published Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Upton: Tips for building confidence

Self-confidence. If it could be reduced to a potion and drunk from a bottle, many of us would buy it. Building it the old-fashioned way, however, takes time, perseverance, energy.

In a recent conversation, I was asked how one goes about developing more of it. I gave a couple of suggestions but found myself curious. What exactly does go into creating a confident person, especially one who must conjure much of it up for himself or herself later in life? If you're tired of sitting on the sidelines while others are diving into life, keep reading. Here's what some of the experts have to say about creating it the homemade way:

• Understand the connection between unconditional self-love/self-acceptance and higher performance. When we choose not to compare ourselves with others but to appreciate our own uniqueness, we can develop a sense of confidence from knowing we have something to offer the world in a way that is uniquely ours.

Loving ourselves means forgiving ourselves

for making mistakes, being patient with our imperfections and showing compassion for our own weaknesses. Love helps us walk in grace with ourselves as well as with others. Love is a powerful energy force. When we use it, it makes us better humans.

• Draw toward people who are affirming and supportive. One of the things I've learned along the way is that linking up with a positive group of almost any kind helps me build self-confidence and love. Today, I am almost always part of such a group and, when I am not, I will actively seek one out. It can be a group that centers around spiritual connection, professional pursuits, emotional support, hobbies or skills, etc. So long as the people take the time to meet regularly and encourage each other, it will have a dazzling effect on your confidence.

• Start with goals you know you can accomplish. Sometimes my goals are to simply clean my kitchen and vacuum my bedroom. Once those are done, I feel I can tackle more-daunting tasks. Doing the small things also has a way of creating enough space in your brain to imagine and work on the things you really want to accomplish in life.

• Take action quickly. Fighting procrastination is just plain tough. Often, when we struggle with confidence, the fear of failure or the dread of the difficult keep us ruminating over a task that just needs to get done now. If we would take action with some part of it, however, it would help us to move toward its completion, causing us to breathe more easily and feel a sense of pride.

• Tend to your health and appearance. It's not that looks are everything, but they are something. Experts tell us that when we take time to eat healthy, exercise and present our best possible selves to the world, we just feel better. This glow can in turn cause others to respond to us in positive ways, which builds our confidence.

• Remember that you are not the sum of others' opinions about you. This is tricky. People can offer useful feedback to help us grow. But sometimes we still rehearse destructive statements offered to us in childhood from peers -- and worse -- sometimes our own families, that have damaged us and stunted our self-esteem. Negative, unloving statements keep us from reaching our fullest potential. Remember that the voice of love is affirming, even if it is corrective. Throw out voices that are not honoring of you as a human being and don't acknowledge your ability to change and grow throughout life.

Remember that setbacks are normal, so congratulate yourself on each accomplishment, no matter how small.

Tabi Upton is a counselor at CBI Counseling Center. Contact her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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