Let’s face it –we all need to learn self-love practices to increase our confidence.  Most of us spend so much time focusing on what is wrong with us and judging ourselves for it, that we rarely make time to do the one thing that matters most – to show love and appreciation for the beautiful soul that resides within each of us. Since our life ebbs and flows from whatever we focus upon, it’s no wonder so many people are feeling less than worthy. We look in the mirror and see too many freckles, wrinkles, or, pimples. We notice the stretch marks, scars, and rolls of fat. Our skin is too dark or too light. We see a crooked nose, narrow eyes, thin lips, and discolored teeth. Our hips are too wide or too narrow. Our hair is too curly or straight, too dry or too oily. We worry that by wearing a particular pair of pants, skirt, or dress our backside might appear larger than it really is.

An entire industry was built out of this quest to hide our imperfections, all so we could feel better about ourselves.

In order to truly increase our confidence and feelings of self-worth, what we really need is to shift our focus to loving ourselves more. The Beatles had it right all along, “…all we need is [self] love.”

There are many things you can do to start showering some love on that beautiful soul of yours.  I recommend the following. By practicing each of these I, myself, have developed increased confidence, joy, peace, and an overall contentment with life that has me excited to jump out of bed each morning.

Practice these five self-love practices and you’ll feel more confident, too!

Step 1: Take Care of YOU

I know, I know – this one can be hard. We are wired to put ourselves last. However, honoring yourself and your needs is one of the keys to increasing your confidence and should be a priority. YOU ARE IMPORTANT. Cliché as it may be, “…you cannot pour from an empty cup.” And, you can’t – it’s impossible. You might think you’re an exception and you’re not. You cannot give 100% (or more) if you’re not at your best. The only way to consistently operate at that level is to take care of you.

Yes, but HOW?

The easiest way is by setting boundaries and sticking with them. If it feels like it’s too much, then it is. If you feel like you need a break, then you do. Remember – it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to say ‘no’ to your children, spouse, friends, family, boss, and/or co-workers. It’s okay to treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure, massage, or facial. It’s okay to be silent. It’s okay to go to bed early, and/or sleep in, in the morning. It’s okay to get together with your girlfriends, or, to take a walk by yourself. It’s okay to go for a run, to the gym or a yoga class, or, to take five minutes (or more) and meditate. It’s okay to read a book, watch a movie, or take a mental health day and do nothing. Whatever YOU need to do for YOU – it’s okay. Even if it means letting other people down. Their response or reaction has more to do with them than you – they’ll get over it.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that you drop out of life, and/or stop fulfilling your responsibilities. What I AM advocating is that you find a balance between your responsibilities to others and your responsibility to yourself. It’ll probably take some trial and error to find that balance. However, when you do, I think you’ll find that it’s worth it because your confidence will begin to soar.

Step 2: Be Kind to Yourself

Your words and thoughts matter. Your confidence is directly related to how you speak to and think about yourself. If you consistently use unkind words, even if they’re only thoughts in your head, that negative energy will bring you down. We’re often far harsher on ourselves than we are on other people. A good test is to ask yourself if you’d speak those same words to a child. If not, then, it’s best not to speak them to or about yourself, either.

What should you say to yourself?

Whatever feels good – whatever feels right. Affirmations are a good place to start (more on this in step 3). I’m healthy. I’m beautiful. I’m loved. I have beautiful eyes. I’m smart. I’m intelligent. I’m a good mother. I’m well. I make a great chocolate cake. Everyone loves my brownies. I’m good at Candy Crush. And, on those days when you’re not feeling so well, sometimes just an ‘I’m doing okay,’ or ‘I’m hanging tough,’ is enough. Because you ARE enough. You always have been. And, you always will be.

Step 3: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

On some level, most everyone wants to be liked. It’s why we wear the same clothes, get the same haircuts, and occupy our time in the same way as our peers growing up. We believe that others will like us more if we’re just like them. The only problem is, we’re all unique – every single one of us. No two humans are exactly alike, not even identical twins.

Therefore, trying to be like someone else, is kind of like an apple trying to be an orange. It doesn’t work because an apple was meant to be an apple and an orange – an orange. They were both created with unique flavors, textures, and tastes. Both contribute to this world, albeit in different ways. Imagine if the world were denied the existence of apples or oranges because one decided it was better to be the other?

It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to look different. It’s okay to think differently. It’s okay to feel differently. Because what makes you different is YOUR gift to the world. Celebrate your OWN uniqueness and learn to live your life by your OWN values. Embrace that, and watch yourself (and your confidence) shine.

Step 4: Create Your Own Affirmations (and write them down)

Have you used affirmations before? If not, it’s a great way to increase your confidence.

Affirmations are short sentences that affirm a positive feeling or belief about yourself. They often begin with the words, ‘I am…’ I am enough. I am love. I am joy. I am confidence. I am radiance. I am unstoppable. I am connected to my inner child and highest self. I am healthy, whole, and complete. I am a beautiful child of the universe.

However, it’s important that the words you use resonate with you. In other words, the affirmations you use should feel good – to you. It’s why it’s important to create and use affirmations that are individually tailored for you. If a particular sequence of words doesn’t work for you, don’t use it.

Create affirmations based on your individual issues. For example, if you’re feeling unloved, you might try using an affirmation such as, ‘I am love.’ Or, if you’re feeling like no one supports you, try using, ‘I am supported and cared for.’ It’s also important that when speaking these words to yourself you do so intentionally. Close your eyes and take a moment to really feel the feeling within your body. While you can use affirmations throughout the day, it’s particularly helpful to start and end your day using these words.

In terms of how many affirmations to use, I’d recommend starting with five. However, again, the most important thing is that whatever you use works for you, even if it’s only one to three, or, eight to ten.

It’s also important to write them down as the physical act of writing can help anchor the feeling in your body. It can also help you determine which affirmations work best for you. Again, if it feels good – use it. If not – don’t. Play around with different affirmations and see which ones help you feel more confident.

Step 5: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Neale Donald Walsch has been quoted as saying, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” As much as we try to avoid discomfort, it is only by embracing it that we actually gain confidence. By pushing ourselves to do things we think we cannot do, we learn how capable and powerful we really are.

Yes, it might be scary. Yes, it may be risky. However, the rewards are totally worth it.

Whether it’s learning to cook, or to rock climb, taking a Spanish class or going skydiving, having a difficult conversation with your friend, or, finally being honest with a family member about how you really feel – just do it.

Take that drawing class. Go have a meal by yourself at a restaurant. Dance around your living room blasting ‘This is Me.’ Book that trip to Bhutan. Call that relative you haven’t spoken to in 20 years and say you’re sorry. Go to a concert or the ballet. Say ‘hello’ to that person who makes your heart flutter.

One word of warning, though – once you start living outside of your comfort zone, there’s no going back. You may even find yourself addicted to the energy and increased confidence you experience as a result.

The world needs you to shine your brightest so you can share yourself and your unique gifts with the world. By practicing these five self-love practices, you’ll be on your way to a more confident you in no time.