Girl peeking through her hand

Adam C.*, University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC

(*Name changed)

Congratulations! You’ve already completed the first step in becoming less insecure. You’re asking what you can do, which shows you already have confidence that’s just waiting to show itself to the world.

Everyone has some level of insecurity, where one feels unsure of themselves or their actions. You may think, I don’t like the way I look today or That person would never want to go out with me. You may say to yourself, I can never get the answers right on my quiz or Why can’t I do anything right? and so on. Even the most seemingly confident people have insecurities. Know that you’re not alone.

Here are a few ways to find your confidence when insecurity arises.

1. Make a list of what you like about yourself.

Feeling less insecure starts with you making a mental note of the things that make you feel good about yourself. You can start small. For example, when I’m feeling insecure, I try to think about how I like the way I laugh, how I like the look of my fingers, and how I like the way I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I don’t try to think of life-changing, monumental things—just the small stuff. After thinking it through, I realize I have a couple of things I feel good about and that helps me feel a little more confident. You can do this every day or any time you’re feeling insecure.

2. Cut off your inner critic.

Don’t let critical thoughts control your mind. As soon as you hear them, cut them off. If you have to cut the thoughts off a thousand times an hour, do that until they become less and less prominent. The thoughts may never fully go away. However, if you’re able to prevent critical thoughts from taking over your mind, they’ll have less control over you and you’ll feel more powerful. If you find that you are unable to stop the thoughts at all, I would encourage you to talk to a counselor or mental health professional who can help you find other ways to manage the thoughts.

3. Learn or do something new.

Once you’re feeling a little better, take on a new hobby. For example, try learning how to bake, mastering a new language, or playing a new game. The key is to avoid putting pressure on yourself; just choose an activity you can do for fun. If you’re able to get through the first attempt at the new skill, you score big. Even if you burnt the brownies, couldn’t pronounce a word right, or lost the game, you still know that you’ve accomplished something. The key to this exercise isn’t about trying to be perfect at everything; it’s about having the courage to challenge yourself and try something new. By trying something new, you build up your courage muscle, and confidence comes from that.

Bit by bit, you’ll start to notice the new, more secure you, which was always there to begin with. It just needed a little encouragement to show up.