To look at me, talk to me, or casually know me as a friend, colleague, or neighbor, you would probably assume I have great self esteem. I carry myself in a way that says I must be confident, shoulders back and eyes forward. When people address me I make it a point to look them in the eye, and when I walk down the street I move at a determined pace. I was taught to behave this way, because these are characteristics of a confident woman. But, until recently, all of that was just a veil to cover the timid, self-doubting person I really was.
Living in the Shadows of Self Doubt
When I was married, for a long time I walked in my husband’s shadow. I didn’t resent him for being the outgoing one, the accomplished one, or the more financially successful half of our marriage. I liked that I could rely on him to provide the adventure and the financial means of pursuing it. I didn’t have any interest in learning how to do the things that I knew he could already do, and over the years, I fell into a comfortable but limiting life. I didn’t notice that because I was always in the shadow of my husband’s achievements, I had stopped thinking that I too, could have bigger ambitions. And because I had grown complacent with just letting him take care of everything, I had never learned many things that I could have, and should have, learned along the way.
It isn’t that I was weak, but I came from a culture that didn’t promote powerful women. Besides, it was easy for me to ignore my own dreams when I wasn’t sure what they were in the first place. I behaved confidently on the outside, but deep down I always doubted myself. If there was a decision to be made, I hesitated. When there were opportunities for promotions at my job, I never reached out for them, because I just assumed they were out of my reach. I was too slow, too inexperienced, too shy. I took for granted that I wasn’t smart enough, bold enough, or accomplished enough in general. I guess all those years of living in the shadows had made me think very little of myself. No matter how poised I may have appeared at cocktail parties, I had no confidence in myself at all. Something had to change.
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Gaining Confidence By Learning New Skills
After my divorce I realized that if I was going to be on my own, I needed to be there for myself, and that meant learning to be a confident person. There is an old expression that goes like this: You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.” I learned, when I really had to, how true these words are. If I was going to get the job I wanted, I would have to believe I deserved it. If I was going to be a single woman living alone, I thought I should learn some basic survival skills as well. It turned out that simply learning to do the things I never thought I could, even little things like hanging a picture on a wall, gave me a giant boost of self esteem. From there, I determined to do more. I had always thought of myself as a bad driver, and was often ridiculed for my poor sense of direction. Driving to new places intimidated me, to the point that I never ventured out once I became single. Eventually, I had to learn on my own that getting lost is not the worst thing that can happen, and no one was around to make fun of me for losing my way except me. I practiced driving to towns I had never before been to, and finding my way home. After getting lost dozens of times, I wasn’t intimidated anymore. It made me see that I could do more than I thought I could, and I started to feel better about myself. I had always been embarrassed about my clumsiness, so I signed up for a knife skills class. It was amazing that something so simple as learning how to properly hold a knife to chop vegetables and carve meat could give me such a boon in my self esteem. I wasn’t so clumsy after all, and I had mastered this skill. I still carried myself proudly, but now I really meant it.
I always thought that self esteem was something that you just have, like a magical presence of mind that some people are born with, while others are not. But having confidence in yourself can be learned, and it all starts with your own initiative. If you think you’re a bad cook, take a cooking class. If you hate that you type with two fingers, learn how to type. Learn to play a sport, or even go get a makeover if it makes you feel better.
Empower Yourself to Gain Confidence By Investing in Yourself
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Empowering yourself by mastering the things you never thought you could do will give you the mindset that you can accomplish whatever you choose, and that is the core of true confidence. If you truly want that confidence, it’s entirely in your hands to obtain it. And it always has been. It was never my ex-husband’s fault that I chose not to take the initiative to become a confident, capable person. He just made it easier for me to be complacent. Sometimes as women we can easily fall into that pattern, because we don’t imagine relying entirely on ourselves one day, especially after years of living within the security of marriage. When that marriage ends, it can be intimidating to face the world alone, at least at first. The relationship you invested so much in is over. Now is the perfect time to start investing in yourself.