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As a true millennial, I grew up in the 90s and 00s watching music videos featuring Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
Of course, I loved singing along to the songs (which I still know every single lyric, unashamedly), but what I noticed most was their clothing choices and how they carried themselves.
I mean, that’s what most girls do as they are entering their teen years, right? They look around to every other girl and compare themselves or emulate each other. From as early as I can remember, I was comparing my body to every other girl in my grade. And I always made myself out to be less desirable than everyone else.
See, while I was watching these pop divas dance around in their low-rise jeans and tank tops, I couldn’t help but to feel self-conscious. I thought I had to have a perfectly flat stomach just like them, and if I didn’t then I wasn’t worthy of happiness. The 90s was a rough time to be a young girl because all we saw in the media was the same type of body—thin.
So, when 11-year-old me would see other girls with flat stomachs and low-rise jeans, I felt worse about my own image. Little did I know that this would lead me down a dangerous path of diet and binge cycles for years. I was trying to force my body to look like someone else’s. I spent every day wishing for a body that was never meant to be mine.
All those years of body comparison and fad diets were because I thought they were my ticket to the one thing I desired more than anything else: confidence. I thought if I could just be thinner, like the women I grew up seeing on TV, then I would finally feel confident. And if I was finally confident, I would be happy.
As I entered my 20s, nothing excited me more than buying the latest fad diet book. I would read through the entire book in a day and follow every single rule for a couple weeks. I entered every diet the same way, thinking this was going to be the thing that made me confident.
But what I realized after years of doing this—and even reaching my ideal weight—was I didn’t feel any more confident about myself. In fact, I felt even worse about myself because I was so hyper-focused on how I looked that I completely ignored my happiness.
All dieting did was make my life miserable and my mental health worse. Unfortunately, that’s why the diet industry is so big and makes tons of money every year. It’s a vicious cycle that prays on people’s insecurities and is extremely hard to get out of.
One day I decided enough was enough, and I was going to build confidence a different way. I grew up believing that confidence was only reserved for people who looked a certain way—that I could only be confident if I could just wear those low-rise jeans like Britney Spears.
So, if years of trying to change my physical body wasn’t the way, then what was? I was on a mission to build permanent confidence that didn’t rely on anything externally. I was going to build my own confidence from somewhere deep inside my soul that would be with me forever. I wasn’t going to be another victim to modern marketing anymore.
I admit that when I started on this self-love journey, it was awkward at first. I had to leave my comfort zone of rules and following someone else’s ideas and trust myself. I had to risk putting myself out there and falling on my face. I had to finally be my own biggest cheerleader and know that all the answers were within me.
As I sit here seven years later, I can happily say that I love the person that I am. I recognize that I am not perfect and have bad days. I still procrastinate, watch way too much reality TV, and zone out on social media. But I do know one thing: I am insanely proud of the woman I have become and the life I created. I am living my dream life that I wrote down all those years ago.
On my journey, I realized that confidence comes from the level of trust I have in myself.
It comes from being able to stay grounded when life turns upside down and the unexpected happens (which was the theme of the last year for me). Confidence comes from going deeper in my relationships and knowing that love is really all that matters at the end of the day.
I have never and will never wear low-rise jeans; that is one trend that needs to stay hidden away. I know that they don’t look good on me, and I am fine with that. The 11-year-old in me knows that she is safe, happy, and protected no matter what she looks like. And the 33-year-old current me is way too busy living life to worry about what jeans look good on her.
This is all to say that you can build permanent confidence too. You can leave the modern-marketing hamster wheel and learn that you are worthy of everything you desire. The version you are today, this very second, is capable of happiness and fulfillment.
The amazing thing about confidence is it can look different for every single person. Confidence is unique to all of us because, well, we are all inherently unique.
Here are eight surefire ways to start building permanent confidence for yourself:
1. Start setting small goals that you can easily attain. Once you achieve those goals, set new goals that scare you.
2. Practice being open and vulnerable with those closest to you. Once you start sharing more of yourself, you’ll realize there’s nothing to fear.
3. Follow your passions no matter how “out there” they may seem. They are interesting to you for a reason.
4. Take regular breaks from social media and start recognizing your own greatness rather than some influencer you don’t even know.
5. Work with a trusted coach or counselor to unpack those deep held limiting beliefs that you carry around.
6. Schedule nonnegotiable “me time” with yourself every week and do something solely for you.
7. Talk to yourself like you would your best friend and work on encouraging and congratulating yourself regularly.
8. Create a “self-care toolbox” of things you can always count on when you have a bad day. Maybe it’s calling a friend, watching a favorite movie, reading a new book, or taking yourself to your favorite meal.
We may not all have been born with confidence, but thankfully it’s something that everyone can build. The more you get to know yourself and focus on your happiness, the more confident you will feel. I’m on a mission to change society’s view of what it means to be confident and put the power back in the hands of everyone who desires it. Are you in?
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