I have learned that confidence is not thinking you’re better than others. Instead, confidence is about believing in yourself. It stems from self-respect—which can only blossom from self-love. But self-love is not always easy, I know. It is much easier to be critical of yourself. It is easier to feed your insecurities. To wallow in self-doubt.
Of course, I’m not against self-criticism. In moderate doses it is necessary to improve ourselves. The problem is that without self-love, self-criticism can often look like a monster, lurking inside you, waiting to pounce at every opportunity. It easily becomes too harsh.
Yet it is easier to be harsh on yourself. I know this well. It is easier to wonder what you did wrong or berate yourself for not working hard enough. As if luck didn’t have anything to do with the outcome. It is easier to compare yourself to others and wonder why you’re not enough. As if you aren’t already much, much more than enough.
Which is why we must work, day and night, to nurture ourselves. For self-love is a seedling in your mind that will only sprout if planted in fertile soil. That soil, my friends, is how we talk to ourselves. If we speak kindly and encouragingly to ourselves, that seed will grow into a shoot. For example, imagine that you have a fear of public speaking and you just delivered a speech to your classmates at school. Your knees shook, your voice trembled, but you still did it. Afterward, instead of thinking, “I’m sure everyone will mock me for that speech! I did horrible!” try saying, “I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to try!”
Then, our sprout must be watered daily. We must nourish it by treating ourselves the way we would treat a friend. This step is harder to do. It requires you to say “no” even when you feel pressured to say “yes.” It requires you to stand up for yourself when someone has pushed you down with their words (or actions.) Michelle Obama, for example, was told by her college counselor that she wasn’t eligible for Princeton. And yet! She applied anyway, and was accepted, because she believed in herself. Because her self-love was on the verge of blooming into roses. She wouldn’t let someone’s doubt tramp it down! She knew her worth.
Self-love also means prioritizing yourself. It is realizing that you can’t help your friend edit her assignment because you are already in over your head with deadlines. It is choosing to read a book on a Saturday night rather than going out with friends because you know you need time to relax. It is eating healthy, exercising, (and maybe creating a skin-care routine) because you know your body will appreciate you for it. This all might sound selfish, but it is necessary. After all, who knows you better than yourself? Who will you live with until death, other than your very own self? How could others understand that you have those deadlines or need that time to destress?
Most importantly, how can you care for others when you don’t care for yourself? Only when you are in shape, both physically and mentally, can you be there to support others. You must do the ones you love a favor by being the best version of yourself around them. And you can only become the best version of yourself when that little plant inside your mind is alive and healthy, radiating confidence and light from within.
Take care of yourself during these strange times.