Confidence: A muscle we can strengthen
Lately, I have been reflecting a lot on the word “confidence!” Over the last two years I have been confronted with several new situations which have challenged my self-confidence. I moved from Holland to California, became a wife, had a baby, started a new career and left the corporate environment for the start up life.
So many questions were surfacing: Who am I? What is my value? What am I good at?
When I dug deep to understand why, I started to realize that a lot of my confidence came from my career; my job title, the company I work for, and my expertise. All of the sudden I found myself in completely new territory in all facets of my life and I began to feel myself drowning in a sea of insecurity grasping for air.
On top of all this, I started to compare myself to others on social media. I was seeing so many women who looked like they had their shit together; raising a family, decorating a beautiful home and looking stylish everyday! I found this overwhelming. I could barely find time to wash and dry my hair (hello ponytails!).
Were these women more confident than me? How did they get there? What do they know that could help me? I needed help, so I started looking for answers.
Why should you care?
During my initial research, I discovered a Global study done by Dove, which found that low beauty confidence and appearance anxiety is a critical issue.
The Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report, which interviewed 10,500 females across 13 countries, found that women's confidence in their bodies is on a steady decline, with low body esteem becoming a unifying challenge shared by women and girls around the world - regardless of age or geography.
What happens when we have low self-confidence?
- We are unable to reach our full potential
- We lack the strength to communicate our needs
- We make poor choices which can impact our health (e.g. eating disorders)
- We feel like we should never make mistakes or show any sign of weakness
Where does a lot of the pressure come from?
According to the Dove study, a key force in driving appearance anxiety is from unrealistic standards of beauty that we see in advertising and the media.
Can we smell confidence?
After reading all the research, I began to wonder if we could smell confidence like we can smell fear. And if so, how does it smell and are we attracted to people with more self confidence?
That got me thinking beyond smell and I started to wonder how confidence impacts all of our senses! How does it taste, sound, look and feel? And are their patterns or differences for people of different ages or even geographical locations? And what helps us have more confidence?
Focus on building confidence
To answer some of my burning questions, I reached out to friends, family, and people I didn’t even really know across a variety of ages, nationalities, gender and even sexual preferences. The aim was to create more insight around confidence and gain knowledge on how we can strengthen the confidence muscle in a world full of insecurity and anxiety.
What did I ask?
- What does it mean to be “confident” to you?
- Who is the first person you think of when you hear the word “confident?” Why?
- What does confidence sound like? Taste like? Smell like? Look like? Feel like?
- What is one tip you would give another person about “confidence?
Confidence and authenticity
What I found is that generally speaking, confidence is defined as “authenticity” or being true to who you are.
Confidence starts with you
When I asked "Who is the first person you think of when you hear the word “confident?” Why?" The answers fell into 3 categories: a parent, a child or a public figure. Not one person said “me!”
It is great to have people in our life that we look up to. However, we can only use that as inspiration, the best way to truly change low self esteem is for us to become the person we look up to! And this requires finding and loving what makes us different from anyone else in the world! This way we can share our positive image and influence those around us.
As evidence, have a look at the Dove Legacy video, A girl's beauty confidence starts with you...
Confidence shifts over time
The interesting part of the feedback I received is that the sensory aspects of confidence may shift as we get older.
How? Let’s take “sound” as an example.
In our early 20s, confidence sounds loud, uninhibited, assertive and bold. Examples include: a blasting trumpet, Beyonce singing, a voice in my head, an audience applauding me.
As we age, the tone slightly changes. All of the sudden confidence begins to sound somewhat quieter; with tones of humility and vulnerability. Examples include: the wind in the trees, the ocean, harmonious and clear, a girl with an average voice singing in front of a packed audience.
What causes this shift? From the responses I got, it seems that we start to realize we don’t know everything and that this ignorance, although confronting and difficult, is actually good for strengthening your confidence muscle even further.
When I looked closer at how people describe the smell of confidence, there is an evolution from bolder, very distinct scents (Molecule, Hugo Boss, coffee, a perfume that makes people’s heads turn) to softer scents (lavender, a fresh garden early in the morning or deodorant).
What I took away from all of this is to let go and relax more, enjoy this time of not knowing where my life is headed without apologizing for it. It is ok to not know it all or even know what you want. This isn’t insecurity, in fact as long as you are being true to yourself, it is confidence!
Tips to strengthen your confidence muscle
Thanks to all the feedback I got from this exercise, I have a ton of amazing tips I can share with you in order to help strengthen your confidence muscle!
- A tip I would give someone about confidence is to wear something that makes you feel good about yourself, and to talk to yourself with encouraging words. (Gwenyth)
- Love everything about yourself. (Kaitlyn Slump)
- Wear whatever makes YOU feel confident! (and is appropriate for the setting). Know your strengths and limitations. If you have the resources to do something, crush it! If it's not something in your skill set or not worthwhile, you have every right to pass (Amy Lehnhoff)
- What others say is a reflection of themselves, not you. So don’t mind others, and focus on doing what makes you your best self. “You may be the juiciest peach in the world, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches.” (Elizabeth Whitelaw)
- Communicate your inner voice with eloquence and assertiveness. Don’t discredit or second guess who you are or what you think. (Patrick Reynoso)
- Don’t let anyone distract you of your goal - you can be distracted temporarily to learn and to improve but don’t forget to always return to the path of your goal. (Marjolein Lokker)
- There will always be people in your life who simply don’t appreciate you for all the amazing qualities you have. They will choose to focus on the negative because they are dealing with something negative inside of themselves. Something inside of you maybe reminds them of an insecurity within themselves, or fear of not measuring up. (Holly Glasser)
- Remember how it feels when you're inspired by what a confident women says, what she does, and what she is truly, honestly, deeply passionate about. (Jackie Ho)
- The moment you stop caring so much of what other people think of you and stop trying to please everyone, then you will be liberated and feel strong about your decisions. You will stop doubting yourself and start embracing the real “you”! (Marjorie Joys)
- Put your best foot forward. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Confidence isn't about knowing everything. I believe it's about learning. Knowing a little about a lot will get your further then you think. (Lisa Calderon)
- My tip for others in regards to confidence: Know, deeply know, that you are enough. Thoughts become things…so speak to yourself with kind, loving words, knowing that this is what you will project to the outside world. Be the love you need and watch those around you return that love. (Meghan Hanna)
- I don't think anyone feels 100% confident all the time. In those moments of doubting yourself, really look at where that is coming from and try to grow from it- that is real confidence. Trusting in yourself and always striving to be better. (Dina Hillier)
- The word perfect does not exist, EVERYONE has their moments where they lack confidence, even those whom you would never guess. If you feel you need to work on becoming more confident, surround yourself with people who uplift you...as Tim Ferriss says, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. (Anita Jenkins)
- Think. Critical thinking and questioning who you are and what you believe in makes your principals stronger and your sense of self cemented. People will always try and tear you down and question you or look to you for answers but if you already prepared yourself you will have confidence for whatever is thrown at you. (Julia Yacenda-Murphy)
- Whenever a friend of mine comes to me struggling with anything, I try to get them to visualize the outcome they seek. You will often feel overwhelmed when facing a problem because you are too caught up in the details of how you got there instead of where you need to be. Knowing what the end looks like, helps to then look at how to step into a plan to get there. Seeing it allows for it to seem real. Anything that seems real, can be real. (Jennifer Ollis-Roth)
- Go with gut feelings and be true to yourself. Don’t worry about mistakes. What happens is always for a reason, so we are where are supposed to be! (Sonja Elisa)
- Follow your gut feeling, never let anyone make you feel lower or less than anyone else, always keep seeking what makes you happy at ALL TIMES and don't forget to enjoy the journey towards the goal. (Rita Martins)
- Just be yourself and not worry - believe in yourself and try to be unique/different! (Deneen Diaz)
- Own it. Whatever it is, own it proudly. (Carey Bradshaw)
- Speak slowly. (Janne Kyttanen)
- Nothing is more important than being your own woman. Create a life that builds it and foster yourself and everyone around you; you will reap the benefits! (Shay Gipson)
- One tip I would give another female is to always walk tall and proud and be yourself completely and wholly---AND fake it till you make it...people won't know! (Iris Braydon)
- I know it sounds weird but nothing builds confidence more than failure. Fail fast and fail often is not just a Silicon Valley thing. Only by being comfortable with making big mistakes and dealing with the consequences can one be truly confident. (Jesyca Durchin Schnepp)
- Pay attention to your gut, it will never lie. Never settle for less than you deserve. You always deserve the best. Make sure you have a tribe of supportive women, who keep the vision for you when you cannot keep the vision for yourself. (Mama Beth)
- When you remember to take others into account and remember to thank others; you get self more self- confidence. (Paula Berg)
- Be sure of yourself! Stand up straight and have a positive attitude! Know your capabilities and go with them! (Nancy Slump)
I want to thank everyone who participated in this exploration of confidence! I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who were willing to share their insight so that we could benefit from each other’s experience and wisdom!
I also want to thank my readers. I appreciate the time you take to read my thoughts and walk with me on my journey. I hope as you read the discoveries and insights you are able to see that we are not alone, that we can all strengthen our confidence muscle even if it takes time. And that above all, confidence is being truly authentic – no matter what that feels like, tastes like, sounds like, smells like or looks like – as long as it resonates with you!
My confidence sensorial wheel
To me, confidence looks like I’m pregnant, feels like unconditional love, smells like fresh pink roses, sounds like the song “Catch and Release” by Matt Simons and tastes like a glass of sparkling rosé