building yourself up in comparison to others. You don’t need to tell yourself you’re the best salesperson, parent, or point guard in the local recreational basketball league.

When you’ve worked hard, give yourself credit. When you do a good job or try something new, let yourself feel some pride. Accepting your strengths helps you keep your weaknesses in perspective, one of the keys to walking through the world with confidence.

First, Identify Your Strengths

If you’re unclear about your strengths, try the following exercise.

Jot down some notes (either on a piece of paper or in an app on your phone) responding to the following prompts:

  • What are some compliments I’ve received?
  • What are some challenges I’ve overcome?
  • What is an important role I’ve fulfilled?
  • What is an important task I’ve tackled?
  • What skills do I enjoy using regardless of the task?
  • What is a time I’ve helped someone else?
  • Read through your answers and see if you notice any themes. Can you identify at least a few strengths that emerge?

Why We Fight Accepting Our Strengths

Many of us are hard-wired to believe accepting our strengths means being prideful. We don’t want to boast or come off to others as “holier-than-thou.” Or maybe you know there’s something you’re good at, but you truly don’t think it’s a big deal: Anyone could do it if they really tried!

There are other reasons you might bristle at the idea of noticing your own strong points. “If I tell myself I’m already doing well, I’ll think it’s OK to rest on my laurels,” you might think. “I won’t push myself to keep getting better.” Or maybe it’s hard for you to recognize your strengths as valuable because they don’t fit into the norms of the world you’re in. For instance, maybe you work in a dog-eat-dog corporate environment and don’t see your patience and listening skills as useful—after all, you don’t hear many colleagues being praised for their quiet fortitude.

All of this is natural. I’m not asking you to hold a parade for yourself proclaiming that you’re the best, or to tell yourself you’re perfect and could never improve. Remember, confidence isn’t the same as arrogance. It’s the knowledge that you can continue to act in line with your values, no matter what life throws at you. Most of the time, that knowledge is something you can carry with you without telling anyone else, “Hey, here’s what makes me so great.” But sometimes you will have to advocate for yourself to reach valued goals such as earning a promotion, and you can’t do that without accepting your strengths.

Celebrate Your Strengths

It’s easy to feel like you’re never doing enough. When you start comparing yourself to others, you might worry you’re not spending enough time with your kids, staying healthy enough, or climbing the career ladder enough. Enough with “enough!" It’s important to take time to celebrate everything you’re doing right. This could mean unwinding with a significant other and trading stories of the day’s small victories, or it could mean keeping a journal where you give yourself credit for the steps you took toward your goals.

It’s also OK to bask in your accomplishments, even if it’s just for an instant. If you’re someone who struggles to accept others’ kind words, practice saying a simple “thank you” the next time someone pays you a compliment. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll make others feel good, too, by not dismissing them when they make an effort to recognize your strengths.

Adapted from The Self-Confidence Workbook: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem. Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel.

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