• Madeline Delp


Have you ever had someone in your life tear you down constantly, but you didn’t know it was happening until you looked at yourself in the mirror and realized your confidence was in the gutter?

You can’t see it, but I’m definitely raising my hand over here. In fact, I’m raising all of your hands, because it is something that we have all experienced in one way or another.

So far in our confidence challenge, we have covered positive habits that you can implement immediately to jumpstart the confidence you have in yourself. Now for our last challenge, I want to talk about the confidence that you can build because of OTHERS! One of the best ways to ensure that you create a confidence that can stand the test of time is by carefully selecting positive influences in your life while weeding out the confidence-sucking ones. This is definitely much harder to do than it sounds, but today I will be talking about ways you can identify negative influences and replace them with people who will bolster you with courage and joy.

Per tradition, I will begin with a story:

I had one major turning point that drastically changed the way I felt about myself, and in turn, ended up changing the course of my entire life.

When I was 14 years old, my mom and I packed up our Honda and headed north with the mission to heal. This journey of healing was quite multifaceted: first, there was the goal of rehabilitating my newly injured body at a spinal cord injury recovery center in Detroit. After exhausting all of our physical therapy options where we lived, we knew it was time for a program that could push me to the next level. Exactly one week after we found the website telling us about the new technology being used at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, we were packing up our bags and driving to Detroit.

The expediency of this move was not completely rehabilitation-based however, as a majority of the healing that we needed went far beyond the purely physical kind. Up to that point, we had been caught up in a dysfunctional web of many negative attitudes around us. There were people in the school system who were actively discriminating against me because of my disability, I had family members who didn’t want to be around me because they said I made them feel uncomfortable, and we had people close to us who pretended to be supportive, but were really so negative that we could feel our spirits plummeting by the day.

The reality behind being in “survival mode” is that you feel like you have to take whatever crumbs of human interaction are thrown at you. You don’t really have the time to think about the long-term implications of these people’s effect on you, let alone muster up the courage to tell yourself that you deserve something better.

For most people, packing up your life and deciding to temporarily move up north within a week’s time would be insanely quick, but at that point we had put up with the crumbs of survival mode for four years and had finally had enough.

The experience I had in Detroit was nothing less than transformational. While my body was making gains in new and amazing ways, it was my personality that was shining like it never had before.

At the center, I was assigned two trainers and a physical therapist. The trainers were two young guys who would pick on me lovingly yet relentlessly. Any time I would I would inevitably say the absurdities of a 14-year-old girl, they would laugh uncontrollably and call me out with no shame. (Like the time I confidently talked about the Holocaust happening in World War THREE – insert face palm here.) Whenever they would start laughing, I would stop whatever exercise I was doing to look at them sharply with disdain, to which they promptly replied, “Keep moving, Delper!”

My physical therapist, a gentle and kind female, would roll her eyes and tell me to ignore them, then would wheel me into another room for my PT session of the day. She, along with my trainers and every other trainer in the building, cheered me on every single day and celebrated every success I had along the way.

There were times when the exercises would push me so hard that my body gave out, and my tiny bladder would raise the white flag of surrender and cause a scene in front of the entire rehabilitation unit. The catastrophic repercussions of these events on my teenage psyche were quick and intense, including but not limited to: extensive bathroom crying sessions, mortified awkward silences, and quick nosedives into the pit of despair. After I got to know my trainers a little better, they pulled me aside and said, “You know that you don’t have to care about that stuff, right? It is just pee! Don’t let a little pee get you down!” (See to find the same products that I use to stop these situations from happening anymore!)

It only took me a few weeks at the center to realize that my sense of self-worth was changing dramatically. The shy girl who barely had the confidence to hold her head up (let alone speak to people) was now rolling into the center with the swagger of a music sensation and cracking jokes with everyone she passed, with the occasional talking smack about winning the latest championship in Wii bowling.

I have thought a lot about what caused such a rapid shift in the amount of confidence I had during that time and it comes down to a few basic factors: I finally had people in my life who accepted me and loved me 100% for the perfectly, imperfect human that I was (and very much still am!) They injected positivity and encouragement into every session we had together and never let me underestimate my capabilities. And lastly, they felt comfortable joking around with me because they saw me as an equal – they weren’t treating me any differently than they would if I didn’t have an injury. It seemed like at home I either had people tiptoe around me nervously or openly flaunt their discriminatory practices. (I’m honestly not sure which one I hated more.) It felt so freeing to have finally found people who not only believed in me, but didn’t allow me to make excuses for myself.

When my mom and I went back to our home in North Carolina a year later, I had become a completely different person. I still had a long way to go on the road towards full, unshakeable confidence, but I was finally beginning the journey of having faith in myself.

The past twelve-year adventure I have been on since that time in Detroit has certainly had its ups and downs, but any time I can pinpoint significant growth in my life, it is always at a time when I encountered new people who were positive, supportive and committed to challenging me to be the best that I could be. On the flip side, any time that I remember an intensely difficult period, it is almost always when I was surrounding myself with a person or group of people who turned out to be negative or manipulative. I would even go as far to connect major bouts of anxiety, depression and ulcers to these same people who subtly did severe damage to my self-esteem.

Regardless of whatever point you at in your life right now, you have the ability to begin restructuring the system of people who surround you. Here is what I want you to do:

  • First, make a list of everyone who is a major player in your life, whether they fall into the category of family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.

  • Second, write down a list of qualities that are most important to you in a person (ex. Loyalty, kindness, compassion)

  • Third, go down your list and spend time thinking about each person. Do you have a negative or positive feeling when you think about this person? Do they make you feel important, loved and supported? Do they portray the qualities that are most important to you?

  • Fourth, answer these questions by writing a YES, NO or SOMETIMES beside each person’s name.

  • Fifth, pick out someone who is your biggest NO.

You may be able to identify this person immediately without thinking twice – that specific one who always has a knack of making you feel like a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of their shoe. If you think about it rationally without emotion, you can probably come to the realization that your life would be overall more positive without their influence. So, what do you do now?

If they are someone who you can easily and remorselessly put some space between, then go for it! The longer you wait the more time they have to do damage in your life. Chances are, however, that they aresomeone you would feel a little guilty about creating boundaries with or cutting out of your life completely. You may be in the position where you feel like you don’t even have a choice.

With Friends

Almost all of us come to the point in our lives when we look back and realize that we have gone in a different direction than one or more of our friends. Usually when you begin to grow and mature, your priorities and interests will change, so someone who you were drawn to at one part of your life might be a source of great negativity or stress now. If you have tried to be a positive influence in their lives but are only receiving negativity back, it’s probably time to put some space between you. You might even have to create a solid break, which although painful at first, is usually better in the long run.

With Family

Let’s face it, almost all of us have a person or whole side of our family that is dysfunctional in some way. Family can be the hardest to have boundaries with because, for a lack of better words, you feel like you can’t get rid of them. The truth is, it is perfectly fine to have boundaries with your family. If they are presenting a negative stress in your life, it is better for your mental and emotional state to limit your interaction with them. When you do have to interact with the specific person who makes you feel bad about yourself, remember to go in with a game plan in your mind of how you will deal with this person and maintain your sense of self-love and confidence when you interact with them.

With a Significant Other

If you are in a relationship with someone right now who seems to go out of their way to do and say things that make you feel bad about yourself, trust me, you are not alone! Millions of people in the world are in your position. I want you to think about exactly how this person is affecting you. Are they negatively defining the way you see yourself every day? If so, my advice would be to pay special attention to building theirself-confidence in the coming weeks. While counterintuitive, it can actually help them to become more self-aware and positive themselves. But if you come to realize that they are narcissistic and cannot support you in the positive, loving way that you deserve, I highly encourage you to look at how you can find a way to get out of that relationship. If you feel like they are sucking the light out of your life, it is not doing either of you any good to stay together.

A Coworker or Classmate

There is always that one negative person most of us encounter in our lives who we feel like we can’t escape because work or school forces us together. These kinds of people can leave us feeling emotionally battered after a long day and make us dread waking up in the morning knowing we will have to see them again. When it comes to these kinds of people who you have no interest in forming long term relationships with, yet are hard to avoid every day, you have to focus on your mental game. With enough practice, you can get to the place where you let their destructive words roll off your back and you have a list of objections to their negative quips that you can tell yourself to build your self-confidence when they try to tear you down. Also, try to change your attitude from one of victimization to pity toward this person. As the saying goes, “hurt people, hurt people”. Truly happy people do not feel the need to insult, manipulate and berate others.

Once you begin setting healthy boundaries regarding the NO relationships in your life, you open yourself up to a world of supportive, encouraging people. Just like when my mom and I said, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” and spent a sabbatical in Detroit away from negative influences at home, you too can draw the line and focus on attracting the right kinds of people to you. When you are making new friends, looking for a new romantic partner, and building a new family unit (blood related or not), remember your list of ideal qualities in a person that are most important to you. Don’t settle for something just because you are lonely or feel like you don’t deserve better. Loving, positive people ARE out there are they are looking for you too!

Remember that by giving the qualities that you are looking for, the greater the chance that you will receive them in return. When you and your friends, family and romantic partner are working in harmony and supporting each other, the more confidence and sense of self-worth everyone involved will have. These people will be healthy influences in your life and will drastically improve your chances of success when you apply all of the other confidence strategies we have discussed.

So here is your final confidence challenge!


  1. Complete the relationship audit described in the blog.

  2. Find the first person who is a clear NO in your life and decide on a creative way to create boundaries with them or cut out the relationship.

  3. Write out your list of qualities that you value in a person.

  4. Work to find healthy relationships by looking for people that match the qualities on your list. This will include pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by trying new activities, reaching out to people online, joining groups that fit with your interests, etc.

Remember that you deserve to have a support group that always has your back and helps your grow in your confidence. Never settle for someone who hurts you and makes you feel bad about yourself – you are strong enough to hold out and create the circle of family and friends that you have always dreamed of!

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