New Year doesn't have to mean 'New You'


It's the start of a New Year. For many, it's also the time of year when you start obsessing over how to "better" yourself. 

"New year, new me" becomes your mantra as you rush to the gym, subscribe to a new diet plan, start a juice cleanse, etc. And, while I'm not diminishing the importance of focusing on your health or making goals for your future, please STOP thinking there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed. 

As someone who struggles with anxiety and self-esteem, it's not just January when I think something is wrong with me that needs to be fixed. I am constantly berating myself — calling myself stupid or ugly or worthless. And, at the beginning of the year, when "change" seems to be the word on everyone's lips, it feels like my normal insecurities are amplified. 

So, I urge all of you to make only one resolution this year: To start accepting yourself as you are. 

And I know, I know, that's easier said than done. So here are 10 practical ways to increase your self-confidence, especially if your insecurities are spurred by mental illness:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others

When I Googled "How to increase self-confidence," nearly all articles only gave advice on how to increase your self-confidence in your inner self. I will go into that later, but, seriously, who are we kidding? The media constantly makes us feel like we have to look a certain way, so it's no wonder that a majority of our insecurities are focused on the way we look.

Dating coach Stefanie Safran wrote on wikiHow, "Be skeptical of the media. Remember that the media's portrayal of the body is designed to make you feel bad about yourself because that is what gets you to buy products and new clothes. Not only are the body images portrayed not average, they are often helped by digital enhancement using software like Adobe Photoshop. People who recognize this and are more media savvy often have better self-perceptions."

It feels even harder when we scroll through Instagram and we only see perfect selfies and faces that look alike (there's a name for this phenomenon —the "Instagram face"). Celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff told New York Magazine, "Social media is the worst thing that’s ever happened to the beauty industry." 

There are so many editing apps at our disposal today that, with just a click, you can slim your face, plump your lips and get rid of your pores. So, whenever you find yourself comparing your looks to those on social media, start repeating these three words like a mantra — IT'S NOT REAL!

One thing that's helped me is following Instagram influencers who focus on confidence and body positivity — and unfollowing those who make me feel worse about myself. Some of my favorites are @grayhairandtattoo@selfloveliv@kenziebrenna@danielleisanxious and @celestebarber. They have helped me see how beauty can come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and that what's most beautiful are the things that make us different —and not the alterations people make to try and look the same. 

2. Focus on the things you do like about yourself 

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses — things they like about themselves and things they don't. Stop giving so much weight to the things you don't like about yourself. Instead, make a list of the physical features and traits you like about yourself and things you've accomplished in your life. If you're struggling to think of things, then ask the people closest to you, "What's something you like about me?" and write those things down.  

Keep the list close to you, maybe folded in your wallet, hanging on the refrigerator, written in your daily planner, etc., and add to the list whenever you do something that you're proud of. Whenever you're feeling particularly self-conscious, get out this list and read it over. 

3. Wear what makes you feel comfortable

Did you know that feeling uncomfortable significantly reduces your self-confidence? I can attest to this. I have a problem with letting go of clothing that doesn't fit me. And sometimes I'll even purchase clothing that's the size I want to be instead of the size I am. And then I will force on my too-small pants and feel awful about myself and uncomfortable for the rest of the day. 

And, ya know what? There's an easy fix to this problem. Stop wearing/holding onto clothes that don't fit!

"We often overlook the shame induced by our closets. We let a two centimeters high number printed onto a one inch wide tag dictate our value," said Heather Creekmore, founder of the Compared to Who podcast and blog. "No matter what size you are wearing today, there are great clothing options out there that look nice. So don’t punish yourself by not allowing yourself to spend money on clothing in your current size! ... This is a mind game that doesn’t work. It keeps you trapped and depressed and shamed."

4. Identify triggers and thought patterns 

Identify the conditions and situations that tend to affect your self confidence. The Mayo Clinic identified these thought patterns that erode self-esteem:
  • Jumping to negative conclusions with little to no evidence to back it up, such as "My friend didn't reply to my text so they must be mad at me." 
  • Having an all-or-nothing view, such as, "If I don't succeed at this task, I'm a total failure." 
  • Turning positives into negatives and rejecting your own achievements, such as,"I only did well on that test because it was easy."
  • Confusing feelings with fact, such as, "I feel like a failure so I must be a failure."
  • Undervaluing yourself, putting yourself down or using self-deprecating humor. 
Then, flip these thoughts on their head.

Be conscious of your negative self-talk and realize it's your mental illness talking and not fact. Practice thinking of logical and positive explanations when you find your thoughts drifting to the negative, like, "My friend didn't reply to my text because they're busy right now," or "If I don't succeed at this task, then I'll try again or do things differently next time," or "I accomplished something because I'm a freaking bad-ass" or "Just because I'm struggling with my self confidence and I feel like a failure, that doesn't mean I'm actually a failure."

5. Forgive yourself

Everyone makes mistakes. Every single person in this world. Your mistakes are not a reflection of who you are as a person, and they do not determine your worth. Start treating yourself and talking to yourself like you would your best friend, and start showing yourself some compassion.  

"Stewing in remorse isn't a productive way to cope. As difficult as it may seem, letting go of guilt and shame is a necessary part of moving on from any mistake or embarrassment. Even if we can't change how someone else reacts to a situation, we can always change our own outlook," journalist Caitlin Abber writes in Oprah Magazine.

"Whether they’re accidents or bad judgement calls, learning to process feelings of guilt and avoid those of shame will prevent us from reacting in a way we might regret, or worse, continuing to feel bad for something we can’t change."

6. Ditch the people in your life who don't support you

2018 study found that people with low self-esteem tend to surround themselves with people who put them down. Amy Morin, LCSW, editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind, said, "When others put them down, their words are in line with what the person with low self-esteem thinks about themselves. And it gives them a twisted sense of comfort as they believe, 'You see me the same way I see me.'"

Evaluate the people you surround yourself with, and, instead, give your time and energy to the people who make you feel loved. And, no matter how hard it may be, a crucial step in the journey to self-love is ditching those people who make you feel bad about yourself. 

Raise a middle finger in the air because, as much as you may tell yourself otherwise, you do not deserve the way they are making you feel. Life is short, so stop wasting your time on people who make your life worse.

7. Learn to accept compliments

Does anyone else get really awkward when you're complimented? Do you automatically blurt out something like, "Ugh, no I'm not." By doing that, we're denying ourselves the pleasure that can come from a compliment. Someone is saying something nice about you and trying to lift your self-confidence, and you're just swatting it away like a fly. 

Instead, force yourself to say "Thank you!" and suck those self-deprecating words back into your mouth until, one day, it will feel natural to accept compliments. 

"The next time someone tells you that you did a good job, don’t argue with them about why that it isn’t true. Count to three, feel grateful and say thank you. Then, send some positivity back into the world and let yourself ride out the positive feeling a little longer," writes Risa Williams, licensed psychotherapist, on  L.A. Parent.

8. Listen to music and dance around the house

When I'm working from home, I'm alone and there's no noise in the house, that's when I get inside my brain and start to feel the worst about myself. One way I've found to quickly elevate my mood and confidence is to take a break from work, turn on an upbeat song and dance like a crazy person around the entire house. 

"Music has been a form of escape for many of us. Now that life as we know it has changed so much and what we know has pretty much been drawn to a halt, listening to music has become a means to feel better about myself and the reality of the world. There’s so much uncertainty to drown out, and I’m listening to these songs more closely, taking in the subtle message that everything’s going to be okay ‘even in my years to come I’m still gon’ be here’ like Destiny’s Child would say," writes Tami Makinde, editor of the Native Magazine.

9. Let yourself be lazy

If I spend a Saturday in bed for 12 hours and then the rest of the day on the couch, binging Netflix, I will completely berate myself for not accomplishing anything. But the thing is, letting yourself be lazy is a form of self-care. It can be a way of treating your depression or recharging yourself after the work week. So, let yourself be unapologetically lazy! 

The only thing that's a waste of time is the time you spend telling yourself that you're wasting time. I've spent so many hours and days of my life obsessing that I'm not accomplishing enough or that my life has no purpose. I recently saw a tweet by user @Melatoninlau that really comforted me: "Some indigenous cultures believe we're alive just as nature is alive: to be here, to be beautiful and strange. We don't need to achieve anything to be valid in our humanness."

10. Talk to a professional 

You know what helps me the most when I'm feeling bad about myself? Taking my meds. Sometimes, no matter what we do to try and feel confident, our body dysmorphia won't go away. And that's because it stems from a chemical imbalance in your brain that won't just disappear with positive thinking. And that's where making an appointment with a psychiatrist or a counselor comes into play.

A good place to start is to seek advice from your primary care physician, who can treat mental health issues or refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist for additional help. For Michigan residents, you can also find resources by calling/texting Common Ground's 24/7 crisis line at 800-231-1127. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

You Might Also Like