5 challenges to boost self-confidence

Developing self-confidence, self-belief, perseverance, discipline and other related skills is undoubtedly one of the best things you can do for yourself. It will help you in every part of your life and make you more fulfilled. In this article I’ll share with you one method on how to develop these skills intentionally and I will give you practical things that you can start doing today! [Reading time: 17 minutes]

Fear of the unknown or a lack of believe in oneself holds many of us back. We fool ourselves by saying we can’t do certain things, simply because we haven’t tried them before or because we are afraid to fail. Confidence is nothing you’re born with, or some kind of God-given talent. Like most things in life, it’s a skill that you can develop. Over the past 3-4 years I spent a lot of time reading about it and experimenting with different challenges. Essentially, confidence and self-belief come down to one very simple concept: You have to keep the promises you make to yourself. It’s as simple as that. Like with most concepts that are simple, they are usually not easy. No matter how big or small the promise you made is, you should always aim to be impeccable with your word, which means that what you say will happen (The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz). We are not talking about promises made to family members, friends or other individuals. Keeping those is necessary too but doesn’t directly relate to self-confidence.

Let’s say you promise yourself to stop smoking, just to light another cigarette an hour later. Or you decide to go to the gym the next day but then start making excuses about why you won’t go. You might also plan to work an hour more today, so you can spend an hour more with your kids tomorrow, but you don’t feel like it and leave work early. I think we can all relate to some of these examples of broken promises.

These minor things are what lead you to stop trusting yourself. Your inner voice starts saying things like: You didn’t do what you said you were going to do last time. Do you remember? Will you follow through next time? Or are you just making empty promises?

That kind of negative self-talk doesn’t have to go on forever. You can break it. How? By keeping the promises you make to yourself, no matter how small. This is where self-imposed challenges come into play. You create a training ground for yourself where you can practice keeping your promises.

 

Over the past few years, I challenged myself many times and it has always been a great experience in hindsight. Of course, while being in the fight and sometimes way outside of your comfort zone, it will suck. Just embrace the suck! I did things like 100+ Days of Running every day, reading 40 Pages a day for 100 days, or learning a new skill for one hour a day for a set time-period. You see, the challenges don’t always have to be physical, they can also be mental. Take some time to reflect and figure out which tasks, skills or experiences make you uncomfortable. Then craft a challenge and get uncomfortable!

 

To quick start your journey, I put together a collection of 5 short challenges, that you can complete without much preparation. Here they are:

 

1. Take a Cold Shower

Why: A cold shower is freaking uncomfortable, especially if you’re used to lukewarm or hot showers. Plus it has a wide range of health benefits like increasing circulation, reducing muscle soreness and improving your skin.

How: This shouldn’t be too complicated, but you have a couple of different options:

  •       Take your normal shower. Once you’re done, gradually turn the water colder and colder until it’s the coldest possible. Stay in there for at least a minute.
  •       Stand under the shower, turn it cold and then turn it on. Stay in the cold water for 20 seconds, then go warm for 10 seconds and alternate between the two. Finish with a minute of cold.
  •       Turn the shower on and turn it cold. Then step in and deal with the shock. You should try to stay at least more than a minute.

 

My Experience:

Cold showers have always been something I tried to avoid. I hated it. And I didn’t know why anybody would do it. I took my first cold shower as part of Phase 1 of the Live Hard Program by Andy Frisella. The task was to do 5 minutes and it was freaking me out, because once I got in there I was short of breath and struggling. Fortunately the body adapts quickly and while it was still freezing cold at the end, my breath has turned into a deep but somewhat normal rhythm. The best feeling is when you step out of the shower and you have this tingling sensation on your skin. This was over a year ago and after over a hundred cold showers it has now turned into a habit to finish my shower with cold water most of the time.

Don't worry, I can assure you that it gets much easier over time and you get used to it. Start small if you have to and work your way up.

I also listen to my body. My favorite thing is to take a cold shower after exercising, because the body is heated up anyway. But when I go straight to bed after showering, I usually don't take cold showers, because it has a negative effect on sleep if you do it right before you go to bed. So listen to your body and don't take a cold shower if you just came home from a long winter walk and are completely frozen.

Cold showers have been good for my skin, too. I tend to have dry skin and notice a big difference when I take regular hot showers compared to cold showers.

As a last tip I can recommend the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins. In a nutshell, it's about counting down from five and when you get to zero you perform the action you want (or don't want). For example, I stand under the shower, count down from five and at zero I turn it on.

 

2. Eat Something Unfamiliar

Why: This is really uncomfortable, because your mind basically screams at you DON’T EAT THIS. Do it anyway. 😉 The bonus here is that it can double as a great experience with friends or family if you don’t do it alone.

 

How: Find a restaurant in your area that has unfamiliar food on its menu. If you don’t have one close to you or it’s too expensive you can also go to your local supermarket and find something there. Either pick something you already know you don’t like or just look at new things and take something that looks disgusting. If that’s too easy for you, you can also go to an international market or search for crazy food to order online.

 

My Experience:

This challenge is inspired by Ben Aldridge, the author of How to be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. In fact, I did a whole book-club around that book with 10 people from across the world. One of the challenges we did together was eating something unfamiliar. People ate snails, algae, crickets, and other weird stuff. I personally opted for pickles because I absolutely despise them. The way they look, the way they smell, everything about them nauseates me (very unpopular opinion, I know :emoji: ). It wasn’t easy to eat, but I gotta be honest… I expected it to be a lot worse than it was. They’re still not something I would eat regularly, but at least I overcame my disgust and “fear”. The other thing I did, which was suggested in the book, was to drink a shot of vinegar. Trust me, this was way worse than I expected, and I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. It turned out to be worse than the pickles. The burn you feel in your mouth and in your throat is just horrible. Later I even read that it might damage your throat, but I think I’m safe because I drank so much water right afterwards. :grimacing:

 

3. Challenge Yourself Physically

Why: Physical challenges are the most popular ones, and you can get uncomfortable very quickly. They also serve as a great reminder that we can always do more to become better.

 

How: There are a ton of different options here and I don’t want to share just one, because everybody has different talents and skills. Depending on what you’re good at and what you suck at, pick a challenge from the following list. Preferably pick something you don’t excel at. That’s not the point of the challenge.

  •       Burpee-Test: Do 100 Burpees as fast as you can and stop the time
  •       Run 10 kilometers
  •       Do 1000 Push-Ups in one day
  •       Complete an Obstacle Course Race
  •       Complete the 4x4x48 challenge
  •       Do a beep-test
  •       Hike a mountain with a weighted vest or ruck on
  •       Do HIIT training

These are just a few examples to give you some options. If you don’t know what any of them are, just google them and you’ll find explanations, videos and field reports. Of course, you can also make up your own challenge.

 

My Experience: Physical challenges are my favorite because I love sports. That’s why I have done a lot of them already and keep challenging myself. I’ll share one of my biggest physical challenges so far, but I encourage you to start small and work your way up.

In 2020 I ran my first ultra-marathon, which was 53 kilometers of good old running. It took me 5 hours and 40 minutes and it was a mental battle. In fact, all physical challenges also have a big mental aspect. You constantly have to fight the urge to stop and give up and convince yourself to keep going. You have to keep going even if it’s painful and you want to escape the monotony. There are ways to handle such challenges that I’ll tell you more about in another blog article. In the end the feeling after completing a race or another physical challenge is always worth the struggle. You’ll feel fulfilled, proud and happy after the pain and discomfort are gone.

 

Why: Physical challenges are the most popular ones, and you can get uncomfortable very quickly. They also serve as a great reminder that we can always do more to become better.

 

How: There are a ton of different options here and I don’t want to share just one, because everybody has different talents and skills. Depending on what you’re good at and what you suck at, pick a challenge from the following list. Preferably pick something you don’t excel at. That’s not the point of the challenge.

  •       Burpee-Test: Do 100 Burpees as fast as you can and stop the time
  •       Run 10 kilometers
  •       Do 1000 Push-Ups in one day
  •       Complete an Obstacle Course Race
  •       Complete the 4x4x48 challenge
  •       Do a beep-test
  •       Hike a mountain with a weighted vest or ruck on
  •       Do HIIT training

These are just a few examples to give you some options. If you don’t know what any of them are, just google them and you’ll find explanations, videos and field reports. Of course, you can also make up your own challenge.

 

My Experience: Physical challenges are my favorite because I love sports. That’s why I have done a lot of them already and keep challenging myself. I’ll share one of my biggest physical challenges so far, but I encourage you to start small and work your way up.

In 2020 I ran my first ultra-marathon, which was 53 kilometers of good old running. It took me 5 hours and 40 minutes and it was a mental battle. In fact, all physical challenges also have a big mental aspect. You constantly have to fight the urge to stop and give up and convince yourself to keep going. You have to keep going even if it’s painful and you want to escape the monotony. There are ways to handle such challenges that I’ll tell you more about in another blog article. In the end the feeling after completing a race or another physical challenge is always worth the struggle. You’ll feel fulfilled, proud and happy after the pain and discomfort are gone.

 

4. Resist an urge for a week

Why: We all have something that we crave but don’t necessarily need. That could be drinking coffee, watching TV, playing Candy Crush, smoking or something totally different. Resisting these cravings isn’t easy, especially if there are triggers in place like being tired at work, being bored in the evening or waiting for the bus.

How: It won’t get simpler than this. Pick something you crave and don’t do it for a week. You don’t even have to do anything, instead you basically must do nothing. 😀

My experience: The longest “detox” I have done was when I avoided all processed sugars for 75 days as part of 75HARD. Sure, I did still eat natural sugars like fruit and honey, so whenever I wanted something sweet, I just ate that, but it was still a big win. In the beginning it was hard, but I quickly realized that the body adapts, and the craving will subside. No matter how strong a habit is, you can break it if you take small steps and give yourself time. The longer you go without it, the weaker the urge becomes. By the end of my 75 days, I barely wanted to eat sweet stuff anymore. The obvious problem is that this effect also works in the other direction. You start eating a little more chocolate again, which results in your craving returning and you eating even more chocolate. To avoid that vicious cycle, you have to stay disciplined.

 

5. Learn a fun skill

Why: It’s fun, but it’s also challenging. You’ll likely need some time to learn the skill, which requires patience and perseverance. Both are qualities that’ll improve your confidence.

 

How: There are a lot of small fun skills that you can learn within just a couple of weeks. Pick a skill you want to learn, look up video tutorials, articles or books and figure out the technique. Then practice, practice, practice. Here is a short list of skills you can try:

  •       Solving a Rubik’s Cube
  •       Juggling 3 balls
  •       Memorizing a deck of cards
  •       Spinning a basketball on your finger
  •       Whistling with your fingers
  •       Doing a front-flip or a back-flip
  •       Speed reading
  •       Learn to Moonwalk

As always, this is just a starting point and you can come up with your own challenges!

 

My experience:

Even though I failed a lot in the beginning with many of these challenges, it was still fun to keep testing and practicing. I’m now able to juggle 3 balls and I’m working on juggling 4, which is a lot harder than 3. Solving a Rubik’s Cube without help still needs some work, but I can do it with a small sheet of paper with algorithms on. The only resource I used was this YouTube Video by Wired (click here). Watch it and you’ll understand what I mean by algorithms.

Every now and then I also get a sound out when trying to whistle with my fingers. There is still some work to be done, but I’m happy with the progress. Some of these skills might be things you told yourself you’ll never be able to do. It’s extra powerful and will boost your confidence significantly if you master one of those.

 

 

Enjoy the journey

I hope that you now have some inspiration for challenges you can do. Go out, experiment, test new stuff, fall, keep going, fail and eventually you’ll succeed. Even though we’re talking about challenges outside our comfort zone here, make sure to enjoy the journey. Most of these challenges will make great memories and hopefully you’ll be able to think back in a couple years and remember them as positive experiences. If that’s not the case, I’m still convinced, that they will make you proud, more confident and increase your self-belief and self-worth. I want you to pick one challenge right now, schedule it in and get after it!

This article and its challenges were inspired by the book How to Be Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable by Ben Aldridge*. Learn more about it on Ben's Website.

*Advertising – This link is an affiliate links

 

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