College can be a difficult time in life to be confident. Not only can classes kick your butt, you’re also thrown into social situations that you’ve never faced before. You’re on your own to navigate living with people who aren’t in your family, getting involved with activities and organizations, and figuring out what independence looks like. It’s a lot to handle. Throw in the dynamic of romantic relationships on top of all that, and it’s a wonder anyone has any confidence.
Maybe you’re returning this semester a little low on confidence. Your final grades last semester weren’t as high as you’d hoped, you had a spat with a housemate before the break and there’s still some tension, or maybe you just got broken up with. It can be hard to be confident when you’re feeling these lows, but believe it or not, your confidence can return and even exceed where it was before.
Check out our 4 tips to grow your confidence academically and socially this semester.
Use Positive Body Language
Taking a few simple steps to improve your body language and appearance can make a world of difference when it comes to growing your confidence. These may seem pretty basic, but they can sometimes be easy to neglect.
- Use good posture. Remember when your grandmother used to nag you as a kid about sitting up straight? Turns out there might be something to it. Research shows that not only does good posture make you appear more confident to others, it also makes you think more positively about yourself. So walk purposefully, sit or stand up straight, and engage. Whether it’s in class, in conversation, or just when you’re on your own, you may find this can boost not only your self-esteem, but also your energy levels, productivity, and your mood.
- Make eye contact. Lack of eye contact in a conversation immediately signals nervousness or discomfort to the person you’re talking to. So even if you feel that way in a conversation, train yourself to make eye contact. It shows interest in the person and what they are saying. Don’t take it to the extreme and creepily stare, though. Try the 50/70 rule, which means aiming for eye contact 50% of the time you’re speaking and 70% of the time you’re listening.
- Smile. This simple act, whether you feel happy or not, will make you appear more confident and can also, according to one study, actually trick your brain into thinking you are happier, thus reducing your stress. Romantically, a confident smile can also be more effective than attractiveness level for landing you a date, research shows.
- Dress to impress. You know it’s true – you feel like a million bucks while wearing that new outfit. Studies shows that what we wear can affect how confident we feel about ourselves. So could you wear sweatpants to class? Sure, but you will probably feel more confident if you’re wearing something that is both comfortable and looks nice. Try dressing in a way that reflects how you want people to perceive you. You may find that what you choose to wear can positively affect your mood and your academic performance.
Cut Out Negative Thinking
Your thoughts can be your biggest enemy sometimes. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief that ends up happening because we are acting as if it is already true. Sometimes negative thoughts can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. For instance, if that voice inside your head is telling you that you won’t pass the exam or that this new person you’re talking to probably doesn’t like you, you’re not going to feel confident and then you may act in such a way that makes those negative outcomes a reality.
So, next time that voice starts to say something negative, make it stop – take your thoughts captive. Take a deep breath and reframe that negative or untrue thought into something positive. As doubts creep in before that huge test, tell yourself, “I studied. I am as prepared as I can be. I’m going to focus and do my best.” Make your thoughts align with the outcome you want.
Be Prepared and Practice
One of the best ways to feel confident is to be prepared. Academically, this boils down to very practical steps – read, take notes, do the homework, study. Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself and plan out the steps you need to take to reach them. To do this, it may help you to divide bigger projects and tasks into smaller ones to complete throughout the semester. As you knock out these smaller tasks, you’ll feel more confident to continue the rest of the work.
Goal setting can also help you grow in your confidence socially. Want to feel more confident in social settings where you’re meeting new people? Practice talking to strangers. Set a goal to strike up a conversation with a certain number of strangers each day. Someone sitting beside you in class, someone standing in line behind you in the dining hall, someone riding the bus with you, the possibilities abound.
Know Your Worth and Respect Yourself
Whether you feel it or not, the truth is that you have been uniquely created, and you are beautiful. You have a set of skills, strengths, and weaknesses that make you different from any other person. Being confident doesn’t mean pretending to be good at something you’re not. Instead, it’s a process of learning your strengths and weaknesses and being confident in who you are. As you go through that process, keep your worth in mind. You deserve respect. Start by respecting yourself, and as you grow in confidence, you’ll find that others will respect you too.
Academically, you don’t have to pretend to understand something you don’t. Instead, you need to accept your strengths and weaknesses and know when to get help. The confident student respects him or herself enough to ask the professor or TA or a classmate for help. You have the ability to succeed in your classes – you may just need to work harder at some than others. And imagine how much your confidence will increase if you find a way to succeed in a really difficult class!
Relationally, you deserve friendships where you aren’t constantly being put down or the butt of every joke.
Romantically, you deserve a healthy, committed relationship. You can choose to leave the hook-up lifestyle behind. Research shows relationships that start with sex before emotional intimacy is present typically do not become committed unions. By resolving not to hook up, not only will you avoid STDs and the potential for an unplanned pregnancy, you’ll also avoid the potential for regret and confusion to your brain and emotions.
You deserve kindness and love that doesn’t have to be earned or require you to prove yourself. If you’ve been in a relationship in the past where this hasn’t been the case, it can be easy to forget that you deserve better and slip into another unhealthy relationship. Determine to instead find a significant other who will treat you for the valuable person that you are, and who will respect you, your values, and your boundaries.
Valley Women’s Clinic Is Here for You
We at Valley Women’s Clinic believe everyone has value and worth, and we hope you can be confident in that as you start a new semester. If you find yourself in need of our services, know that we are here for you at our Blacksburg and Radford clinics. All of our services are free and confidential.