How One Woman Changed Her Life In 4 Days

Illustrated by Tristan Offit.

When it comes to dating, just because I have experience doesn't mean I've got it all figured out. Let me explain: After a few dates with a man I'm interested in, I inevitably become "one of the guys" — aka friend-zoned. I pretty much set myself up for it. I play things too cool (I guess you could say the feminine air of mystery is totally lost on me) and give off a laissez-faire attitude; men end up seeing me as more of a friend, rather than a love interest. While having a load of dates lined up used to excite me, nowadays, it's more of a burden — as with every date that comes and goes, my self-esteem weakens.

And as if the dating aspect of my life wasn't bad enough, last week I tried on my favorite pair of jeans from college and was devastated when they didn’t slide over my hips like they used to. Whatever confidence I had left was gone, alongside the jeans I tossed in my donation pile. And while my intention was to never base my confidence solely on a man or an arbitrary jeans size, seeing those pants leave my closet after so many years was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Whatever confidence I had left was gone, alongside the jeans I tossed in my donation pile.

So this week, I decided to take matters into my own hands and get my groove back on my own terms — all before the weekend. How, you ask? By embarking on a four-day personal quest to reclaim and boost my confidence, inside and out.

Illustrated by Tristan Offit.

On day one, I decided to get a jump start and take a class that I’d never even dreamed of taking — an improv class. When I walked in, we were asked to introduce ourselves while executing a move assigned by the instructor. My card said "body roll," which I was less than thrilled to attempt (don't worry, I'll get to my lack of dance moves later). By the time I had gotten halfway through introducing myself to the class, I found myself laughing at the absurdity of trying to execute this awkward move while holding a conversation. In an odd way, I felt more comfortable talking to a stranger when making a fool of myself was already on the table. Throughout the rest of the class, we were assigned moods (like anger, sadness, and joy) to act out while answering random questions.

While I probably won't be returning anytime soon (truth be told, I don't see an acting career being in the cards for me), this improv class did make me realize that there's no reason to be afraid of putting yourself out there or looking a little foolish at times. In fact, in retrospect, the experience of being emotional just for the sake of it was liberating — and made me feel incredibly empowered.

The next day, I woke up and decided to buy a fragrance I’d been eyeing and sampling for months — Sexy Ruby by Michael Kors. I knew a good fragrance would give me the boost of confidence that I so desperately needed, so I figured why not. I like the way that it seems to melt into my skin and how the bold and flirty fragrance — thanks to notes of raspberry and Indian jasmine sambac — smells after settling in with my natural oils. I felt triumphant walking out of the store, already fantasizing about the new scent lingering on my bedsheets.

Illustrated by Tristan Offit.

Feeling inspired, I decided to try something that would really get me out of my comfort zone next: a 305 Fitness dance-cardio class. Dancing has never been my thing, as I’m slow to pick up on choreography, so I was nervous, to say the least. I walked in sporting athletic shorts and a sports bra and claimed a spot towards the back of the room. Everyone in the class (clearly not newbies) masterfully hit each hip swing, leg kick, and shimmy — without missing a beat.

After about 20 minutes of failed attempts at learning the fast-paced choreography, I finally learned the moves and, surprisingly, caught a reflection of myself that I didn’t recognize. Sure, I look at my body every day, but in this new position (arms above head, chin lifted), I noticed how strong I am — in every sense of the word. It dawned on me that in the past couple of years my body has changed in ways I hadn't recognized or appreciated. I finished the class with a sense of pride and understanding and, for the first time in a while, felt beautiful in my own skin.

On my last and final day, I set out for my most daring feat yet — a solo date. Typically, if I have a self-care night on the cal, my go-to would be a good book in bed (glass of vino in hand and sheet mask on, of course), but this time I hit up my local sushi joint and brought along my journal. What I hoped to gain from a night out on my own wasn't just inner confidence but also a better understanding of who I am. So I started writing down what I hoped to see in my future relationships. After evaluating my list of "wants," I realized — there, over spicy tuna rolls — that the friend-zoning men of my past just weren't a match and that it was the sense of rejection I had prescribed myself that had been chipping away at my confidence, not the way I looked or felt in a pair of jeans.

It was the sense of rejection I had prescribed myself that had been chipping away at my confidence, not the way I looked or felt in a pair of jeans.

I had always thought that being confident in my own skin meant that I had to change my body to fit a shape I had in my mind. I also thought that the men coming and going from my life were a pointed commentary at what I was lacking. But I know now, more so than ever, that true confidence comes from within. It's all about you — not the number on your scale or what the perfect man brings to the equation. And sure, a dance class and solo date may have helped me figure that out, but at the end of the day, confidence comes from taking the time to get to know yourself and accepting and loving what you find.