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3 Surprising Mind Shifts That Will Boost Your Self-Confidence Today

These tips are definitely not what you'd expect.

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Marta Sevilla
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Remember how we used to expect that once we hit 40, we would all magically develop self-confidence and stop caring what other people think? According to the American Psychological Association, a person’s self-esteem peaks at middle age. Presumably this is due to factors like a consistent income, stable relationships and good health. It’s a pervasive social message, too — people say all the time that when you hit your 40s, you simply stop giving a damn.

And yet, if my conversations with friends are any indication, lots of us still struggle with self-confidence. We worry what our peers think of us. We lie awake at night wondering if we sounded stupid in our morning work meeting. We wonder if we’re doing enough. We wonder if we are enough.

Where is this magical self-confidence we were promised? It’s normal to feel insecure sometimes, but there are things you can do to put a little extra confidence in your step — and some of them are not at all what you’d expect.

Embrace what you’re not good at

Yep, that’s right — take a beat and sink into those icky insecurities. Own them, because knowing what you aren’t good at is as important as knowing what you are good at. For example, I struggled for decades feeling incompetent because I’m not a quick thinker. It seemed like my coworkers could blurt out 10 witty ideas during a single brainstorm while I sat there worrying about my sweaty armpits.

The thing is, though, with time I come up with awesome ideas. I’m a ruminator. I learn and think best in hands-on scenarios. About a year ago, I decided to start being open about this “flaw.” I started admitting that I’m not a quick thinker and that my best ideas come after I’ve had time to think. That level of vulnerability was embarrassing at first, but rather than look at me like I was stupid, my supervisors appreciated my honesty. Then, when I submitted work that reflected my self-assessment, it confirmed that I do, in fact, produce quality work — and also that I’m self-aware. Having this honest understanding in place boosts my confidence rather than deflating it.

So, what are you not good at? How could embracing your “flaw” increase your self-awareness, and by extension, your confidence? No one is good at everything. Instead of stressing over your inadequacies, cultivate confidence in your self-awareness.

Embrace criticism

Praise is generally assumed to be the big confidence builder, so it sounds contradictory to say that criticism can be a path to confidence. But constructive criticism offers an opportunity to learn and improve, and gaining knowledge and growing are key elements in self-confidence. You’ve probably heard the term “growth mindset,” which means believing that no matter how good you are at something, there’s always room for improvement.

Of course, embracing criticism doesn’t mean you accept every critique you get. It just means staying in a mindset of assuming you have the potential to grow. It’s a lot of pressure to have to constantly prove you’re the expert at something (or many things). It’s far less stressful to simply accept that you have more to learn.

Another way to look at criticism: If someone takes the time to offer you constructive criticism, that’s a reason to feel confident, because it means they believe 1) you’re confident enough to accept criticism gracefully, and 2) you have it in you to be even better than you already are. Those are both huge positives.

Embrace the people who hold you accountable

It can be tempting to surround ourselves with people who always like our ideas. Validation feels awesome. Ironically though, having everyone around you agree with you constantly is not a path to self-confidence — it’s a path to being an emperor with no clothes. No one can be right all of the time, so if no one ever disagrees with you, that’s a sign that the people around you may not feel they can offer honest feedback. How, then, can you be confident in your ideas?

Whether it’s with family, friends or coworkers, demonstrate in both words and actions that you want honest feedback. Remember the first two tips about owning your weaknesses and welcoming criticism. It will enable a flow of honest communication that leads, surprisingly, to a deeply rooted sense of confidence. That’s because confidence isn’t about being an expert or being right — it’s about self-awareness. And you can’t have self-awareness if you close yourself off to criticism and growth.

Own and accept who you are, including your flaws. Stay rooted in a growth mindset. You may just surprise yourself with how good it feels not to worry about your limitations, but to choose to embrace them instead.