I made a New Year’s resolution this year to stand up straighter. Okay, that’s a lie, it has been a resolution of mine probably for the past four years. But this year I am really going to do it! In fact, maybe because it’s been on my brain for, well almost half a decade now, but I actually catch myself slouching in the moment and try to adjust. And I notice I actually feel better. Standing up straight is like an instant confidence builder. So that got me thinking a lot about self-confidence, self-esteem, and if there other tiny behavior changes we can make to enhance our swagger.
What is self-esteem and self-confidence?
While it has been somewhat debated if these two concepts are really one in the same, self-esteem most often refers to how you feel about yourself overall and who you are. It’s our perception of ourselves. Self-confidence is more about how you feel about your abilities. Often if you overcome a challenging task you gain more self-confidence.
I wouldn’t say one is necessarily more important than the other and every one of us can have varying levels of both. You may gain self-confidence after landing a great job or getting through a difficult lab assignment and this increases your overall self-esteem. Or you may have low self-confidence after trying a new sport you weren’t the best at, but your self-esteem increased because you gave it your best shot and feel good about that.
Okay, so Why Does it Matter?
It matters because these are not only the ways that we see ourselves in the present, but also the beginning of recognizing how we can improve ourselves moving forward. Learning new skills and learning about yourself only makes life more exciting and makes it that much easier to try new things.
It also matters because chances are if you feel good about yourself, it is pretty difficult to feel bad about the situation around you. Increasing self-confidence and self-esteem overall can help you have a more positive outlook on life.
And last but not least, while it does amazing things just for you, it also positively changes how people perceive you. For example, I had a friend in high school who was a people magnet. People flocked to her, and while she was a funny, smart, and an overall likeable person, I never understood how she drew people to her so immediately. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized she might be one of the most self-confident people I ever met. She was so sure of herself and others sensed that and were instantly attracted to her. While I don’t care to dwell too much on what others think of me, I do think it is important that we are self-aware and understand the vibes we give to other people.
How do I get on this path to self-knowledge and popularity?
Okay, first things first. Working on your confidence and self-esteem may not lead you to fame (Let’s face it, there are a lot of celebrities who could look inwards now and then too). But I do hope it will bring you a little more happiness in your day and get you thinking more positively, and who doesn’t need a little more positivity in their life?
Second, this is not a one shot, over-night deal. Improving and learning about yourself is a lifelong event. But there are some actions that you take and habits you can build that will point you in the right direction.
Compliment yourself once a day. This may seem weird, and you don’t have to do it out loud, but instead of looking in the mirror and saying to yourself all those bad things (no I’m not going to list them) that we tell ourselves every day, practice saying something positive. It can be a physical compliment, a congratulations on getting a job or acing a test, or even for just raising your hand in class that day and making a stellar comment.
Dress in a way that makes you feel good. This doesn’t mean you have to go buy a new wardrobe. Take the time to put yourself together before going out and get to know what type of clothing fits your body. I have a few items that definitely cost less than $30 each and every time I put them on I feel professional, smart, and classy. Also without fail I always get a few compliments in these items-which could be less about the clothing itself and just that I feel a little more confident in them so I stand a little taller.
Set a challenge for yourself that you can achieve. I like to do this with an activity that I have wanted to do for awhile and haven’t gotten around to. Finally crossing it off my list makes me feel twice as good about myself. Break down the challenge into tiny chunks (put it on your calendar, make a reservation/appointment, gather the materials you need, find a buddy), whatever you need to do to make it as easy as possible for yourself to complete.
Try a Power Pose. All you need is your body, privacy, and two minutes. Studies have shown that taking a power pose (see superman above or think of a CEO with her feet up on her desk) increases testosterone, the dominance hormone, and actually makes people seem more confident, enthusiastic, captivating, and comfortable. While standing up straighter is a start, practice an actual power pose before going into a stressful situation or a long day, it might just be the boost you need to actually becoming a more confident person. For more, check out this TedTalk.
What does swagger mean to you? What do you do to feel good about yourself? Comment below!
Sources: Counseling Center at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Healthyplace.com; Psychology Today