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Confidence boosters
March 22, 2011 7:14 AM   Subscribe

What did you do that made a big improvement in your self-confidence?

I'm fascinated by the effect that confidence has on learning ability.

Specifically, I notice that many women have a dreadful lack of self-confidence. "Oh, I can just tell I'm going to be terrible at this", "Have you ever had such an awful student?" - verbatim quotes from real students of mine who were not terrible at all.

I'm very interested in what women can do, both as kids and as adults, that will increase their self-confidence and their sense of agency in their own lives.

Have you done some specific thing that you feel noticeably improved your confidence? The more specific and/or unusual the activity the better. Do you know where your lack of confidence came from? Do you know what it was about this activity that made a difference?
posted by emilyw to Human Relations (61 answers total) 147 users marked this as a favorite
 
Weightlifting & strength training. I got stronger and my posture improved and being physicaly able to do things (pick up big suitcases! Haul lots of groceries up stairs! etc) carried over and gave me an improved sense of being able to do other things.
posted by pointystick at 7:19 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Had an experience of ego loss on LSD.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:23 AM on March 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I ran a half marathon.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on March 22, 2011


Lift weights. After you've added a hundred pounds to your squat, a lot of daunting tasks seem more approachable.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:25 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did the things that I promised myself and others that I would do.
posted by Minos888 at 7:26 AM on March 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Traveled through several foreign countries by myself.
posted by anderjen at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


Make your students explain something to the class. So if you have 10 students, find 10 different things that each one has to learn on his/her own and then explain to the class well enough so the other 9 students can take a quiz on the subject.

If you do this repeatedly, it becomes less of an "OMG PUBLIC SPEAKING ASSIGNMENT!", and more of an ongoing way to help them a) understand a topic thoroughly enough to present the important parts, and b) develop confidence.

Actually, since I took a job as a teacher, my confidence has soared in all areas of my life. I attribute this to gaining confidence in my public speaking abilities.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:27 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Living/ travelling in countries where I don't speak the language (and overcoming that barrier on a daily basis).
posted by kitkatcathy at 7:29 AM on March 22, 2011


I started running. I have never been athletic in my life and assumed I couldn't do it, but my sister made me sign up for a 5k. A year later I was running up to 9 miles at a time.
posted by something something at 7:33 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Moved to a state I'd never been to before, where I didn't know anyone, didn't have a place to live, and didn't have a job or a good prospect for one.

This may not be practical for everyone.
posted by desjardins at 7:35 AM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Creative writing, blogging, drawing and building an online presence. Really, anything that involves conscious identity construction and introspection channeled through the medium of 'putting a message out there'.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:36 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


What worked for me (although this is something I'm still struggling with, so ymmv) is to find things that need fixing and then fix them.

This started when I was working at an ice cream store (morning shift, so it was really slow). I walked through all the processes (opening, closing, how different menu items were made, how product was made, etc) and tested out ways to make them more efficient. Sometimes it was something as simple as putting a cup of spoons in a different spot. Sometimes it was harder, like reorganizing the freezers. However, I had the luxury of time to do this because I basically fell into being the manager of the store because I lived up the street and the owner lived 30 minutes away.

Of course, I took this to my second next job (the intermediary job was so horrible, it doesn't merit any discussion other than expletives). When I first started work, the office was a mess. There were unopened packages that were dated 2 years old and there was never any space to work on things and we never had carts available, so carrying any heavy materials was painful. I just took it upon myself to organize things and go through all the unopened packages, figure out where they belonged, and dealt with it. Little by little, the office eventually cleaned up into a place where everyone had enough space and materials to actually *work*.

After each project, my confidence grows a little bit as I realize that I am competent and that I can make things better.

The lack of confidence can probably be designated to my folks (as with so many other things, heh). I was pretty much always told 'well that's nice, but why didn't you do x?' or 'wow, you completely forgot about y!'

Finally being told by some outside party that has nothing to gain from fluffing up my ego that 'wow, what you've done here is amazing' has vastly helped me realize that I can do things well enough, damnit.

tl;dr: Small, completeable projects that inspire competency.
posted by sperose at 7:36 AM on March 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


Wearing knee high boots and getting s great haircut.
posted by vespabelle at 7:37 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think if you want to inspire confidence in your students (male or female), it really helps to be clear and consistent with praise.

Praise them only when they actually and truly have done a good job of something. You can reiterate the praise, but do not exaggerate it just to make them feel good and "give them a boost". And just as important: withhold that praise, or even vocally acknowledge what was wrong (even in front of others) when they do a bad job (which they will all do sometimes).

Hearing "oh that was great, no you're fine" when really, you haven't done a good job, tends to make one suspicious of all praise. Similarly, being constantly scolded that one can do better tends to make one think everything they try, no matter how hard, is crap. And getting no feedback is probably the worst of all.

Being clear and consistent is the way to make people BELIEVE that at least sometimes, if not always, they are good at what they do.
posted by molecicco at 7:41 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Praise them only when they actually and truly have done a good job of something. You can reiterate the praise, but do not exaggerate it just to make them feel good and "give them a boost". And just as important: withhold that praise, or even vocally acknowledge what was wrong (even in front of others) when they do a bad job (which they will all do sometimes).

This. This this this this this this this.

My mother sometimes peppers her conversation with empty, happy-making praise that really doesn't have much of an impact on me. It's sweet of her, and I know she means well, but it just sort of rolls off my back.

On the other hand, I was working on a play with a friend; he was the lighting designer and I was the stage manager. During one of the technical rehearsals, he was teaching me the cues for how to run the lights -- and after about an hour, after I'd picked up a lot of what he was showing me smoothly and in very short order, he paused, gave me a long, searching look, and said, "you know, you're really good at this." That was all he said -- it was all he needed to say, because I knew he meant it. I lived off that for months, and I still think of it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nthing traveling alone as a huge confidence builder. I moved out of the country by myself when I was 17. Since then I have taken numerous road trips on my own. Being able to get by on one's own wits and strength, taking care of business and having time to think was just what I needed to make myself feel like I could handle my own shit.

BTW, thanks for posting this question. Really good insight for me.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:56 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assumed from the beginning of the task that I could do it and silenced the negative voices in my head.
posted by Leezie at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2011


Keep my eyebrows shaped.

Do things I am scared to do, while trying not to overthink.

Say ENOUGH with the scary, negative self-talk and substitute with kind, positive words. (Repeat ad infinitum.) This is crucial.

Trust - in my instincts, in God (ymmv). Even if it feels like blind trust.

And often, I just fake it.
posted by lucyleaf at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the best thing to do is to attempt new experiences and be reflective of ones strengths and weaknesses. Being assertive also boosts confidence as well.
posted by handbanana at 8:03 AM on March 22, 2011


Carpentry, using power tools, tearing down walls, building walls, shelves, counters.
posted by mareli at 8:07 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I notice that many women have a dreadful lack of self-confidence. "Oh, I can just tell I'm going to be terrible at this", "Have you ever had such an awful student?" - verbatim quotes from real students of mine who were not terrible at all."

Point this out to them. I point out to my students how women tend to pre-emptively undermine themselves and tend to hedge when presenting opinions ("I think it might be that sometimes X does Y") when men would just say "X does Y" or "I think X does Y." Once they start noticing it, they realize how often they do it.

I realized it when I was turning in a legitimately not-great piece to my newspaper editor and I started telling him what was wrong with it, and he raised an eyebrow at me and said, "Never undersell your work before I have a chance to read it." (Upon reading, he agreed it was not great, but that it would do.) If you point out flaws, people notice flaws. If you don't want to toot your own horn, at least remain silent and let the judges do their judging.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:07 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think I know where my lack of self-confidence came/comes from: My parents. They always questioned their worthiness in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. They were competent and successful in many areas, and I think they knew this, but they were still plagued with self-doubt. It rubbed off on me in a big way.

I think aging has increased my self-confidence. In my twenties I had this awful habit of thinking I was the only one that couldn't do xyz, or I was the only one this was happening to, of felt like this. I thought I was alone in my inabilities or flaws. Intellectually I knew this was not true. Maybe I isolated as a way to feel sorry for myself, I don't know. Realizing that I am not alone -- plenty of people are not good at doing xyz -- increased my self-confidence. I'm just as good. I can do it. I can try.

I never thought I could do yoga. I can do it. Proving myself wrong boosts self-confidence. My work gives me self-confidence. Sometimes I run my department alone and it enforces the idea that I'm capable.
posted by Fairchild at 8:08 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


In the specific context of improving the confidence of female students, a couple of recent studies have shown that writing an essay about a woman who overcame adversity dramatically improved women's scores in their undergrad physics exams, to the point that the gender gap was almost completely eliminated. The idea behind it is that spending time on this project helps the students internalise the idea of a woman who can overcome challenges and get stuff done, which helps to make them confident that they, too, are capable of working at something hard (learning a new subject) and do well at it. There's a short write up of the article here, although the academic research article itself is very readable if you can dig it up. (I've lost the link, but might be able to find it for you if you're particularly interested)

It's also worth pointing out that learning new stuff is a challenging set of skills in its own right, which many adults haven't practiced since leaving school / university. Worse, because they associate it with being in school and being in the position of a pupil again, it's associated with a loss of perceived maturity/adult status. So it's no wonder that adults often get very self-conscious when trying to learn new things. One way of overcoming these things that I've seen applied to good effect is a quick demonstration that everyone is capable of learning something new and that making mistakes along the way is OK and expected. Devote an hour or two to teaching everyone a fun, simple and new skill: a couple of magic tricks, some phrases in a new language, basic knitting, etc. Once people are in the mindset that they can learn new stuff and that difficulties, mistakes and setbacks are par for the course even among adults, then a lot of the apprehension and self-consciousness should disappear.
posted by metaBugs at 8:20 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Imagine what a confident person would do and then do that, even if you don't feel it. (Fake it, as mentioned above.) Soon, these will become your own habits, and suddenly you will realize that you are one of those confident people. Also, you will then realize that everyone else is faking it, too.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:26 AM on March 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Two things made a difference for me (other than just getting a few more years of experience under my belt, which has probably been 75% of it.)

- Martial arts. And much less in the "I can hit people effectively if I have to" sense - what has made a big difference is the emphasis my instructors place on appearing confident. If you don't make the "I fucked up!" face in the middle of a kata, there's a good chance your audience will assume you did it right. This applies to all things.

- My awesomeness experiment. Getting to a place where I knew what my own standards were helped tremendously (and gave me the courage to make some difficult but necessary decisions about my own life.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:29 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I learned to speak properly. The coaching and support I received from my Toastmasters club helped me gain confidence in talking to others singly and in groups, it improved my ability to communicate at work, and reduced my reliance on verbal tics (mostly filler words and uptalk.) Toastmasters also taught me to be a more attentive listener. I'm still an introvert, but when I have something to say I can say it succinctly and articulately.
posted by workerant at 8:32 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I stopped reading snarky internet gossip blogs (I never read Perez Hilton because that was too low for even me, but blogs along those lines). The incessant negativity about women and their bodies really got to me, and I've become much happier and self confident with less exposure to those twisted attitudes.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 8:37 AM on March 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


What changed my confidence?

Honestly, I started walking.

For years I had it in my head that i wasn't one for exercise and I wasn't good at physical activity. Walking snowballed, though. I suddently started believing that not only did i LIKE it, It was having some initially unintended effects.

I started questioning all the things that I thought i didn't like because i either thought i couldn't do them or would make a jackass of myself doing them. It sort of changed my whole outlook. I stopped thinking I couldn't do things- I started a much healthier approch of thinking I absolutly COULD do them, but it would be a question of skill, practice and interest.

I found out that while I can paint really well, I'm not really interested. I found out that my dancing skills are deplorable, but if i practice i can really get better. I found that not only am I good at some sports, i really enjoy them.

Other things that I do now to psych myself up seem trivial or sort of shallow to a lot of people, and but it helps me. I put on make up and spend a lot of time doing my hair. I tell myself how this (whatever it is) is just another thing to get good at- and i can rock it.

I am not an F. Scott fan- but I think this kinda sums a lot up.

"When a girl feels that she’s perfectly groomed and dressed, she can forget that part of her. That’s charm. The more parts of yourself you can afford to forget, the more charm you have."
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
posted by Blisterlips at 8:43 AM on March 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


This. Finally grasping that I wasn't inherently unworthy, just raised to feel that way, was huge.

Also, the more I learned about feminism - the ways society is stacked against and sabotages women, and the ways I was playing/do play into that - seeing what I could control, what I couldn't control, what I could try to make a difference with and what parameters I had to function within - it's not only having your eyes opened, it's the getting angry that gives you the motivation to push back; that I'm not lesser simply because I'm a woman, but so many big and little things outside of me will make me feel that way, and I have to recognize what is outside of me, what I've internalized, and make sure to deconstruct it.

And then also, I got older. Age + experience and the willingness to be self-examining/self-aware even when it's really hard and painful and basically it sucks helps.
posted by flex at 8:48 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Being forced to be self reliant - doing things like traveling and living alone, fixing things around the house, reading time life books about things i'd like to do, cooking. IT's like that "If you never starve you will never learn to cook" idea. I suppose women lacking in confidence that actually have a strong support network could mimic this idea through activities like wilderness survival classes, emergency aid training or firearms training (to teach something wherein a thouroughly familiar and practiced response becomes automatic and without self judgement), and teaching others (since if you can make them understand, you must be able to understand as well).
posted by WeekendJen at 8:53 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a woman, but I found that getting a job in a field that I like has done wonders.
posted by ambulatorybird at 9:19 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


~Finally, FINALLY, realizing that I had had enough of the jerky boyfriend(s). Once I finally decided, once and for all time and forevermore, that I do not have to tolerate disrespectful bullshit . Boys act that way. Men do not. There are too many good guys out there, shaking their heads at how we go after the assholes. So all it took was that one last thing, and BOOM, like a quiet bomb in my head, I decided to love myself more than I loved the jerk.

~Dancing by myself on an empty dance floor, and not giving a shit. High on life that I had broken free, and he couldn't tell me I was a slut just because I wanted to dance. In fact, he couldn't tell me anything, or hurt me one more time. I left him, he is gone. He and all the ones just like him.

Homey don't play that. (Anymore)

I have a wonderful husband now, who I dance with often, and he never would even THINK to do or say anything nasty about it, or refuse to go every single time, or pout, or make a scene or make my life hell when I get home, or any of that.

~That thundering moment when I saw how it doesn't have to be bad, it can be really, really good. I CHOSE TO LOVE ME, and to be treated how I should be treated. Not crucify myself for staying with the jerks, they certainly had their good points. But I try to remember that even Hitler had a girlfriend. It's not my fault, but it is my choice. It sucks and it's shameful to think you were stupid enough to put up with such childish nonsense. But we must all get over that, and get rid of the jerk.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:30 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do stuff that scares you; confront your fears directly. Growing up, I was renowned for being pretty much the worst public speaker in the class. Teachers would get us to do presentations, and I would literally start sweating enormous amounts. Which made it even worse, because then I would be super self-conscious.

So I decided to do stand-up comedy. The first time I did it, I was really really scared, but apparently I can write jokes pretty well, so people laughed. And now I've gone from "I hope nobody shows up so I don't have to get up there in front of everybody" to "WHERE'S MY AUDIENCE, WHAT THERE ARE ONLY LIKE SIX PEOPLE HERE."
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:45 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


With respect to girls and academic achievement, it's all about increasing confidence by directly countering stereotype threat. Studies have shown that if you trigger a negative stereotype (e.g., girls are worse at math than boys), then girls will indeed do worse on math. However, if you don't trigger it, they perform equally. So if you just give girls the objective facts countering negative stereotypes (and, presumably, increase their confidence), then they will do much better.
posted by yarly at 9:50 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I took a risk, and it paid off.

I was raised by loving, supportive parents who were nonetheless strictly conservative in their choices. They never did anything impulsively. Every choice was measured. They lived on a tight budget, always took the safe route with investments and job opportunities, lived in the same house from before I was born until after I was married. With the best intentions, they always counseled me to take the safe route, too.

But I feel strongly that you have to move out of your comfort zone sometimes to really explore your own potential. Confidence comes not from praise and support (though that is wonderful!) but from attaining goals you set for yourself.

My confidence-building story:

I was a stay-at-home Mom, enjoying my family but feeling vaguely restless with child-rearing and the loss of identity that comes from tending for others round the clock, just thumbing through a magazine around Valentine's Day as the kids napped.

Amidst all the Valentine gift ideas, I saw a blurb about a website that created customized fantasies and it piqued my curiosity. How did that work?

Bemused, I headed to the website and started checking the sample offerings out. At first a little embarrassed (I expected more romance, less sex), I vividly remember thinking, "They aren't even touching the surface of what they could do here. I could write much better stuff than this."

And that idea would not leave me alone. I liked writing. When I shared my work, others seemed to enjoy reading what I'd written. But I had never written professionally. And I had certainly never even thought of writing erotica! Plus, I was a married woman who didn't even have a lot of sexual experience to draw from, just my own imagination. The very idea was absurd.

But I couldn't let it go.

So I contacted the editor and asked how she went about hiring. Polite, but dismissive, she told me she already had enough writers on staff and wasn't looking to hire any more. That should have dissuaded always-take-the-safe-route me. Instead, I persisted, emailing her again and asking for specifics. In what was probably an effort to get rid of me, she finally suggested I write something up and she would try to look it over when she had some time. It was pretty clear that she didn't expect much from me.

I rose to the challenge. I took a specific request, worked though my blushes and created a rich fantasy world that hit all the right notes: an evocative setting, lush imagery, appeals to all the senses, a budding romance and joyful, imaginative sex. The words just poured out of me. I was on fire to impress this woman with what I could do.

And then I turned my travail de l'amour in to the editor, and waited with bated breath, hoping for at least some constructive criticism on my work.

That turned in to my first paid writing gig. She liked what I'd written so much, the editor hired me on the basis of that work, signed me to a contract immediately and I stayed with her for years. It was a fantastic learning experience for me, and it never would have happened if I hadn't dared myself to go for it. I was able to parlay that job into other writing gigs, I worked from my home while raising my kids, and I loved what I was doing.

So I'd say: take chances. Surprisingly, even when things don't work out (and I've had a few rejection slips since then), you don't regret going for it.

But if you never try, you live you life with regrets, wondering, "What if...."
posted by misha at 10:12 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I learned to stop comparing myself to others.
posted by smalls at 10:30 AM on March 22, 2011


Travel started it. Trying to negotiate my way around areas where there aren't even roman numerals on basic things like train tickets and the locals were trying to scam you and you were forced to bribe everyone just to get around really gives you a boost if successful.

That also forced me to talk to strangers. Now I do it all the time if I sense that they will be the littlest bit receptive to me (90% are), and have met many people because of it.

That and ego death mentioned above. On mushrooms not LSD. It's like nothing else. It's a reset for your brain in a way that likely only a real near death experience can match. For months and months after I was completely calm. Nothing phased me. My anxieties melted away. Now, if I am having troubles (Like recently), I can take some time to get back into that mindset, kind of like meditation. If you want to read about it I suggest Huxley (Of Brave New World), or Castaneda.
posted by penguinkeys at 10:31 AM on March 22, 2011


Losing weight helped a lot for me. I don't mean to be a sizist at all, but having extra pounds on kept me self-conscious and self-doubting. There were so many things that I would fret about 15 pounds ago:

- embarrassed at the doctor's when I would have to get weighed
- embarrassed when shopping with friends if they would see the size on the tag
- embarrassed if I couldn't keep up in physical activities
- embarrassed if clothes didn't fit right or if I caught my reflection suddenly in the mirror

I wish that so much self-confidence didn't come from this superficial physical change, but it did.
posted by amicamentis at 10:32 AM on March 22, 2011


More intellectually - specific praise helps so much more for confidence than a general 'nice job'. Even if there is criticism as well, having someone really notice the work you've done is a great boost, because it shows that you've created something worth commenting on.
posted by amicamentis at 10:34 AM on March 22, 2011


you're asking about learning.

-positive reinforcement always helps
-group learning always helped --> i was the one "girl" on the math and science teams --> and at first i was intimidated --> but once i got into the groove of working as a team, seeing that sometimes i could contribute, i spoke up more and more. and even when i didn't know the right answer (we don't always), when my team one, i felt a sense of accomplishment and i knew i was just as good as the "boys"
-i had a math teacher in high school who let you take the test over and over again until you got above a c. he wanted us to learn, and set us up to succeed. that helped me greatly
-individual mentoring by strong role models that the students can relate to can help, as well

why?

-i have a very strong mom, who was a great role model. but society still played with my self-confidence. as did my peer groups, because i did not fit in (dorky, first generation, bowl cut and sweatervests (which i rock now!)).
posted by anya32 at 10:43 AM on March 22, 2011


when my team won!
posted by anya32 at 10:44 AM on March 22, 2011


Aikido
posted by ainsley at 10:57 AM on March 22, 2011


It's not such a small change, but I changed the way I see myself. Mentally complaining about older siblings who don't take me seriously, I stopped and thought "Do I take myself seriously?" I decided that in order for others to take me seriously, find me credible, etc., I needed to take myself seriously. It changed my attitude, and attitude is critical.

*take myself seriously in a positive way, not a need-to-get-over-myself way. At least that's my plan.
posted by theora55 at 11:31 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I can't really explain it, and couldn't swear it was causal, and it seems to be the opposite of relevant here, but you asked: When I thought I was the smartest cat in the room, I had no self-confidence. Once I realized I wasn't the smartest cat in the room, I had some. It might have been connected to the decision that everyone else was a freak too, just sometimes in different ways.
posted by troywestfield at 12:00 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I got a real boost from reading Sociological Images - particularly the posts that focus on appearance. Becoming more aware of the myriad ways that we are being manipulated to feel badly about ourselves helped me be more resistant to that sort of thinking.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:03 PM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Weight lifting, meditation, solo backpacking, learning to say no and learning to let people down.
posted by jnnla at 12:40 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I moved away from my abusive past, and away from a community of constant intellectual one-upsmanship.

It's amazing what being around people who like me, and who believe I'm smart without believing it's the most important thing about me, has done for my soul.
posted by endless_forms at 4:09 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think a good approach for dealing with your students about their self confidence is to kindly and gently tell them, whenever they make a really self-deprecating remark, "I wouldn't let anyone else talk about you that way--and I sure don't want to hear you talking about *yourself* that way."

I heartily second many of the great suggestions from this thread (take good care of your physical self, stop engaging with celebrity media, feel the fear and do it anyway).

Something that hasn't been mentioned and may be kind of hard to find--but is totally worth it if you have the opportunity--is walking barefoot across hot coals. No joke.

If you stop and think about the physics a little bit it's easy to see why you won't get burned if you do it. (Essentially, your weight extinguishes the burning of the coal when you step on it, and the coals don't hold enough latent heat to burn your skin--and they'll reignite right after you pull up your weight and they're re-exposed to the air.) But man, the psychological hurdle is huge, especially when your host has nonchalantly grilled a steak along the edge of the coal track before people start walking....

After you do it, you think, I can do ANY-FUCKING-THING. And you know? You can. Highly recommended.
posted by Sublimity at 4:27 PM on March 22, 2011


before speaking or making a decision, no matter how trivial, I do a quick check to be sure my shoulders are back and my chin is slightly up. I swear it changes the way I think and respond.
posted by agentwills at 4:43 PM on March 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Weightlifting, distance swimming (I did not become athletic until adulthood; had been a fat, cystic-acne-stricken bookworm kid and teen), public speaking, owning and using tools (see bookworm, above), certain driving expeditions (long story), putting myself through private college and private grad school at non-traditional ages.
posted by jgirl at 4:45 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was in high school, one history teacher graded us at the end of each semester on our notes. As in, we had to turn in our notebooks for a grade.

This teacher was, to put it kindly, funny-lookin'. My notes, like, I'm sure, those of many of my classmates, contained doodles of him in a less-than-flattering light. There was no way I was going to turn in my notebook unaltered.

At the end of the semester, I went through my notes and retyped everything, and I turned in a stack of typed pages containing all my notes but none of the extracurricular art. I was given an excellent grade on the notebook assignment, and when the time came a week later for the final exam, I realized what I'd actually done. I'd studied everything we'd covered in a completely new (to me) way.

I have never gone into an exam feeling so completely on top of the material. Retyping all those notes was the best thing I could have done. The confidence I had felt amazing, and even 25 years later I think about it often. It wasn't "I should retype all my notes for every class," though; it was "I can learn anything if I put my mind to it." I never used the same technique again, but it taught me something about studying, about how best to review for the way I learn, and I benefited greatly from that.
posted by kostia at 4:55 PM on March 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Nthing refusing to put self down.

I'm obsessive. Popular wisdom holds that freedom comes when you stop desiring certain answers. I kept looking for the answers until I got them. I WAS RIGHT.

I learned etiquette and read Miss Manners voraciously.

I recognize abusive behaviours (thanks, Patricia Evans, George Simon, Lundy Bancroft) and get out the banhammer for anyone who seriously disrespects me twice or, in extreme cases, once. I'm not unforgiving, it's just that unless I get a credible apology I do not waste time trying to work things out or explain things to adults who should (and in by far most cases do) know better. Not coincidentally, mean people rarely even approach me nowadays.
posted by tel3path at 5:04 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Snowboarding.

I'm still young, but until recently I had a fairly rigid view of myself and what I can and can't do--I never thought of myself as athletic and I'm kind of the opposite of a thrill-seeker. Other than learning a language (which has also been eye-opening), I haven't learned a new skill in I don't know how long--I tend to stick to the things I'm good at, out of fear of embarrassment, or laziness, I don't know. But I recently moved somewhere where it's hard to have a social life during the winter without participating in winter sports, and finally I let my friends drag me out, strap a board to my feet and push me down a mountain. I think it was the combination of trying something that was so counter to my personality and loving it, plus falling over and eating shit multiple times and seeing that it wasn't the end of the world.

Since then I've joined a gym, started studying tea ceremony, and learned to ice skate backwards (ice skating was one of the things I used to stick to because I was good at it, and having to suck at it again as I learned a new technique was character-building, I think). And damn, after reading Sublimity's comment I want to try walking on coals!
posted by sunset in snow country at 5:04 PM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't remember where I read this, but you could try having your students do a writing exercise along the lines of "I'm a good student and I'll do my best on this task today." Ask them to write it over a span of several days or even weeks. This may work to rewrite the script in their heads.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:54 PM on March 22, 2011


Exercise, no doubt about it. Some days I feel like my run is the only the only thing I have going for me.

I used to love doing theatre, as well. Especially comedic theatre. Making people laugh is a great rush.

I think my lack of confidence came from my parents not expecting much of me. I was the youngest, and I think I went unnoticed quite a bit. It had upsides, like increasing my knack for independence. But I don't remember anyone ever making a big deal out of me or telling me I was good at anything. I didn't build many skills as a kid, either, and most things I do now were self-taught as an adult.
posted by amodelcitizen at 6:01 PM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have traveled on my own since I was 15, and I think that has a heck of a lot to do with my confidence as a now 25 year old woman.

Honestly, I think confidence is built best by being in situations that really try your character, comfort and courage.
posted by mostly vowels at 8:10 PM on March 22, 2011


Cognitive behavior therapy. Picking out things i did that were awesome, even if they were little things.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:47 PM on March 22, 2011


Moved to LA without a car and began bicycling everywhere.
posted by wcfields at 11:27 AM on March 23, 2011


3 years of psychoanalysis. For other issues mostly, but the wonderful (not-so-)side effect really was a boost to my self esteem as well as general quality of life.
posted by Jireel at 12:27 PM on March 23, 2011


Playing roller derby.
posted by hrhcc at 7:15 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Watch a movie/read a book/hear a story where you identify with the main character, and the main character wins.
posted by talldean at 7:33 AM on April 4, 2011


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