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How to Boost Your Confidence When You Have Anxiety


A lifelong GAD conquerer, Em talks to her therapist daily to manage her anxiety and live her best life.

Last year I was in a funk. I wasn't feeling very good about myself at all and my anxiety was suffering for it. And, when my anxiety suffers, my self-esteem suffers. It's a whole thing and it's a bummer. After a while though, I saw how I can't tame my anxiety without boosting my confidence. I can eliminate every anxiety trigger in my life, but if I don't feel good about myself, I'll still feel anxious because so much of how we see ourselves is tied to our mood.

So, I took these steps to deal with my confidence problem and ease the anxiety caused by it:

Things I Do to Boost My Confidence Even With Anxiety

  • Eat well and stay hydrated
  • Get enough sleep
  • Do nice things for other people
  • Create a routine to care for my skin and outer appearance
  • Get rid of clothing that no longer fits me or represents who I am now, not who I was when I bought it
  • Learn a new skill
  • Improve my inner-monologue

Eat Well and Stay Hydrated

Not having basic bodily needs met is a huge trigger for my anxiety and therefore my confidence. On of the greatest factors I've found in keeping my anxiety under control is to eat enough, eat well and stay hydrated.

I have two glass carafes I grabbed from Target that I fill up with tap water before bed each night so that as soon as I wake up I have cold water to start sipping on. If I'm feeling extra fancy, I'll throw in a sliced up lime or cucumbers. When I feel like I'm taking care of my health that gives me confidence.

Get Enough Sleep

This one should be obvious but for anxious people like you and I, getting enough sleep can be a battle and we're not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 60 million Americans deal with disorders that affect their sleep habits. Besides staying up to worry or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep because I'm worrying about life, I also tend to "wake up" more towards evening and end up bingeing all of my chores and errands at the end of the day when I should be winding down.

These things keep me from getting to bed at a decent time and then from getting enough sleep when I finally do hop into bed and for at least a year I was in a vicious cycle of staying up too late to take care of things I was worried about only to wake up too early and begin worrying about all I wouldn't be able to accomplish because I was so tired and then I start to feel like a total failure which is absolutely no help to my self esteem.

Steps I Take to Get Enough Sleep so I'll Be Less Anxious

Here's some steps I've taken in the last few months to break that pattern and to make sure that I get enough solid sleep that you might want to try too:

  • Buy an eye mask. I bought a cheap mask off from Amazon to put on before I go to sleep. I used to wear one in high school but it got lost in the shuffle of life and I must not have realized how important this silly little scrap of fabric was to a good night's sleep for me. I live in an area where street lights shine into my windows at night and keep my home from getting completely dark. The sleep mask adds a slight comforting pressure while blocking out light so I'm not up with the sun when I don't want (or have) to be.
  • Ask your doc about melatonin. Another thing that's helped me regulate my sleep schedule is melatonin. For a while I was just grabbing a box of Unisom whenever I was having trouble falling asleep but I always wake up feeling groggy and hungover and it takes me a solid 3 or 4 hours after waking to feel functional when I use a sleep aid. Melatonin, on the other hand, is a hormone that your body already creates to help you know when to start falling asleep. Some people need more than others. I do best with only 1-2 mg. You can find this smaller dose in children's melatonin gummies which I've found work better for me than the higher doses in the adult version. Whenever my sleep schedule is off track or we have a season change, I take melatonin for a week to help my body readjust to a healthy sleep schedule with no gross feeling come morning.
  • Give myself an 8 PM curfew. I've gotten to the point where I know that anything I do after 8 PM needs to be relaxing which means I put away the homework, sign out of my work apps and turn the lights out so I can have an hour or two to watch TV, read or take a bath before bed. Being relaxed and taking my mind of responsibility in the hour or two before bed helps slow my mind down instead of perpetuating that pattern of worry when I should be resting.
  • Tidy up for 15 minutes before my curfew. One thing that makes me so anxious before I go to sleep is the idea of waking up to a messy house, especially because I have to start my workday pretty quickly after breakfast to stay on track, leaving little morning time to clean up my apartment. Because I'm already prone to anxiety, I'll look at my messy home and panic thinking about all of the potential people that could drop in unexpectedly, (My cousin! My landlord! OMG MY MOM). So, before I turn in for the nigh I set my oven timer for 15 minutes, throw on a peppy playlist and pick up dirty laundry off the bathroom floor, fold up couch throws, load the dishwasher and make sure my cat's litter box isn't a disaster.
Don't let summer sunrises or late-night street lights steal your sleep.

Don't let summer sunrises or late-night street lights steal your sleep.

Do Something Nice for Someone Else

Remember that feeling of pride that warmed you when you were a kid and your mom would give you a buck to drop in the little red kettle held by Salvation Army volunteers during the holidays? That's an important feeling that we lose touch with as we get older and find we have to really claw our way through to survive in this world.

Still, you can do nice things for other people while still looking out for yourself and when you do, it'll remind you that we're here for more than just ourselves and that sense of purpose breeds confidence. Your acts of service for others don't have to be huge, sweeping gestures, but donating five dollars to a local GoFundMe effort, treating your friend to dessert after a long work day or offering to watch your brother's kids so he can go on a job interview are all nice things that help other people's anxiety and in turn, yours.

Create a Vanity Routine

It's not actually vain to take care of your appearance, but I couldn't think of a better way to put it: take care of your outer appearance. For everyone that's something different. For me, that means doing my nails once a week (at home, but if you can afford it go to the salon or a spa!), doing a hair mask on Sunday mornings and putting makeup on every morning before I start my workday.

When I feel good about my outer appearance, no matter how bummed I'm feeling inside, it automatically boosts my self-esteem and gives me the motivation to take care of myself in other ways too. It's a happy little snowball of confidence!

Reassess Your Wardrobe

Likewise, wearing clothes that don't fit great or don't make you feel like, well, you, can make you feel badly about yourself.

Last fall after noticing that my anxiety spiked whenever I went to get dressed, it dawned on me that it's not that I was unhappy with my body, I was unhappy with how my clothing, which hadn't been updated since my junior year of high school, was stirring discontent.

Not everyone can afford to just buy an all new wardrobe, me included, but I went through each item, tried them on and kept just an armful of classic items that could get me through another year or two. The rejects went to Goodwill or got sold on Poshmark and I used the money to buy a few more things that made me feel more like my 20-something self.

My closet may have less in it, but what's there represents who I am now—a strong and intelligent woman, not the nervous and let's be real, terrified 17-year-old I once was.

Learn Something New

Another confidence-stealer is feeling like you're just a one-trick-pony but learning something new serves a solid reminder that you're open to growing and growth is empowering. Last year I took an online SEO course through a community college and learned enough to triple my personal traffic and income within eight months.

While I was feeling unconfident going in, I ignored my anxious thoughts about failure and not being able to keep up with the rest of the class and powered through to my benefit.

Say Nice Things to Yourself

Would you ever tell a friend that they're a lackluster loser with no self control and an ability to plan properly for the future? I sure as heck hope not. Friends are supposed to instill confidence and stand as a supporting figure in each other's lives.

And since you have to be your own best friend sometimes, quit the crap talk and kill that awful inner monologue. You're a beast. You've overcome a lot and you'll overcome more because you're just that awesome. Now go get it!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: My girlfriend has bad anxiety and always slouches and it's unattractive, how can I remind her to sit up straight without hurting her feelings?

Answer: I wouldn't say anything about it until she's standing or sitting in a less slouchy way. Then say something like, "Wow, you look so elegant when you stand with your shoulders back." Positive reinforcement will work better as a subtle suggestion than outright pointing out her poor posture. When someone has anxiety it's always best to approach them with the intention of building up their self-esteem rather than providing criticism, even if you're trying to be helpful or consider it constructive.

© 2019 Em Clark