Your 21-Day Confidence Action Plan

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. What if you could develop a whole new level of confidence in the same time? Enter the step-by-step guide to a much more positive you.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. What if you could develop a whole new level of confidence in the same time? Enter the step-by-step guide to a much more positive you.

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Week 1

If you had a better job, a boyfriend, or a hotter bod, you’d be more confident, right? Deep down, you know that’s not how it works. Confidence comes from within, but the problem for a lot of us is that our worst critic lives there too. The first step to confidence is learning how to take down your inner mean girl.

DAY 1 What up, Inner Critic?

Instead of engaging with your own personal hater, start nurturing and treating her with kindness. It seems a little kooky, but if the inner critic screams, “Shame all your friends hate you!” you can respond with a soothing, “Wow, you are feeling really insecure at the moment” or a glib takedown – “Who hurt you?” With daily practice, those little thoughts will lose their power.

DAY 2 Distance education

When we’re a little low on self-confidence, we tend to believe every negative thought that pops into our heads. But these thoughts aren’t really ours, they’re a reaction to fear. Disconnecting from them can be as simple as adding a few choice words to whatever crazy BS is looping through your mind. Instead of thinking, “I’m crap at my job,” be sure to add, “No, my mind is having the thought that I’m crap at my job.” See? It’s not you, it’s that annoying inner critic again.

DAY 3 The power of “yet”

Another tiny word with huge power? “Yet.” Adding this word reminds us we’re still a work in progress. Not good with money? Or not good with money… yet?

DAY 4 Grammar time

Today’s lesson: trading nouns for verbs. Life coach Samantha Krajina explains: “Instead of saying, ‘I have a bad relationship with my ex’, which makes that status seem fixed, you’d say, ‘I am relating badly to my ex right now’, which opens you up to change and progress.”

DAY 5 ”I’m awesome” list

“Confident people know what their strengths are,” Samantha says. Today, write a fivepoint non-humblebrag.

DAY 6 Story time

If a negative thought has been looping in your head for years, it’s probably become a narrative – a story we tell ourselves and others about who we are. Think about your narrative: do you want to live by it? Or is it maybe time for a new one?

DAY 7 Victory!

Look at that, it’s been a week since you started – go, you! An important part of growing this new-found confidence is acknowledging all the progress you’ve made up to now. Noticing what the neuropsychologist Professor Ian Robertson calls “tiny victories” actually changes the landscape of your brain – increasing the number of receptors in its reward-andmotivation area and helping you become more sensitive to testosterone, the power hormone. Don’t panic! You won’t grow a moustache but you will feel bolder the next time you’re faced with a similar sticky situation.

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Week 2

OK, it’s time to baby-giraffe-walk this newborn confidence into the outside world. Whether it’s friendships, relationships or work, this week is all about making it, without faking it.

DAY 8 Friend check

Name one friend who makes you feel amazing. And one who doesn’t. We all have a self-esteem sucker on standby and we seem oddly drawn to them at our weakest times. “We forget that we have a choice about whom we spend time with,” explains Michelle Landy, a motivational coach and author of The Confidence Workout. You don’t have to cut these ladies out altogether, but limit the amount of contact you have with them – especially when you’re going through a rough patch.

DAY 9 Social media cleanse

When it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s bad, social media can be a stone-cold confidence killer. Block, defriend and filter your way to feeling better about yourself in real life.

DAY 10 Run to the pain

An awkward, unresolved situation – especially one of your own creation – is not just exhausting, but a confidence zapper too. Instinctively, you feel like a moving target for future pain, so just run to it. Yes it will be horrible, but then it will be over, and you can give yourself a pat on the back for dealing with it and surviving.

DAY 11 Rejection: a love story

When the Planet Needy is in ascension, the idea of being rejected is terrifying. But it’s a normal part of life, and rarely fatal. Just remember, when someone hands you a “no”, they’re rejecting the request – not you. It’s not easy to brush it off, but try distracting yourself with something silly and fun instead. Yup, that’s an order.

DAY 12 Narrow the beam

When you’ve messed up, it’s easy to blow the situation out into a catastrophe of life-ending proportions. To protect your self-image after a stuff-up, Michelle says, “Keep a ‘spot-focus’ on the problem.” Meaning, don’t let one error “floodlight” your entire life. Keep it in perspective, folks.

DAY 13 Dare, double dare

If you’re an all-or-nothing sort of lady, you may decide to tackle this confidence problem once and for all by signing up for the halfmarathon, even though you’ve never run more than 5km in one go your whole life. Hold up! Small, achievable challenges are a surer way to build your long-term self-confidence. Those unfinished fun-runs, on the other hand, have a funny way of reinforcing the “I always fail” story.

DAY 14 Get ready, get set…

Know this: confident people don’t wait to feel ready before taking on a new challenge, whatever the size. “Waiting to feel comfortable actually holds you back,” says Michelle. “Confidence grows out of taking actions, small ones to begin with, acknowledging that you feel nervous but knowing that’s OK.” So what’s your homework for today? Pick something you’re scared of (in a good way), go do it, and watch how it doesn’t kill you.

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Week 3

You’re working on your foundation, but a few easy go-tos can help you in tricky situations. No, these aren’t cheats, they are long-haul confidencebuilding habits. And hey, you’re on the home stretch. Soon you’ll be ready to run the world, just like Bey.

DAY 15 Power ballads

Rocky was right; playing “Eye of the Tiger” at high volume works. “Music lifts your confidence,” explains psychologist Dr Gemma Munro. “Listening to a song that makes you feel excited and full of anticipation – even if you just go into a toilet cubicle at work with your headphones on for two minutes – decreases the cortisol stress hormone.”

DAY 16 Gossip girls

You know that grubby feeling you get after a bitchfest? A study by researchers at Staffordshire University found that spreading positive gossip about a person gives your own confidence an instant boost. (“Don’t tell anyone, but my colleague is seriously good at Excel.”)

DAY 17 Quit comparing

Taller, richer, cleverer… whatever. There will always be people who seem to have everything, and comparing ourselves is a no-win game. “Train yourself to notice what you tend to compare,” says Michelle. “Acknowledge that’s your confidence gap and over time, minimise that trigger.”

DAY 18 Power pose

Turns out, Wonder Woman was onto something with that stance. The “power pose”, according to studies by Harvard and Northwestern universities, prepares you to face risk, decreasing cortisol and raising testosterone. Plus, others respond differently to people with strong posture.

DAY 19 Workout plus

When you’re in a self-esteem slump, cutting your workout short (or out) seems obvious. But researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that putting in a tiny bit extra – just 10 more squats than usual – enhances your sense of control, which in turn, boosts your confidence.

DAY 20 Wardrobe 101

Go through your wardrobe and after you’ve tossed all the haters, try on everything you own that makes you feel like hot stuff. What’s the common theme? A certain length, a certain shape? There’s your sartorial boost right there.

DAY 21 Be a beginner

Taking yourself beyond your comfort zone builds up longterm confidence, whereas sticking to what you’re already good at narrows your skillset over time. Learning new things all the time, such as surfing, taking Spanish lessons, and even knitting, gives you a nice sense of achievement and progress. Time to go forth and kickstart another journey!

“Confident people know what their strengths are.” Samantha Krajina, Life Coach.

“Confidence grows out of taking actions, small ones to begin with, acknowledging that you feel nervous but knowing that’s OK.” Michelle Landy, Motivational Coach and Author.