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Building Self-Confidence through Goal Setting

April 26, 2009

Ever had one of those days (or months, or years) in your life when nothing went the way you wanted and everything you touched turned to shit? Perhaps you’re going through that stage in your life right now and lack the self-confidence to change your situation.

I used to suffer with low self-esteem and self-confidence as a result of an abusive relationship. One thing that helped me see myself as a person of value – worthy of love, appreciation, and respect was the process of goal setting. Once I started setting social, personal, health, relationship, and career goals, a new chapter in my life began.

My very first goal was to make one friend so I had someone to go to coffee with. That was it. The friend didn’t have to be close – my criterion for successful goal achievement was to just initiate a relationship with another person to the point where it was socially comfortable to catch up for a coffee. Perhaps you read that and laughed at how pitiful it sounds. I read it and reflect with happiness and gratitude on the difference between that point in my life and my life as it is today.

Another goal was to increase my self-confidence. I heard somewhere that one positive thought is equivalent to ten negative thoughts, so I started reading positive affirmations morning and evening. I treated myself to a nice hair cut and colour, and spent a few extra minutes putting a touch of makeup on in the morning so I looked pretty. I started doing short bouts of exercise to feel fitter and healthier. Over time, these daily actions started to make a dent in the cage of negativity and self-loathing in which I had been holding myself captive.

Although these small goals may appear trivial, successfully achieving them gave me the self-confidence I needed to pursue more challenging goals. I gradually worked up from having the confidence to go clubbing alone to having the confidence to travel the country alone. I threw in my soulless job for one that I looked forward to going to each morning. I went from having one friend to go to coffee with to having a large circle of friends and a group of wonderful close friends. I was happier with my life than I could ever remember being.

I wasn’t sure I could achieve my larger goals when I first set them, however, successfully completing my smaller goals had given me the confidence I needed to attempt and stick with them. For example, I’d always been terrified of job interviews due to shyness and poor communication skills. Many rejections had taught me I didn’t have the skills to sell myself effectively to an employer. Rather than accepting poor interview technique as my lot in life, I got to work on improving it. I researched for hours on interview techniques, wrote cover letters and went to interviews for jobs in which I had little interest purely for the practice, read about and listened to audio books about building rapport and great answers to interview questions, and wrote out ten pages of questions I was likely to be asked and answered them in a way that demonstrated and sold my personality and skills. It paid off – both my first and second preference employers offered me a position, and now I have a job I love.

This year, my two main goals are to build an ongoing online resource for victims of domestic violence to help other victims reclaim their lives and happiness, and to become a vegan.

This site is the first goal. The initial content creation, research, design, and development took weeks to complete. It also takes me a few hours per week to maintain and update. Veganism is a large lifestyle change which has required me to spend a lot of time educating myself about nutrition, new recipes, and suitable places to eat, developing friendships with like-minded people, and figuring out the best way to communicate my choice to others. It also consumes numerous hours of my week and impacts upon my social life. I can tell you right now that there is no way I would have had the strength, commitment, or discipline to stick with either of these goals even nine months ago.

What I love about having goals is that every time I do something conducive to achieving them, my self-esteem and self-confidence increases a bit more. For example, every time I sit down to a meal now, I feel great that I’m helping my body, helping the animals, and leaving a smaller ecological footprint on our beautiful earth. I may be only one person, but I’m one person who’s determined to make a difference. Every meal I eat reinforces that fact in my mind. Every time I finish an article for this site, it makes me feel good that I have the knowledge and life experience to relate to and help other women escape abuse and rebuild their lives, to enforce that they are beautiful and worthy of love, and that they don’t have to settle for second best.

I should point out that when you are at rock bottom, there is no point in setting huge goals since you’ll lack the drive and discipline to achieve them at that stage. Overestimating your abilities when you’re in that mindset and then failing to live up to your own expectations can cause your self-esteem to plummet even further. Start small. Start with things you know you can achieve, and gradually work up to bigger and bigger goals. As your self-confidence and discipline increases, goals that once seemed overwhelmingly difficult become much less intimidating. It’s not that the goal itself has gotten any easier – it’s that you’ve put the time and effort in to make yourself stronger.

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