Confidence can be compared to catching a ball. Some people have a natural gift and find nothing comes easier to supple hands than a hard cricket ball. Others have taught themselves how to catch, but still get nervous under high balls or those thrown at heavy speed. Then there are people who run, arms flailing, from any ball that comes near them. They’re so determined that they can’t catch, they don’t even try. An overwhelming number of these scared souls are women.

When it comes to articles on gaining confidence, the vast majority are by women for women. Whether they’re worrying about their relationship status, the size of their waist, or convincing themselves they don’t deserve to leave a job they hate, women worldwide are wasting precious brain cells thinking they’re not good enough. Obviously some women have suffered soul-crushing trauma and need professional help. But low self-esteem is more often than not the product of social and personal pressure. I’m no expert, but I do consider myself a confident person (with occasional self-doubt). This my advice on how to deal with those little voices that try to bring you down.

Quit blaming men

We’ve all done it. Late night rants to girlfriends over how much we ‘hate’ men, how much they utterly suck, how we all wish we were lesbians and blah blah blah. It’s ok, men bitch about girls too. However, something men don’t seem to be so prone to is harbouring deep grudges against ex-girlfriends and carrying those grudges into the next relationship they embark on. Or worse, becoming permanently skeptical against women just because they were scorned a few times. I hate to harp back to the ball analogy, but sometimes you’re going to miss. If you put yourself out there, chances are you will get hurt. But if you run scared every time, how will you eventually catch the right one (see what I did there)?

Girls, stop blaming men. Carrying on like a broken woman will only shatter your own confidence in relationships and create a brick wall around a stony heart. Let bygones be bygones. Say yes to that new date and free yourself of both negative and positive expectations. Give yourself a chance. Give Pete a chance.

Chocolate is ok

I have absolutely no doubt that if you eat healthy and exercise, you will be a happier, more confident person. Overweight people lend themselves to low-self esteem; they don’t look their best, clothes don’t fit, and shopping becomes a nightmare. Just like smoking, if you’re not looking after your body then it becomes difficult for your mind to truly accept who you are.

This doesn’t mean you have to feel guilty when you read My Day On A Plate.

Absolutely no-one should stick to a strict eating plan that sees them consume a crippling amount of salad and next to no sugar or fat. Perhaps that grilled chicken recommended for lunch by Women’s Day seems a little demanding when you have to eat at your desk and balance a busy schedule. Maybe, like me, you just hate cooking. Stop worrying about it. If you’ve consumed a tub of ice-cream, balance it with some exercise later. If you know you’re going to indulge in food and drink on a Friday night, plan a run or some sport for Saturday. Don’t eat deep-fried meals every night, make sure you consume some vegetables, and gorging on gigantic portion sizes is only ok every now and then. Eating doesn’t have to be a complicated, mind-numbing mathematical calculation. Eat a balanced, healthy diet most of the time. And no, I don’t consider one square of dark chocolate much of a treat, either.

Stop comparing yourself to others

This is one piece of advice I often fail to abide by. There is a horrendous amount of pressure to live up to what I like to call the Miranda Kerr* ideal. This ideal insists that all women look naturally gorgeous without trying too hard, “Honestly, it’s just the occasional yoga session!”, whilst balancing a full and rewarding career with a tiny tot on the arm. According to this ideal, women should be maternal but ambitious, healthy but down-to-earth, and sexy without showing a hint of slutty.

Many of us don’t find this ideal particularly attractive, let alone possible. It’s hard to be happy in your size ten figure when reading magazines that constantly promote a size six image. Not everyone has natural curves, just as not all of us have overwhelming desires to become a mother, or to forge a career. The advice I have here is easy to understand, if not always easy to follow:

Let it go

Work towards what makes you happy, not everyone else. Focus on your goals in life, not those you feel you should be achieving. Do what matters to yourself and your family, not what a magazine tells you to do. If a trend clashes with your morals or ideals, don’t jump on the bandwagon. If a magazine makes you doubt yourself, don’t read it. If a job causes unhappiness, look for another and don’t stop until you find one. And if someone crushes your confidence for no apparent reason, let them go.

That brings me to my final point.

There are some catches you don’t have to take

Not all friends are good friends, not all men are worth the effort, and some bosses do deserve to be told where to stick it. Eliminate toxic people from your life, and you’ll be closer to banishing confidence sapping thoughts from your mind.

And next time that high ball comes around, reach for it with open hands. If it falls through, don’t let it get you down. Confidence isn’t about getting it right every time.

My advice certainly isn’t all-encompassing. Let me know anything I’ve missed in the comments box below.

*I’m sorry, Miranda. Please take it as a compliment.

Image credit: Kathryn Sprigg