In the last post, How to Raise Your Self-Esteem, I talked about the psychological aspects of how to become more self-confident – a vital ingredient for overcoming erythrophobia. I suggested you begin a list of things you love about yourself, and to add one item to it every day for a year. This is a first assignment that will help you transform the theoretical knowledge on how to boost self-esteem, into practical, easily implemented exercises.
There are many more exercises and practices you can insert in your routine on a daily basis. Over time, they will change your entire mindset and help you become more confident. The important thing here is to remember that it’s a marathon undertaking – not a sprint. The neural pathways in your brain that you’ve been treading for years won’t be shifted overnight. But, with daily use, those new pathways will be formed and widened, while the old ones eventually wither and fall into oblivion.
1. Set Goals
Remember your vision from the last post? You have your vision. Now break it down. How will you get to where you want to be? What are the steps to take, and how long will they take?
Make a plan with specific steps that you can check off when you’ve accomplished them. Add deadlines and hold yourself accountable to them. Review the plan regularly.
2. Start Small
To make sure your vision, goals and deadlines don’t overwhelm you, start small. Little steps, little challenges. Give yourself lots of time to work up to them. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
But keep at it. Try to take one small step in your plan every day.
3. Do Things that Scare you
One of these small steps can be to do something you’re afraid of. Interact with a stranger, even if it’s just an exchange of nods and smiles. Go to a store instead of ordering off the internet. Make that call you’ve been dreading because you don’t know the person on the other end. Ask that question you’ve been meaning to ask your colleague. Meet the friend you’ve been dodging for coffee.
Face your fears in small doses, one per day. Acknowledge that you faced them, no matter what the outcome, and pat yourself on the back. You were brave and you deserve it.
4. Do Things you’re Good at
A small step can also be doing something you’re good at. Doesn’t matter what it is.
All you have to do is acknowledge to yourself that you’re good at it. Let yourself appreciate your own skills. You have them, so you are worthy of them.
5. Mirror Talk
Remember that list of attributes you like about yourself? You can take it one step further by not just writing them down and reading through them regularly by telling them to yourself out loud. If you can do it in front of the mirror and look yourself in the eye while doing so, even better.
These are things you like about yourself. You should feel able and proud to remind yourself of them. Once every day, pick five attributes off your list, stand in front of the mirror, and say it.
“I like my eyebrows.”
“I love my courage.”
“My cooking is amazing.”
In a similar vein, affirmations should become a part of your daily routine, too. An affirmation is a carefully worded statement of positive thinking and self-empowerment. They are meant to be written down, and repeated to yourself often. As you write down an affirmation, format it in present tense, in a positive, personal and specific manner that applies to your situation.
The proper affirmation can help you in all kinds of situations, and there are different ones for each; for when you feel lonely, sad, insignificant, nervous, afraid, or angry; hopeless, tired or conflicted. The ones I, as an ery, used most, were the following:
1. I love and approve of myself.
2. I trust myself.
3. I make decisions based on love.
4. I breathe in calmness and breathe out anxiety.
5. I matter and what I have to offer this world also matters.
6. I choose to see my blushes as a part of me.
7. I compare myself only to my highest self.
There are many lists of affirmations on the internet, f.e. The Only 100 Positive Affirmations You Will Ever Need. I want you to peruse them, and pick at least five you connect with. Write them down, and read them out loud to yourself at least once every morning when you wake up, and once every evening before turning off the light. If you have the courage to repeat them for yourself during your day, or before a scary event, do it. The more often you repeat these positive thoughts, the faster your neural pathways will realign, and the sooner you will feel more confident.
When your mind is constantly filled with anxious, nervous, self-deprecating thoughts, meditation calms it and lets it come to peace. Indeed, I proclaim that meditation is what helped me regain my confidence most in this long list of daily exercises – without much effort. I started out with ten minutes a day, and gradually ratcheted up to a mere twenty. Nowadays, I try to meditate once a day, for however long I have the time.
If your mind is at peace, you will find yourself free of worries and psychological discomfort. Of course, controlling our minds isn’t an easy endeavor. When someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, what image immediately and inevitably comes to mind? That of a pink elephant. So you telling yourself to “not be so negative all the time”, or “stop bringing yourself down”, your mind focuses on exactly the things you were hoping to forget.
But meditation can help you control your thoughts and free your mind from the negative ones. If you’ve never done it before, start with this easy breathing technique. Concentrate only on your breathing, nothing else. Neither negative nor even positive. Just feel your breath flow through your nose, your lungs, into your toes, and back out. Feel every single molecule of oxygen expand your body, and leave it again.
Don’t become upset when you find yourself thinking of other things. This inevitably happens, especially in the beginning when the mind is busy. Just let those thoughts run off into the sunset, and return to your breaths ebbing and flowing through your body.
Do this for ten minutes every day. Make it a part of your routine, for example after you come home from work or other stressful situations. You’ll find yourself slipping into the meditative state of mind easier and easier as time goes by.
8. Finish Something
Nothing is as satisfying as finishing something you’ve set out to accomplish. Whether it’s to learn a difficult piece on the piano, write a story, lose five pounds, or complete every crossword puzzle in your collection, finishing those things poses a boost for the ego.
I want you to take a step towards finishing something every day. The step can be small, even tiny. But take it. Sooner or later, you will finish something. If you’re able to complete one of your life-goals in the process, even better. In doing so, you’ll prove to yourself that you can, indeed, see things through to the end.
9. Help Others
You aren’t the only one who hasn’t figured it out, or who doesn’t have it easy. It may seem like you’re the only one struggling, but that is very possibly the result of your self-imposed isolation and overdeveloped self-involvement. We tend to get so far into our own heads that we don’t recognize when others are struggling, too.
This may sound harsh and egotistical, but if you look inside yourself, you know it to be true. At least, it was – and sometimes still is – the case for me. But caught in our throes of self-doubts and insecurities, we mustn’t forget one thing: there is always somebody who has it worse than us. Always.
So why not help someone, if you find yourself in the situation to do so? As with everything else, you don’t have to go all-out. Small steps are just fine. Like helping an elderly person cross the street, or helping a mother lift her stroller out of the train. Picking up someone’s groceries after their bag broke. Explaining to someone how the ticket machine at the station works.
When you keep your eyes and mind open, you’ll find many opportunities where you are able to help somebody. Opportunities where, until now, you’ve flinched back and turned away because you were afraid to approach them and offer your help.
Now, I’m daring you to do just that. The only thing they can say is no. And if they’re snarky about it, that’s because they may be having a bad day, or aren’t used to people offering their help. Or they may just be as afraid of accepting help as – admit it – you often are.
In my experience, most don’t say no. They don’t care if you go red in the face; they’re just grateful for the help. Wouldn’t you be?
This will be the most difficult exercise for most of you. By socializing, I don’t mean gather your courage to attend a party or club every night. I just want you to get and put yourself out there. Don’t hide away at home or at your desk all day. Meet friends. Have lunch with colleagues. Join them on their coffee breaks. Compliment your neighbor on her pretty arrangement of petunias. Make small talk with the cashier at the bakery, even if it’s only about the weather.
Actually, I found it easiest to start with people I didn’t know personally – cashiers, bus drivers, dog owners, and all manner of other strangers you pass on the road, the interaction with whom takes a mere few seconds or minutes, at most. Don’t see them as strangers who are judging you. See them as people with and for whom you can reinvent yourself every time. They don’t know who you are. They don’t know you’re timid or anxious. If you smile at them, that will be their first impression, and it will be a positive one.
So if you absolutely can’t bring yourself to utter a word, then smile at them. I promise, most of them will smile back, and maybe some day, you’ll have the courage to do more than smile. Small steps, right?