8 Confidence Building Exercises for Primal Success

When it comes to going Primal, there’s lots to enjoy. But on the way to success, it’s inevitable we’ll hit some dips in the road. Life intervenes, challenging our newly minted Primal routines. At some point or another, we’re bound to reach a confounding impasse and lose our mojo. When it happens, we’re presented with two choices: take it as an intractable character flaw (not recommended) or take it in stride, recognizing the inherent need for a reboot. Many readers write in for a pick-me-up, a pat on the back and some reassuring words of support to keep them going (keep those coming, since I learn from every person’s experience). So how can we find a confidence foothold to keep climbing on these days? Or, to put it a different way, how can we mentally fortify ourselves when we’re feeling our weakest?

First off, I don’t want to trivialize confidence or treat it like some kind of emotional accessory. Confidence, as most of us understand it, is more of a complex psychological experience than a one-dimensional feeling. It’s not something you either have or don’t, and the nature of it can vary for different people. Some people (for a host of reasons) might have an easier time feeling it than others. Yet it matters for all of us. True confidence is more substantive than bravado. It can be a centered comfort with oneself, a relative perception of self-efficacy, a grounded sense of self-reference, or all of the above.

Suffice it to say though, a lack of confidence can naturally present a big obstacle when you’re trying to overhaul your diet and lifestyle or take up new fitness challenges. No matter what your specific goal, a healthy dose of self-confidence is pretty key to getting the job done. For the days when it feels like the motivational well is dry, let’s look at some ways we can shore up our store of confidence.

1. Suit up for the part

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who wait to buy the things they want and need to get healthy until they “prove” to themselves that the investment won’t be wasted. They consider this a reasonable, even prudent approach. I say more often than not that it’s a confidence-killing choice. You don’t need to succeed your way into a place of deserving. You’re already deserving of what helps you enjoy and feel good about your process.

Now, let me say I’ve seen the opposite—people who are all too happy to go shopping for the “look” of health without any of the commitment to live it.

That said, there is no better way to shoot yourself in the foot than to hedge your bets, which amounts to wagering against your own success.

There’s nothing wrong with holding off on big ticket equipment or long-term gym contracts. In fact, I’ve counseled people to do exactly this—but not because I think they should see if they’ll stick it out to justify the expense. Rather, it’s about experimenting for a while to truly find the best resources for your own personal interests, which tend to reveal themselves over time rather than match preconceived “must have” lists.

Going Primal can be shockingly cheap, but that doesn’t mean you have to hold off on useful, motivating resources. No one can buy confidence, but it’s amazing what good workout clothes can do for some people’s motivation. Likewise, a great set of knives or pots makes it a pleasure to spend time in the kitchen. There’s no shame in appreciating nice things: enjoying a higher end road bike, pulling out a quality yoga mat in your favorite color, eating off the nicer china, slipping on a pair of minimalist running shoes that fit like a glove, suiting up with a flattering swimsuit or gym outfit.

Whatever the desired “accessory,” lose the guilt about investing in the enjoyment of your process. If it makes you happy and boosts your confidence, there you go. End of story.

2. Cut any negativity off at the pass

When the negative internal scripts or mental scenarios start playing, cut them off immediately. There are some things that are absolute truths for sanity and self-worth. This is one of them. If you keep giving the negativity space in your head, you’ll always be living with it. Give up hosting sabotaging self-talk. Divert yourself with a simple mantra or single word (“Grok, Grok, Grok, Grok”) as soon as it begins playing. It might feel strange to do it that way, but the decision alone could be dramatically pivotal.

3. Differentiate what’s yours and what’s not

This is a key practice if you’ve found yourself plagued by self-doubt on an ongoing basis. Ask yourself to identify the sources behind the voices in your head. Where did this static come from? What were your parents’ insecurities or a sibling’s hangups? What old family “wisdom” has been subtly undercutting your self-efficacy all these years? What cultural messages toy with you? Distinguish what baggage doesn’t belong to you and keep making the commitment to return it to sender.

4. Put yourself at the center of positivity

Make a list of the whom, what, where and how of whatever makes you feel confident. When you’re running low on faith, who makes you feel like you’re succeeding? What places inspire you to eat well, move more or just enjoy the wild like Grok did? What activities make you feel centered with your Primal intentions? How have you personalized Primal ideas to make them fit your preferences? Do more of this—every day.

5. Keep a regular list of celebrations

Some people like to do a daily gratitude list, which isn’t just about the things, events or people in their life that they’re thankful for. You can also include the choices you made in a day that you feel good about—especially those decisions that didn’t come as easily. Take the time to be grateful for things you do now that you wouldn’t have been willing to do even a few years ago.

Whether you call them gratitudes or celebrations, note the day’s or week’s experiences and choices that demonstrate your progress and/or commitment. Maybe you devoted an hour to needed self-care today, tried something new at the gym or made some homemade jerky for the first time. Give it the attention and celebration it deserves.

6. Make an “I want credit for” list

I’d consider this a slightly different take on the above and an option I’ve suggested to people who find themselves in a frustrated, resentful or discouraged mindset. (After all, a dip of confidence isn’t always the most harmonious of sensations.)

Maybe they’ve hit a plateau lately or are struggling to see progress as quickly as they want. When we get in that place, we can feel like it’s all for naught and our efforts aren’t getting us what we feel we deserve for our input. We want the payoff as we’ve defined it for ourselves—or at least some kind of commendation.

The point of this activity is to write down all the efforts and choices we wish someone or something would acknowledge for us, would give us credit for, would reward us for. If we can’t have tangible, appreciable progress right now, some recognition might soften us. Call it entitlement if you will, but sometimes a bad mood is just a bad mood. Take care of it a little, and you let the air out of it enough to let it go and move on. The key is to learn to give ourselves credit when we need it. This truth holds for going Primal or taking on any endeavor in life.

Think of all the things you’d like to give yourself credit for. There’s the day you resisted eating the latest birthday treats at work and went for a walk during your break instead. And then there’s living with your non-Primal spouse’s food in the house, which periodically challenges your willpower. You exercised every day on vacation. You get up early six days a week to fit in a workout before the kids wake up. Since you got your treadmill desk, you’re walking an extra two hours a day. You stuck to your guns at your in-laws’ anniversary party and ate what you wanted despite relatives’ comments. You hosted the last family holiday so you could be sure to have Primal options. You’ve kept up on your dinners this week despite the added stresses of school starting again. And so on, and so on, etc.

Without slipping into victim mode, grant yourself meaningful, genuine acknowledgment. Witness your own discipline. Feel good about it. Recognize it a psychological milestone, and use it to renew your resolve.

7. Take the chance to lighten your approach

A dip in confidence can indicate we might be imposing too harsh of a standard on ourselves. Pull back for a while. The Primal Blueprint can be a great design for losing weight or getting in shape, but it’s not just a means to an end. At its fullest implementation, it can be an end to itself: an energetic, balanced, healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. Consider just enjoying what you can sense right now in yourself, not to mention around you.

Just go outside and feel the sun for a while. Forget about goals. Forget about progress or no progress. Just be as you are in the current moment. Do something fun. Repeat for as many days as needed until you feel recharged. Joy is the easiest confidence booster I know of, and there’s nothing more Grok-like than digging into the present moment.

8. Affirm your strengths—and offer them to someone else

Sometimes we need to spend some time putting pen to paper in the interest of self-study. There’s unappreciated power to knowing and affirming who we are. Write down your strengths—the abilities, values, achievements and characteristics you’re proud of and encouraged by. These are your tools. No one gets by in life by sheer will alone.

Our character has a lot to say about how far we get in life, but the assets behind that character are diverse as people are different. Your sense of distractibility can also be your sense of adventure. On the other hand, maybe you’re not the boldest or most ambitious, but maybe you’re steady. Get to the heart of what you have to offer to yourself and to your process. And then put it into double practice by supporting someone else—at the gym, in your neighborhood, on the forum. Seeing our strengths mirrored in another’s gratitude and success can be the most convincing, most powerful step we can take to reclaiming our own mojo

Thanks for reading today, everyone. What do you do when your confidence is in short supply? Share your thoughts and support a Primal newcomer (or anyone having a rough patch, for that matter).

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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