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You may have heard the adage from Theodore Roosevelt that “comparison is the thief of joy.” We can substitute self-confidence for joy, and the sentiment still applies. Comparison robs us of the contentment, fulfillment, and peace we felt before seeing that new social media post.

Your brain is wired to compare, evaluate, and judge to detect threats. Since comparison happens automatically, it’s less a matter of trying to stop our brains from comparing than being mindful about what we’re feeding it.

So, what can you do about comparison? Developing a practice of recognition and appreciation is truly the way out of harmful and destructive comparison.

Why? Because gratitude recenters you in your own story instead of hyper-focusing on the “other.” Gratitude helps you to remember your own journey — what you’ve achieved, overcome, persevered through, gained, learned, and become.

And it’s this intentional practice of remembering that produces the byproduct of a strong sense of confidence and trust in yourself. Gratitude, in effect, helps you to know: Hey, I rock, too!

Self-confidence is a journey, not a destination. Gratitude is a necessary companion.

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We tend to think of confidence as all-or-nothing — either you have it or you don’t. But confidence is multifaceted. You can be confident in your role at work yet have trouble communicating with your partner.

It’s helpful to choose one area to focus on. Do you want to gain more confidence in managing your finances or maybe paddleboarding in the ocean?

Realize that you’re not starting from scratch. Reflect on an area of life you already have confidence in and journal about how you’ve arrived here.

Side note: Confidence ebbs and flows. It’s not about having unwavering confidence but identifying where you experience it more often than not.

You’ve built confidence before, and you can do it again.

Commit to a plan of action. How will you get to where you want to be? Do you need to enlist the support of others? What are you willing to invest in terms of time, energy, and resources?

Confidence builds through time and repetition. Think about the behaviors and activities you repeat the most. I’d guess you experience quite a high level of confidence there.

The keys to success are the ones you’ve already cultivated.

Identifying what brings you joy requires a habit of mindfulness. We often live on autopilot, but to know what brings joy means you have to slow down enough to pay attention to what your heart, mind, and body are experiencing in real time.

Here are a few questions for reflection:

  • What keeps you so captivated that you lose a sense of time?
  • Where does your mind go when you daydream?
  • When was the last time you experienced pleasure or a sense of happiness?

These questions might be challenging to answer, or you may find that what brought joy at one time no longer does. That’s OK! It’s time to explore and rediscover you.

Prioritizing your joy is not an optional pursuit. To experience joy is to honor the fullness of your humanity, and to practice joy is to practice self-care.

To commit to prioritizing joy, you must know that you deserve to experience pleasure and happiness, and I’m here to tell you that you’re absolutely worthy because you have breath in your body.

We all know that life is filled with demands.

But prioritizing joy moves you from a state of constant producing, earning, and striving to a state of simply being.

It reconnects you to the reality that you’re, fundamentally, a human being and not a human doing and that things like pleasure, joy, and happiness are necessary parts of a well-lived and balanced life.

Engaging in enjoyable activities is about pursuing pleasure for pleasure’s sake and can reduce stress, anxiety, and worry as you fully engage in the present moment.

It can also give you a more holistic perspective on life. As this 2017 study highlights, those who practice joy are subjectively more satisfied with their life.

Since you can’t control how you feel, the key to improving your mood is to focus on what you can control — your behavior.

Engaging in body movement in a way that feels good to you can help boost your mood. All movement counts as movement — gardening, hula hooping, or dancing to your favorite tune are all fair game.

The take-home point here is that it needs to be pleasurable. So, if you hate running, don’t do it!

Listening to music can also be a mood lifter. Some may need the catharsis of a sad song and a good cry, while others may prefer more upbeat tunes. Experiment and see what works best for you.

However, if your mood has been down more than usual, or if it’s beginning to interfere with your functioning in life, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional for personalized care.

How you feel about yourself matters. Having a strong sense of your value and worth boosts your overall sense of confidence and well-being.

The positive relationship between high self-esteem, subjective well-being, and life satisfaction has been supported by research.

An interesting line of study, however, provides a more nuanced understanding of this relationship: People with high self-esteem can have either “secure” or “fragile” esteem.

People with “secure” self-esteem like and accept themselves in general, even while acknowledging there are areas for growth and improvement.

This is in contrast to those with “fragile” self-esteem whose positive view of themselves is quite vulnerable and easily threatened by failure. They can become defensive when receiving feedback.

It appears that this sense of inner security of self is linked to a positive mood and healthy psychological functioning.

Dr. Jacquelyn Johnson is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is in private practice in California and she specializes in issues specific to high-performing African American women, such as contending with the strong Black woman trope.