Most of us feel like we could use more self-confidence. Everyone has something that intimidates them, and most of us could list several things, such as taking a business risk, public speaking, commitment, making new friends, approaching a girl or guy, and that’s just off the top of our heads. A healthy self-esteem can be the difference between a successful career or love life and a dead end job or loneliness. Confidence inevitably affects how people initially perceive you, and perception has an effect on your extrinsic value. One’s perception of you is their version of your reality, regardless of whether they are right or wrong in their valuation of your intrinsic value.
Even people who seem to ooze confidence often have secret fears and insecurities, and sometimes they’ve carefully constructed their lives so they simply don’t have to face these. Fortunately, though, self-confidence can be cultivated and grown. While it won’t always take off like seeds on a Chia pet, tending the ground of your confidence will eventually help it become something tall, beautiful and strong. This can lead to many good things in life, like a better job, higher salary, having more friends, or meeting the love of your life, but the best benefits will be inside of you. When you feel more confident, you’ll be happier and likely more satisfied with who and what you are (however, this does not apply to a false sense of self-confidence).
Although some factors influencing your self-esteem and confidence are external ones, there are many that are within your control. Practice using these strategies to build self-confidence and eventually the experience will become natural and a part of your character. Remember, confidence is a mindset or a learned behavior, not something that is God-given or genetic.
When we look at what we don’t have, it’s easy to feel like we’ve failed, and this only undermines our confidence. We end up feeling like we don’t make enough money, aren’t social enough, and generally aren’t the person we want to be. Setting aside some time each day to focus on gratitude helps us not only recognize our own strengths, virtues, and special talents, but appreciate what we have accomplished and earned. This leads to a solid, content feeling inside, which is a great basis for self-confidence. You can then use your past achievements as motivation towards new goals.
No one does everything well. It’s easy to feel like we have to, especially when we’re surrounded by people who are good at the things we struggle with. However, true self-confidence is built on self-knowledge and introspection, and that means knowing the truth about ourselves. This means acknowledging strengths as well as weaknesses. Rather than feeling like we can’t admit to any deficits or shortcomings, we need to be able to see those places where we don’t have talent, training, or the time to get it. Surprisingly, knowing these gives us an accurate self-assessment, which builds confidence. Failing to attain a goal when you have no particular experience or special ability in a given area should not define you or lead to self-doubt. Be honest with yourself, and compete in arenas that play to your strengths.
Practice Makes Perfect
Human nature allows us to feel certain about things we’ve done over and over again triumphantly, and the only way to achieve excellence or perfection is by investing energy, time, and effort into our passions. Most individuals give up when they are unable to complete a task the first time, comparing themselves to others who are able to effortlessly produce a desired outcome. Unfortunately, we rarely see the blood, sweat, and tears others exerted to get there, and don’t realize that we too can reach the mountain top. Keep in mind, hard work and determination can match or surpass natural ability and talent.
Speak Your Mind
Not only is it important that we speak truthfully with ourselves, but we need to be willing to communicate honestly with others, too. This doesn’t just mean admitting where we’re weak, though that’s part of this truth-telling. It means sharing ourselves – our ideas, thoughts, criticisms, goals, and motivations – with other people, and not worrying about their response. It means valuing honesty above self-protection, and realizing that it’s only through telling the truth that we’ll have strong relationships. This is hard to do, but telling the truth builds confidence, and then we’re able to speak up more and more.
Another example of this is to speak up during public presentations or discussions, sit in the front row at school, or defend someone else when they are being mistreated or discriminated against. Many of us fear the judgment of others or the attention of being noticed, but don’t realize that most everyone shares the same complexes. By making an effort to voice our opinions, we will gradually become better speakers and thinkers, and receive the recognition of our peers. This positive-reinforcement will lead us to build confidence in our own thoughts and beliefs.
One beautiful quote demonstrates exactly this concept:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Many people who struggle with confidence spend a lot of time focusing on what went wrong in the past or on what could go wrong in the future. Both of these types of thought take us away from the present, which robs us of our energy and ability to act right now and basically paralyzes us. The truth is that very little of what is happening or is about to happen depends on what happened in the past, and what-ifs are often groundless as well. Instead, focusing on the present gives us the energy we need to make confident, active choices right now. When we begin to make these choices and see the positive effects they have, we’ll develop the self-esteem to stay present and act again in the future. Nothing builds confidence like achievement. By succeeding, we realize what we are capable of.
Remember The Spotlight Effect
Studies have shown that people who are embarrassed or insecure tend to feel like they are getting twice as much attention (especially negative attention) than they really are. This can be helpful when we’re going into a situation where we aren’t feeling particularly confident, because it can remind us that people aren’t noticing us nearly as much as we think they are. Limiting our behavior because we want to minimize negative responses from others is rarely necessary. So, do what you think is outrageous – most people aren’t looking anyway or may be thinking or wanting to act exactly as you are. You may just be the catalyst that encourages them to shine as well.
Ask, “So What?”
The next time you notice yourself feeling embarrassed or self-conscious, take some time for an internal dialog. First, figure out what exactly is causing your negative feelings. Maybe you’re afraid of disagreement, social censure or being the oddball of the group. Once you know what you’re feeling, take the time to ask yourself, “So what?” This question can help us reframe our fears and think about them from a different light.
So what if someone disagrees with you? What is the worst thing that could happen? Often, the consequences of our actions are much smaller and less significant than we make them out to be. This is especially true in a public setting with strangers – “so what? I’m never going to see these people ever again.”
Asking, “So what?” forces us to articulate these answers, which allows us to see them as they are in reality, not as they are in our heads. Often, we find that it’s more important to act than to follow our fears. By consciously making a decision to follow our hearts and desires, we build confidence in our choices. Worst comes to worst, people may laugh and you can laugh at yourself, too. Don’t take life or yourself so seriously.
Often, people fear risk because they fear failure. However, failure is a great educator, and through failing we discover that it will not destroy us. Looking back on your life, you will likely realize that you learned the most from your failures, not successes. This gives us the confidence to continue trying new things, to take bigger and more calculated risks because the only way to win big is to risk big. Besides that, taking risks allows us to learn new things. Risk permits us to develop new skills, acquire varied experiences, to learn about ourselves, and to discover more about how we fit into the world. Risking allows us to become the people we were made to be, and permits us to break out of the shells we often hide inside. If you don’t fear failure, than you have nothing to motivate you to work harder, push ahead and succeed.
“Modern man is conditioned to expect instant gratification but any success or triumph realized quickly, with only marginal effort is necessarily shallow. Meaningful achievement takes time, hard work, persistence, patience, proper intent and constant self-awareness. The path to such success is punctuated by failure, consolidation and renewed effort.”
In the end, developing confidence means overcoming the fears that hold us back. It means relearning and reprogramming our irrational emotions and character flaws, and focusing on what we have to offer the world. This all takes time, energy, and effort. When we finally achieve personal growth, we’re likely to find that our lives are infinitely better and happier than before.