“The moment you doubt
whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Growing up, I had a very good model for what it looked like to be confident – my dad. To this day, he swears he can do anything, is the strongest and most handsome man around, and brags about his skills as an athlete (though those skills are definitely lacking now in his older age). I’ve never once heard my dad say he couldn’t do something. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard my dad say anything very negative about himself (to this he would respond that there is nothing negative to say). So naturally, I ended up having much of the same attitude toward myself. My friends can all attest to these beliefs I have about myself: my hair is better than anyone else’s, my eyebrows are near perfection (I’m the only one who has ever done them), I have some pretty awesome dance moves, I’m very smart and wise, and really… just overall awesome. I could make a much longer list, but no need to brag.
To sum it up, I’m a confident person, because I was taught to be one by a father who beams confidence and a mother who has believed in me in all I do. But confidence is not something that’s easy to have all the time. And for a lot of people, it’s just not easy to have at all. Maybe it’s the process of growing up and becoming a “real adult,” but lately I’ve been feeling a little lost, and not like myself. I realized that part of the reason was because I lost confidence in myself, in who I am and what I’m capable of. How I lost that confidence doesn’t matter to me so much as how to get it back. And the internet has proved fruitful, because I found some cool stuff.
First, I want to illustrate the difference between confidence and self-esteem, because there is a debate between the two among psychologists. According to Katty Kay, author and BBC anchor, she writes in the Confidence Code that “Self esteem is the value you see yourself having in the world, [asking] “Am I worthwhile human being?”… Confidence, on the other hand, is related to action, it’s a belief that you can succeed at something.” She explains that confidence is domain specific, which means that you can be confident about one ability and not confident about another. She says, “The difference between a confident person and an unconfident person is simply that the confident person acts on their ambitions and desires and who does not let that fear of failure stop them.”
The most helpful article I found came from the Harvard Business Review, “How to Build Confidence,” by Amy Gallo. She references two experts who have amazing things to say about confidence - Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of
Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live, and Deborah H. Gruenfeld, the Moghadam Family Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Co-Director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
- “Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance.” – Tony Schwartz
- “Overcoming this self-doubt starts with honestly assessing your abilities (and your shortcomings) and then getting comfortable enough to capitalize on (and correct) them.” – Deborah H. Gruenfeld
- “The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it.” – Schwartz.
- Constant practice will almost always outweigh any inability you think you have. - Shwartz
- “A certain degree of confidence — specifically, confidence in your ability to learn — is required to be willing to admit that you need guidance or support.” - Gruenfeld
- Don’t always rely on other people to boost your ego, but validation from people who care about you can be very helpful in building confidence. – Gruenfeld
- Some people need more support than others, and that’s okay. – Amy Gallo
- “Try things you don’t think you can do. Failure can be very useful for building confidence.” – Gruenfeld.
- “It feels bad to not be good at something. There’s a leap of faith with getting better at anything.” – Gruenfeld
Those are the words from the experts, and I find them very inspiring. Confidence is all about action and your ability to do something. That means there is room for failure, which can be scary, but you have to keep trying, and keep practicing. Confidence is something you can acquire, because it is something you can practice.
Psychiatrist, philosopher, and writer Neel Burton gives a few more practical suggestions for building your confidence:
- “Make three lists: one of your strengths, one of your achievements, and one of the things that you admire about yourself… read through them regularly.”
- “Think positively about yourself. Remind yourself that, despite your problems, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself.”
- “Pay special attention to your personal hygiene: for example, style your hair, trim your nails, floss your teeth.”
- “Dress in clothes that make you feel good about yourself.”
- Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
- Get involved in something you enjoy, and/or doing something for your community.
- Spend time with those you love, and avoid people and places who make you feel bad about yourself.
Don’t be afraid to be confident. It does not make you a jerk, but arrogance does, which according to Dictionary.Com is an “offensive display of superiority or self-importance.” Confidence in yourself means that you believe you can do something well (hopefully multiple things). And you can’t begin to believe in yourself unless you go out there and try. You are not a victim and you are not powerless. You have more strength than you think.
p.s. If you still need more tips to build confidence, LifeHack has 63 ways to build it.