Be Bold: Building Self-Confidence
A vital part of leaving an eating disorder behind and beginning to regain your sense of self is rebuilding self-confidence. Everyone suffers from some lack in self-confidence. Confidence doesn't come in fixed quantities, and sometimes it takes a few introspective lessons and life experiences to begin to build or rebuild a deeper and stronger faith in yourself.Find your inner light and let it shine!
It is human nature to think negatively, and studies show that negative thoughts and emotions are quicker to form, attract more focus, and more likely to be recalled than positive ones. Try to begin recognizing values and strengths by thinking about one attribute that has served you well in your life, and then get your support system involved as well.
1. Share your thoughts with your support system and work together to brainstorm a few favorite things about you. Keep an open mind.
2. You may be surprised at what attributes YOU find strong vs. what others value.
3. Ask for specific examples of traits in action. This helps the negative voice.
4. Identify and share your best qualities by repeatedly putting yourself in positive positions so you can build trust in your abilities and assets.
See yourself clearly, flaws and all.
When building self-confidence, everything comes together in balance. Once you've identified some of your strengths, be open to identifying some weaknesses--but not in a self-critical or destructive manner. It has been found that understanding who we are, be it better or for worse, actually improves self-esteem and acceptance. By looking at patterns in your life that may have brought about conflict or "flaws" such as stubborness, indecision, and hot-temperedness, you will bring light to other character traits that, although we may not find ideal, you can learn to still embrace. Confidence takes commitment. You can't spend 50% of your time projecting your best assets and 50% trying to hide your "flawed" traits and then expect to strengthen your self-esteem. This is where the practice of balance and acceptance of yourself as a whole comes into play. Your "flaws" do not have to carry a negative connotation; they are just another part of who you are and they allow you to learn to see yourself clearly while you still continue to shine.
Learn to take a compliment.
Somehow, our culture at large has led us to believe in discounting our accomplishments or playing down positive feedback. If you have poor self-esteem and self-confidence, it can be extremely difficult to accept any type of praise because the inner, negative voice can be so strong. Being able to receive constructive, positive feedback can help counteract negative thoughts and build confidence. A first step in practicing learning how to accept a compliment is simply to simply say thank you, whether your mind lets you believe it or not. The more you do this, the more you will begin to find yourself actually beginning to genuinely accept positive feedback. On another note, if you respect someone enough to take their criticism to heart, it's only fair to also accept their praise. Another exercise is to practice in front of your mirror, and maybe even while driving your car, repeating a positive feedback mantra, "Thanks, I appreciate your saying that. I worked really hard, and the fact that you noticed means a lot."
Your support system, your cheering squad!
A vital key in recovery, even in general life, is having a passionate group of support that fosters a sense of belonging and security, both of which build more confidence. These may be family members or friends; they may be people who become educated about eating disorders and can support you in recovery. They may also be people who support you in your general life, perhaps new allies and friends you meet through new social experiences. Remember, healthy relationships are two-sided and include healthy boundaries. Just as these people support, inspire, and encourage you, you will have a natural intuition to return the favor, which will feel great.
BUILD A CONFIDENCE TOOLBOX! (ref, Oprah 2013)
1. Add a photo of those closest to you: When you have a strong support system and feel loved, it provides a source of strength and security that helps you take bold steps forward.
2. Include a symbol of new endeavor: If you are challenging yourself with a new endeavor, put a reminder in your box. For example, maybe you are learning how to swim. Put one of your first caps or goggles in it. Confidence can be built by reminders that you know you are pushing yourself forward.
3. Insert a token of improvement or achievement: You have challenged yourself and now met one of your goals or a new accomplishment. Maybe you finally finished your first Sudoku or your first 5k. Save a symbol of this and place it in your box! "Quantifiable achievements provide an instant jolt of self-esteem, because they make it easy to measure progress."
4. Enclose a picture or inspirational story of someone you look up to: Research has shown people get inspired by others who have become successful despite setbacks, and having a reminder can help keep you going.
5. Have a special reminder of an upcoming event: Looking forward to something keeps you focused on good things to come and also reminds you of your supportive relationships. Secondly, it can also be an encouragement that you are no longer being held back and isolated but building relationships and living life!
6. Include a token reminder of a time you were there for someone: A card, a thank you note, memorable mementos. Contributing to another person's life boosts your own self-esteem, especially when it helps them make progress toward their own goals.
Be compassionate, be open to new things, be bold! As you build yourself back up, strengthen your self-esteem, & regain your values, you will find you shine with an identity that is unique and all your own. A few fun quotes to leave you with:
I'd go after Moby Dick in a row boat and take the tartar sauce with me. (Zig Ziglar)
I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back. (Erica Jong)
Keep climbing forward!