“Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Today, instead of discussing how we can change ourselves and the world, let’s talk about something practical we can do to increase our self-confidence. Women, as a whole, are severely lacking in self-confidence. At least we have finally become aware of it. Instead of raising our daughters to follow the whims of fashion and the dictates of their peers, we are trying to instill in them confidence from a very young age. Groups such as the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, Girls on the Run, and Girls, Inc. start early to try to encourage girls to be strong, self-confident, and self-reliant. If only some of us who are older had had exposure to groups such as these when we were young women think how different our lives might have been.
If you’ve reached your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or older being unsure of yourself, it’s not too late to begin to shore-up your self-esteem. The following steps are very beneficial. However, a word of warning here: you must succeed in your goals or your self-confidence will take another hit. So with that caveat, I would strongly suggest you find someone to help you – a friend, a women’s group, a counselor, pretty much anyone who will be on your side. The payoffs are worth every minute of it.
- Brainstorm things you’ve always wanted to do but never got around to doing. These items should be something you’re passionate about and have the inspiration to pursue. They should also be somewhat realistic. You may want to travel around the world in 80 days. But if you don’t have the money and can’t take that much time off from work that obviously won’t be a goal you can accomplish. However, a trip to one of the places on your itinerary, such as Belgium or Spain, might be very doable.
- Once you’ve chosen your goal, plan out all the steps you’ll need to accomplish it. Then set reasonable timeframes to accomplish each of these steps. If you’re going to need someone’s help to complete a step, be sure you check with them before setting a timeframe. For example, if someone needs to watch the kids for a week while you tour Spain, make sure your helper is available for the time you’re planning to take your trip.
- Give your support person a copy of your goal, plans, and timeframes. Remember that person I suggested you find to help you? This is the person you want to share your plans with. They will help keep you accountable and encourage you to try again if your plans fall through. This is crucial to your success. Say you’ve been planning your trip for the past six months and the week before you buy your ticket your water heater breaks. There goes the money for the trip. If you just give up at this point, you never reach your goal. But worse, you feel less confident than before and less willing to try again. This can result in a downward spiral we want to avoid at all costs. Your support person can help you dust yourself off and recast your timeframes so you reach your goal at a later date.
- Realize life will interfere and that’s not reason enough to give up. Keep your timetables somewhat flexible. Things will come up from time-to-time to postpone your goals. That’s OK. It’s not OK to give up. I work with a company that coaches people to run marathons. If you’ve never run a marathon, you don’t know that it’s a grueling 4 – 6 months of getting up at 4:00 am to go run four times a week. It’s half of one day each weekend running from two hours (to start) to four or more hours (near the end of training). It’s cross training on your days off from running. It’s being sore and tired almost all the time. Can you imagine putting in that much effort and then breaking your ankle right before the race? Out of each class we train, a few runners will never make it to that marathon they trained for. Ultimately a few people in the course of a year will give up and never try again. They will never know the elation the rest of the runners feel when they complete that first race. But you’d be surprised how many heal from their injury, and then turn around and start training again. Which group do you think grows the most in confidence? Which group would you want to be in?
- Celebrate your victory! Once you meet your goal – celebrate. Your goal may be fun and may be part of the celebration. If it’s something you’ve had to work for however, such as finishing your college degree, plan a party. You deserve it! Not only will you feel good that you set out to accomplish what you planned, you will feel stronger. You will want to try something else. And on days when life is difficult, you will have more strength to persevere.
- Start again with a new goal. Use each goal as a step towards rebuilding your confidence and strength. Believe me, when you accomplish something you didn’t think you can do, you have a newfound strength to rely on. You have a confidence no one else can take away. And you have something you can share with the next generation of women who will see you as a positive example.
Goethe also said, “Action has magic, grace, and power in it.” Sometimes trying to take action turns out to be much harder than we thought it would be. But if you persevere and follow these steps, you will find your life transformed by the steps you take. And this is practical magic at its best.