I used to be the picture of insecurity. I was consumed with my appearance and others’ opinions. When giving a speech in English class my heart would pound and my voice would waver so much I could barely talk. If someone sitting behind me laughed, I knew it had to be about me. I even went through a few months when I would involuntarily blush a nasty beet-red color in the middle of class for no apparent reason, then rush to the bathroom to let it subside. My mind was a place of self-doubt and over-analyzing everything.
Now, I’m happy to say I’ve mastered my insecurities and I love myself in all situations!
Just kidding. Obviously.
But by God’s grace, I have gained some confidence. It hurts to look back on where I was. I want to tell my 16-year-old self that it gets better.
I don’t know where you’re at on the ‘confidence meter.’ You may have struggles and reasons for worry that far surpass my experiences. I asked my Facebook and Instagram friends what they struggle with when it comes to confidence, and all your answers were so honest. It’s humbled me to see just a sample of the things you work through. So, no, I’m not the expert. But I do think we can all use a little encouragement in this area. Here are six ideas for building confidence that have proven helpful in my life:
1. Challenge your thoughts. Confidence is largely a game of the mind, because each small thought comprises our self-image. We cannot permit every whim and concern to make a home in our heads! If we do, we’ll be tossed about in a load of uncertainty. Instead, we have the power to challenge unhealthy thoughts with logic and truth.
2. Speak kindly about others. How we talk about other people influences how we think about ourselves. I’ve experienced this. When I make fun of people and nitpick their weaknesses or quirks, I become more critical about myself, too. Gossip and mean words create a culture of harshness. Luckily, the opposite is also true! When I compliment others and say good things behind their backs, I’m more likely to see the good in myself as well.
3. Do something scary. When I think about the hard things I’ve done, I can see how they’ve grown my confidence: moving to college, helping a research team, doing YouthWorks, etc. Each step, big or small, has shown me that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. It’s helped me look to the future with more bravery and a belief that God is always with me. Every time you dismiss fear and do something hard, your confidence grows.
4. Accept the core of your personality. This applies to introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between. I’ve found that you cannot change this. I fought against my introversion for many years, seeing my quietness and gentleness as something to overcome. I thought I needed to change before I could feel free and happy. The problem wasn’t my personality, though. It was my unhealthy mind. I’ve since learned to embrace my core, while not letting it cage me in. (Here is a related blog post!) Learn to accept and build on your personality, and you won’t be endlessly fighting against it!
5. Believe what God says about you. You will never healthfully overcome insecurity without believing what the Creator says about you. God’s opinion matters most, because he intimately knows every part of you: the beautiful, the sinful, and the painful. He paid the greatest sacrifice to know and be with you. The Bible is full of examples of God’s love for us, and how carefully and beautifully he made us. Our confidence comes not from outward appearances, but from the amazing spiritual realities we see in the Bible. Another key thing is that we do not journey through life alone. When there is a hard decision, painful season, or confusing time, God is always there to help and guide us.
6. Give yourself time and grace. This whole thing is a long road. There will be days where you feel like you’ve ‘made it,’ only to be followed by days when you want to curl into a ball. I know it because it’s been true in my life! But take a deep breath. It’s okay that you have struggles, and it is so, so important that you give yourself time and grace to grow.
So, friend, I hope these tips have helped you in some way. I am overjoyed and humbled that you take the time to read these posts!
A year ago, I was preparing to do the most daring, crazy thing I’ve ever done. I was moving to Vermont to lead mission trips with YouthWorks all summer. It was a wild decision for this introvert for many reasons. I didn’t know anyone I’d be working with. I also knew leading large groups of middle and high schoolers (without previous experience in this age group!) would be a challenging job. And I wouldn't see my family, friends, or Brian for months.
I was jumping into this wild adventure with no assurance that I would enjoy it or even succeed at it. However, I knew I had gotten the job for a reason. I was trying to trust that God had a plan for it.
Somehow, when the time came to leave, I packed a giant suitcase and went to the airport with my family and Brian. Saying goodbye was not easy. I forced myself to emotionally detach from the situation as we took pictures together, said last goodbyes, and hugged. I held back the floodgate of tears dying to burst forth, because I needed to retain my vision as I entered the security line.
I had two flights that day and ended up in Pittsburgh for a week of training. It truly felt unreal, and I couldn’t have done it without the support from my family. It was one of the hardest days of my life.
But I am sooooooo glad I got on that plane and went.
The summer was incredibly challenging, yes. It pushed me and grew me and frustrated me every single day. But looking back, I can’t imagine not having gone. Yesterday, I looked through all the pictures, cards, notes, and keepsakes from the summer, and I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for all that I learned through it.
I want this little story to push you to do the hard things you feel led to. Maybe you’re considering applying for a challenging job, starting a big project, or even starting a deeper conversation with a coworker. I encourage you to prayerfully go for it! Here are 5 reasons to do hard things:
1. It forces you to trust God.
Jumping into something that is obviously beyond your own ability forces you to lean on God's strength. I saw my weakness and tendency to worry in full color last summer, but also experienced God’s kindness and power in me. I prayed so many times, “I cannot do this, God. Help me.” And he did! He delights in leading us and loving us in our weakness. This beautiful verse really spoke to my need for His guidance as I prepared to leave:
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. -Isaiah 42:16
2. It reveals where you’ve been limiting yourself.
I’ve limited myself with the label of ‘introvert’ countless times. I’ve told myself that I hate talking in front of people, that doing new things scares me, and that I’m awkward and bad at meeting new people. But last summer, I did a whole lot of that stuff. Every day. And slowly, I began to realize that I could be good at it! You are capable of far more than you think, I promise.
3. It teaches you new skills and lessons.
My summer gave me some weird new skills, like dividing 70 people into service teams based on the size of their vans, or making 13 pounds of taco meat. It also taught me deeper lessons, like the beauty of unity between diverse people, the satisfaction of helping people, and the joy found in talking to nursing home residents. These are things I could have missed if I stayed home! There’s no predicting what lessons and skills a new experience could bring you.
4. It *could be* a lot of fun!
Will your step of courage end up being awesome? Maybe. Despite the hard stuff in my summer, I absolutely loved my team, the work we did, and all the silly and adventurous things in between. However, I realize that all ‘new things’ you do might not be enjoyable. You might decide ‘never again!’ You just never know what the experience could be like!
5. You get to remember God’s faithfulness. No matter how things end up, after doing something hard, you get to remember how God showed up and came through for you. Instead of remembering how amazing your performance was or how self-assured it’s made you, you get to attribute it all to the Lord. My YouthWorks summer has become one more item in my list of how God has shown his faithfulness to me.
So, whether you’re contemplating a life-changing decision or a small step, don’t let hard things scare you away. There is a ton of value in doing what you think you cannot.
Want to read more about my summer with YouthWorks? Here are links to those posts!
A Life Update: My Summer Plans!
My First 3 Weeks with YouthWorks (+ Pictures!)
Church Groups Finally Came to Rutland! (+ Pictures)
25 Random Things I Learned in Rutland
I love getting recognition for something I’ve done. Whether it’s a small act of kindness, volunteering, or helping a friend, it feels really great to get a ‘thank you’ or a ‘wow, that’s so nice of you!’ But what about when no one seems to notice the good we do? Personally, I’m pretty skilled at seeking out recognition: casually mentioning what I’ve been up to in conversations.
We feel a pressure to be seen as purposeful and busy, especially in Christian culture. The Bible tells us to do good and to let our light shine, and that’s a worthy pursuit! But it’s far too easy to get wrapped up in recognition and what other people think of us.
The Bible speaks clearly into this issue:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. -Matthew 6:1
We want to be admired
This chapter goes on to warn against doing things like praying, giving to the poor, and fasting with the motive of being seen and admired by people. Other things you could add to that list include reading your Bible, volunteering, leading a Christian movement, helping at church, etc. Jesus is asking, “What’s your true motive for doing all this good stuff?”
But really ,why do we want recognition for what we do? I can see two reasons: 1) We don’t feel like we’re doing enough. When I look at my amazing friends and other people who do so much good, it’s easy to feel that I pale in comparison. So, if I broadcast the things I do, I can feel like we’re ‘even.’ Comparing ourselves to other Christians in a competitive way is so ugly! We’re called to work towards a common goal, together. Another reason we may search for recognition, 2), is that we really are prideful about what we’re doing. We believe that we deserve to be seen and praised.
Man, oh man, Matthew 6:1 is crucial.
So, should we become hermits?
An important thing to realize, however, is that Jesus doesn’t tell us to hide our good deeds or avoid them in an attempt to be invisible. We are supposed to live radically good and generous lives, so obviously some people will notice: and hopefully love God because of it! This verse is truly a warning against having the wrong motives.
The beautiful impact of doing good
The true reason for doing good, then, is not to be remembered by people, but to impact eternity. It’s amazing to imagine what this looks like! God sees everything, even the good done in secret. He remembers and treasures it all: the piddly little ways we help people, the things that go completely unnoticed, and even the actions we forget about or brush off. These things are stored up as treasure in heaven, while changing and impacting the earth!
I want to encourage you that doing good is always worth it: even when no one sees, even when you feel like it’s not enough, and even when it seems exhausting and menial. Our God is a God who sees, and who loves us dearly. We don’t need recognition or praise from another human to fill our hearts or spur our motives. Rest in that truth today, and go serve the Lord!
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!