13 Tips for Building Confidence after Trauma

self-care trauma Sep 04, 2021

"Be brave. Or pretend to be. It's all the same"

-Kristen Hannah, The Four Winds

As a teenager and young adult, I had crippling self-esteem.

I didn't know who I was, had no sense of self-identity, and tried to please everyone around me.

I didn't feel comfortable or safe being myself.

And the more I tried to get people to love me, the more disconnected I became from my true self.

That is, until I learned that I had everything I needed for building up confidence and self-esteem.

Low self-esteem and feeling unconfident are common for those who have experienced trauma in the past.

Many of us didn't learn who we are, what we like, or even what we dislike.

Or maybe we didn't feel safe being ourselves because people either disapproved of it or we experienced bullying from our peers. 

Whatever the reason may be, experiencing low self-esteem and confidence can feel draining.

But I'm here today to tell you that building confidence is possible.

And it all starts with the approach we take in building our confidence muscle.

The good news is that we all have confidence within us.

Sometimes it just takes a little time, effort, and energy to tap into it. 

And once we learn how to create a habit out of these actions, self-esteem follows.

So, the first step in building up confidence is to build up our habits.

Here are 13 tips you can practice regularly for building long-lasting confidence:

Remember that confidence is like a muscle

Confidence is something that we all have, just like we all have physical muscles in our body.

We vary in size, shape, and strength of our confidence muscle.

But it is there.

When we find out that the muscle exists, we can begin doing workouts and exercises to strengthen it over time. 

Remember that, just like real muscles, working out your confidence muscle takes time.

It won't get big and strong overnight.

Give yourself the time to build it, be patient, and think long-term. 

Check out your posture

We can usually gauge someone's level of confidence by observing their posture.

A person who lacks confidence may sit with hunched shoulders and try to make themselves as small as possible.

In contrast, confident people stand and sit up straight, hold their chin up, and take up more space.

One of the ways we can harness our inner confidence is to practice "being big". 

When you notice yourself shrinking down to a smaller size, practice expanding.

Sit up straight, open up your chest, lift your chin, and embody what it feels like to be confident.

It might feel challenging at first.

But the more you practice confident body language, the more confident and comfortable you will feel. 

You can also try power poses.

These helped me when I was first learning how to exercise my confidence muscle.

You can check out this YouTube video on Using Body Language to Increase Confidence.

Get yourself ready for the day

I feel most confident when I'm dressed, freshly showered, and with a little bit of makeup on.

(PS I am not saying that you need makeup to feel confident. I just know that I personally feel most confident when I'm a little dressed up).

Whenever I need a bit of confidence, like before giving a presentation or meeting someone new, I dress up for the occasion.

However, you can do this any time, and for any occasion.

Looking good makes us feel good.

So put on a shade of lipstick you love or do something cute with your hair.

Because feeling good can makes us feel more confident in our own skin.

Try getting out of those sweatpants and dress up a bit for the next week or so, even if you don't plan on leaving the house.

See how it feels.

Crop black woman applying lip gloss against mirror
Photo taken by Samson Katt from Pexels

Identify what you like about yourself

When I first began therapy, I had no idea what I liked about myself.

Once I did some digging, I learned to like the fact that I have a big, compassionate heart.

I learned that I liked my creativity and motivation to be a better version of myself.

And I learned that I actually really loved staying in for the night with a good book.

Finding things that we like about ourselves can give us something to turn to when we begin feeling insecure.

Try writing 10 things down that you like about yourself.

They can be small things.

And keep that paper with you to look at whenever you need a boost of confidence.

Alter-ego journaling 

This is one of my FAVORITE ways to embody confidence. In this exercise, imagine yourself as an alter-ego.

This alter-ego is the most beautiful, confident, radiant, and happy version of yourself that you can imagine.

Close your eyes and imagine being in her body and mind.

How does she feel?

What does she do and look like?

Which parts of her personality stand out most?

Then, open your eyes and write in your journal as if you were this version of yourself, using "I am" statements.

Write down all of the things she feels, does, says, wears, and thinks.

  • "I am standing up straight and smiling at others." 
  • "I am easily making conversation with people in line."
  • "When I look in the mirror, it reflects what I love most about myself."

Keep these affirmations in mind as you go about your day.

In the moments you begin feeling insecure, remember what you wrote down, and embody those affirmations as if you already were that person.

 As you embody this version of yourself, you will notice yourself feeling more confident over time.

Do this exercise daily for the best results.

Remember that building long-lasting confidence doesn't happen overnight.

We must do the work.

Celebrate your wins 

When we achieve something, no matter how small, celebrating those wins is important for our confidence and self-esteem.

It's hard for individuals who experienced trauma or abuse to learn how to celebrate the things we do right.

We typically only focus on the things we do wrong.

But taking the time to recognize all of the wins, no matter how small, helps us feel more appreciative of who we are.

And over time, this can be helpful as we work on building long-lasting confidence. 

Remember that confidence doesn't equal perfection

When someone is confident, they love and accept themselves exactly as they are, faults and all.

People who struggle with perfectionism tend to have lower self-esteem because they suffer from self-criticism.

Striving for perfection does nothing to improve our self-confidence and self-esteem.

In fact, it only makes us feel less confident as we aim for an impossible goal.

Our main goal should be striving to be the best version of ourselves, not the perfect version.

Allow yourself to make mistakes and focus on the progress you're making.

Forgive yourself

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the last one.

Low self-esteem can make us say some really nasty things to ourselves. 

  • "Why can't you just get it together?"
  • "Stop blushing so hard. You're making a fool of yourself."
  • "She is so much more beautiful than you."

Ouch! If your best friend told you those things, would you still be friends with her?

If you've been telling yourself things like this for the past few years (or your entire life), chances are you aren't in a great space with yourself.

I'd say it's about time that we make amends and forgive ourselves for all of the mean things we've said to ourselves over the years.

Not only that, but we should also practice forgiving ourselves for making mistakes, being imperfect, and for being human.

Once we learn how to forgive ourselves, building confidence becomes easier. 

Use positive self-talk

Negative self-messages are the main driver of low confidence and self-esteem.

Replace your negative self-talk messages with a more positive message.

For example, when you notice yourself saying, "I will never be able to figure this out; I'm useless; I'm ugly" try a more positive statement.

This may sound something like: "This is a new project. I may not be very good at this yet, but I will figure it if I keep trying".

Or... "I may not fit society's standards of beauty, but it doesn't mean I'm not beautiful in my own way."

Do you notice how this creates an entirely new self-message?

The goal of creating confidence is to change the internal conversations we have with ourselves throughout the day.

The more we practice replacing negative self-messages with positive ones, the closer to get to building long-lasting confidence.

Use positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are words or statements that we repeat to ourselves when we want to feel a certain way.

When I began working on my self-esteem and confidence, positive affirmations were a godsend for me.

A positive affirmation's main purpose is to embody messages that counteract the negative self-talk messages we tell ourselves every day.

Here are a few examples of positive affirmations for confidence:

  • My self-love and confidence grow every single day. 
  • I do not need validation from others.
  • I am perfect the way I am. 
  • There is nothing that I cannot overcome. 
  • I deserve to be happy and feel good.

Choose a few positive affirmations for confidence and repeat them to yourself each morning and every evening before you go to sleep.

When you say these words to yourself, notice how it feels in your body, and believe those messages with your entire being.

Take care of your body

When we feel good, we feel confident.

And feeling good means making our health and wellbeing a priority.

Taking care of our body is one of the best things we can do for confidence.

This does not mean losing weight or fitting into size 00 jeans.

It means that we do healthy things for ourselves that make us feel loved, cared for, and nurtured.

We make sure to drink plenty of water, eat nutritious foods, get a good night's sleep, and exercise for at least twenty minutes a day.

When we feel strong and healthy, we will feel more confident. 

Do kind things for others

From personal experience, I know that when I do something kind for others, I feel good.

And feeling good is one of the most important aspects of feeling confident.

Altruism is "the practice of doing kind things for others without the expectation of a reward."

When we do kind things for others and expect nothing in return, we increase our confidence.

You can do anything from donating money to a charity, buying a coffee for the person in line behind you, or simply smiling and holding the door open for a stranger.

It helps us "think big," get out of our own head, and do something kind for another.

Try doing a kind thing for a stranger, and don't tell anyone you did it.

Let it be your little secret.

And see how it feels.

Try new things

Our brains like to convince us that we shouldn't try new things if there's a possibility of failure.

But part of building long-lasting confidence means learning how to embrace feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty.

And it also means being willing to suck at some things, especially when we're trying them for the first time.

Put yourself in new situations and do something you've never done before.

If you "fail" at it, use this opportunity to practice your positive self-talk.

If you succeed at this new activity, you will get an instant boost of confidence!

It's all about getting yourself out there and testing the waters.

And trying new things is the perfect place to start.

Bringing it all together

Building long-lasting confidence is something that we can all achieve with enough time, focus, and practice.

Be intentional about building your confidence muscle by doing things like:

  • checking out your posture
  • identifying what you like about yourself
  • getting yourself ready for the day
  • alter-ego journaling
  • celebrating your wins
  • allowing yourself to be imperfect
  • forgiving yourself for being imperfect and making mistakes
  • using positive self-talk and affirmations
  • taking care of your body
  • doing nice things for others
  • trying new things

Remember that long-lasting confidence doesn't happen overnight.

Keep making small changes in your everyday life.

Enough baby steps, over time, leads to big changes.

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