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The secret to confidence? Ridiculously tiny and basic changes

Viv Groskop now finds herself celebrating her own talents and stepping into action

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By Viv Groskop on

There are lots of useful messages in Cara Alwill Leyba’s new book, Like She Owns The Place: Unlock The Secret Of Lasting Confidence, but perhaps the most challenging one is the question the author finds herself asking whenever her husband tries to do something nice for her and she ends up getting all antsy and annoyed about it: “Why can’t I just enjoy myself?” This is a question I have spent 40 years asking myself. At least I’ve realised that it’s happening. But it is bloody annoying.

The overriding conclusion in the book – which is about feeling more secure in yourself and having the courage to go for what you really want in life – is that one of our biggest problems is that we want to make everything much more difficult for ourselves than it really is. The examples given are pretty banal, but it’s easy to identify with them.

Cara Alwill Leyba ties herself up in knots for years trying to build up the confidence to dye her hair pink, something she longs to do, because she is so worried about what other people will think about her decision. Whenever her husband wants to tidy up the house, she feels guilty and can’t sit and relax – she has to help. She made a vision board filled with pictures of Khloé Kardashian to try and encourage herself to work harder on self-promotion. It didn’t work and she felt like a tit.

You can guess what happened when she figured out the answers. Dye your hair pink. No one else will care and, if they do, they’re idiots. (“Those who matter don’t mind. And those who mind don’t matter.” Always a useful saying.) If someone else wants to do something nice for you, like tidy your house or pay for dinner or give you a lift, let them. Say thank you and let them. And don’t fill your vision board (or your dreams) with ideas and people you don’t really care about who are nothing like you.

Crown yourself: give yourself permission to be the thing you want to be. Say you are thinking of starting a new business – call yourself a fledgling entrepreneur

The vision board is a striking example. She finds that when she gives herself permission to put up pictures celebrating what her life is like now (a night out with friends, her favourite flowers, a favourite quote, something representing a work achievement), it is actually much more inspiring than “driving me toward some outside goal”. Often, we think “happiness” and “success” are outside ourselves and in the future. It’s more motivating to know that those feelings exist inside and everything we need is already right here. Here’s her checklist for easy fixes for enjoying life instead of stressing out all the time:

  • “Celebrate your talents.” What are the things that you do best? (If you really don’t know what they are, ask anyone you work with closely or a friend. They will tell you immediately.) Make a note of these things. Find ways to do these things more often.

  • “Put your weaknesses to bed.” So, you are not brilliant at everything. It would be weird if you were. Accept this, know the areas where you’re not great and find ways to delegate or offload those things in your life. Or let yourself underperform in those areas as long as it’s not harmful to you or anyone else.

  • “Crown yourself.” Give yourself permission to be the thing you want to be. Say you are thinking of starting a new business – call yourself a fledgling entrepreneur or a new business owner. Because that is what you are. You do not have to wait until you are Richard Branson. Did you ever write a blog post and hit send? Well done, you’re a writer. Call yourself it.

  • "Step into action.” The more time you spend doing things, rather than thinking things over or planning things (that don’t actually ever happen), the more likely you are to feel that you are moving forwards and making things happen. Because you are. Don’t just make plans. (“Think about launching a website.”) List actions that you can tick off. (“Set up a cheap WordPress site this afternoon.”)

It all boils down to a much more elegant version of the message Shia LaBeouf gave in a video that went viral a couple of years ago and which I often like to rewatch to give myself a kick up the arse (while laughing at him a lot): “Just do it.” This combined with “Let it be” (if someone else is doing the tidying up) should be enough to get you through the week.

Like She Owns The Place: Unlock The Secret Of Lasting Confidence is published 12 July


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