“Hi Celes, how do you keep enough belief in yourself to be self-confident? Sometimes I find myself filled with so much self-doubt that it becomes crippling.” – Mike
Today I will be covering the topic of self confidence, triggered by the above question a reader sent me earlier this month. I thought that this will be a topic that will be very beneficial to everyone since building self confidence is a goal which many people have. 🙂
Are You Self-Confident?
“Self confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.” – Samuel Johnson
For the next one minute, think about how you see yourself. How much self-confidence do you have of yourself on a whole? How confident do you feel regarding your work? How about when you are with your friends? Your partner if you have one? Your family? How confident do you feel when it comes to your finances? How about other things, such as making a presentation at school/work, talking to a stranger, or even public speaking? Do you feel confident in yourself all of those situations? Do you feel confident regardless of the situations you are in?
What Is Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence refers to assuredness in your own worth, abilities and power, regardless of the situation you are in. Someone who is self confident has a strong sense of belief and certainty in himself/herself. He/she exudes calmness, composure and is self-aware.
Self-confidence is often linked with possessing of certain knowledge, skill sets or abilities, whether it is acquired or innate. While having aptitude in a particular area can help bolster your self-worth, it is not a necessary prerequisite for self confidence. Someone with absolutely no competency in something can still be self-confident. We will discuss this in detail in the later half of the article.
Lack of Self-Confidence Cripples You
Have you ever known someone who has low self-confidence? How does this person come across to you? A person who has a lack of self-confidence has a lack of self belief, usually caused by a sense of uncertainty about one thing or another.
Here are 8 typical behaviors of people with low self-confidence:
- Undervaluing what they are capable of
- Taking blame even when it is not their fault
- Being overly shy and reserved
- Overly critical of themselves, for example neurotic perfectionists
- Being hung up over negative outcomes and ‘failures’ in the past
- Preoccupation with the negative outcomes and failure even though they have not manifested yet
- Having a fearful and adverse attitude toward most things
- Doing things to please others
People with low self-confidence tend to repel people around them. Their limiting mindsets and behaviors make them feel ‘heavy’ and a ‘drag’ to be around. If we are to refer to the Map of Consciousness, these people vibrate in consciousness levels of Pride and below – usually levels of Shame, Guilt, Apathy and Fear.
Lack of self-confidence is a crippling trait because it often limits you in your opportunities and jeopardizes your chances of success, which leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Let’s imagine you have a project you are tasked with. Say you lack self-confidence and you predict you will not be able to deliver to expectations. What do you think will happen next? This lack of self-belief is going to influence the thoughts and actions that you undertake, both on a conscious and subconscious level. When you are constantly thinking about a negative outcome, it takes your focus off what you should be doing to achieve a desirable outcome. This eventually leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because an undesirable outcome is manifested, your belief gets enforced and you continue to have low, if not lower, self-confidence.
On the flip side, what if you are a self-confident person placed in that exact same scenario? What do you think will happen? Chances are, things will pan out differently. Because you are certain of an imminent success, you do everything needed to make it happen. If you don’t have the skills, you will acquire it. If you don’t have the knowledge, you will learn it. If something completely unprecedented happens, your confidence somehow taps into your subconscious for the solution. This sets you up for success, which subsequently enforces your self-worth, leading you on to more success. Even though you may have started out from the same spot as others, just having the self-confidence will take you much further than someone who does not have it.
Thus, having self-confidence is clearly an asset to you in life. Not only does it put you at a better and more positive emotional and mental state, it also sets you up toward getting what you want. Having self-confidence enables you to fearlessly pursue your biggest dreams. It equips you to conquer your challenges, no matter how insurmountable they may seem to me. It sets you off to live your greatest life possible.
However, most people have low self-confidence because of past events in their lives which led to that state of mind. This lack of self-confidence puts them in an endless cycle where they attract results they think of, and that reinforces their state of self-belief.
How can we then break out of such a cycle?
How to Increase Self-Confidence
There are a series of different ways you can use to increase self-confidence. These can be classified into three main groups.
The first is via conditioning to impose the sense of self-belief. It’s an extrinsic, outside->in approach, where you adopt actions to induce confidence in yourself. This is the most popular method within the self-help community and also the quickest method to get results. Ever been to any self-help motivational seminars or read any self-help books on increasing confidence? Typically, they will ask you to do various things such as repeating a positive affirmative statement, pretend you are already at a certain stature, speak and act confidently, and so on.
This is a list of examples of using conditioning to increase your self-confidence:
- Dressing: Dressing smartly, Looking presentable, Having a clean and kempt look
- Body language: Walking confidently, Speaking confidently, Being calm and composed, Holding your head up, Having a good posture, Smiling
- Mental techniques: Positive thinking, Visualization of positive outcomes/scenarios, Focusing on your strengths rather than weaknesses, Repeating positive mantras
- Others: Listening to upbeat music, Exposing yourself to inspirational materials, NLP techniques, etc
These actions are efficacious because they give you a confidence boost almost immediately after you do them. However, the effects are rarely long-lasting — you need to repeatedly remind yourself to do them, otherwise their results will dissipate over time.
2. Acquiring Symbols Of Worth
The second is working on the gaps that are making you feel low in self-confidence. This is the more practical approach to increasing self-confidence.
As mentioned in the beginning of the article, self-confidence is often linked with the possessing of certain knowledge, skills or abilities. Many people lack self-confidence because they feel they lack a certain competency. For example, if you have low self confidence in your job, it may be because you are lacking the information and know-how to perform well. People who have a high level of competency in a certain area often develop a high self-confidence in that area as a result.
Competency in anything can always be developed via preparation, practice and experience. The key to developing competency is to engage in knowledge acquisition and repeatedly do it to the point of ad nauseam. For example, if it’s an academia subject, read up as much as you can through different sources. If it’s a sport or technique, keep training every day. If it’s giving a presentation or public speaking, continuously practise in front of different audiences to build up the skill sets. If it’s something social like talking to a stranger, just start with small goals of talking to one stranger every day, then build up from there when it gets progressive easier. Eventually, you will find yourself so competent in the area that you become naturally self-confident in it.
Besides competency, there are other symbols of worth, of which the most common are:
- Attributes such as level of attractiveness, popularity, grace, drive
- Material possessions such as the amount of wealth you own, car, property, luxury brands, and so on
- Status symbols such as your academic qualifications, your achievements, your job title
- Incidents of Success such as winning in a game, situations where you emerge victorious.
Depending on the symbol of worth that is relevant to you, you can acquire it to increase your self-confidence. For example, you see different people who pursue different things in order to increase their sense of self-worth. Some people strive to work on becoming more attractive and popular. Some people try to acquire material possessions such as earning more money and buying material goods. Some people seek to gain status symbols and titles. Some people strive for successes in everything they do.
The problem with acquiring symbols of worth to increase self-confidence is the boost in self-confidence only lasts as long as the symbols are valid. If they were to be removed from you or lose their relevance as a symbol of worth, your self-confidence will change accordingly.
Imagine a tennis player who measures his worth based on his victories in his tennis games. He keeps practising to increase his odds of victories. Whenever he wins, his self-confidence gets a boost; however whenever he loses, his self-confidence gets a hit. This person’s self-confidence fluctuates depending on the outcome of the games.
Or, imagine someone who has low self confidence working as an entry level executive. He sees his position in his career (status) as an indicator of his worth. He works very hard in his company and gets promoted to become a manager. While this boosts his confidence, his sense of worth becomes tied to his position. In the event where his title is removed from him like when he becomes laid off, he will start having low self worth again. This has partially led many to depression after being retrenched. Asides from the financial concerns, many tie their sense of worth to their material possessions as well as status symbols.
Let’s look at cases where these symbols lose their significance. Because significance of symbols is very much defined by the society and the context, they are open to be changed. Let’s look at over different time periods. Think about some of the material goods you bought in the past which made you feel good but stop having the effect after a period of time. Some things that come to mind would be fashion items like clothing and accessories, the type of car you drive. Another example would be the context. In U.S., a car is a regular commodity. However in Singapore, a car is considered a luxury possession. In different contexts, different symbols will have different levels of significance.
Thus, to work on your self-confidence via a permanent, long-term solution, we have a third method.
3. Working Directly On Your Belief Of What Represents Worth
The third method addresses lack of self-confidence directly at its core rather than working on the symptoms.
As shared earlier, while the previous two methods definitely help to a certain extent and can be a quick way to boost your mental condition, they are typically short-term and not permanent. Conditioning is sort of a quick fix method to induce a temporary feeling, while acquiring symbols of worth only helps to the extent where the symbols are by your side and still relevant. Both of them address symptoms of the problem rather than its root.
Say you are losing hair. While you are trying to treat your hair loss problem with hair fall control shampoos, going to hair loss treatment centers or even wearing a wig, these are all actions to fix the symptom. These actions may help alleviate the hair loss but it will not cure it, since the root of the problem is not resolved. If you look deep into the problem, you may find the actual cause of the hair loss may be lack of sleep, malnourished diet or hectic work schedule.
The point is, things like not having enough competency, not being successful enough, etc, are actually just symptoms of the problem.
The actual root of the problem is your belief that you need to be those things before you can experience self-worth.
For example, you think you need to be good at something before you can feel confident. You need to have certain successes before you can feel some semblance of self worth. You may see self-confidence as having a good posture, to dress smartly and speak slowly. And so on and so forth.
Yet, contrary to popular belief, someone with absolutely zero abilities, no past success and having poor perceptions by others can be self confident. What you need to realize is this:
The only prerequisite for self confidence is a sense of self belief.
Think about a symbol of worth to you. Is it competency? Is it the amount of money you earn? Is it how attractive you look? Identify them first. Then, ask yourself this – why do you perceive these as symbols of worth? Why must you have to have these before you can feel worthy or confident about yourself? Who said anything about these being prerequisites before you can even feel your self-worth?
These presumptions of what represents worth are largely due to social perceptions. All the beliefs that we need to have certain skills, certain behaviors, etc to be confident have all been conditioned in the society, rather than being hard truths.
The problem that needs to be addressed is the attachment to these symbols with one’s worth. All your beliefs on what represents worth can only be true if you allow them to be true. The key is to break the linkage between all externalities (such as one’s past, the present level of skills/abilities, outcomes of events, others opinions, etc) with one’s own assessment of worth. If you don’t see competency as a representation of your worth, then it won’t. If you don’t see money as a valuation of your worth, then it won’t. If you don’t see attractiveness as what makes you worthy, then it won’t. Remember, these are merely external objects, and not you. If you don’t let something represent your worth, it wouldn’t.
My Personal Example
There has been many times in my life where I have felt very confident about myself and the outcome of events, even when there was no reason why I should be.
For example, when I was in my internship in my ex-company, I was fully confident that I would perform well and secure the internship – even though it was my first internship, first time working in an actual corporate role and I knew absolutely nothing about what I was going to get.
Another time was while I was still studying in university as a first year student. The people around me constantly discussed the monthly starting pay for graduates, which was around $2 grand. At that time I simply brushed that aside and was confident I would get a starting pay of at least $3 grand and above. The funny thing was, this was simply an arbitrary number I plucked out of the air which I felt I was comfortable with. There was absolutely no basis or research I did which made me point out that figure.
A more recent example would be when I left my job to pursue my passion. While I had a broad vision of what I wanted to do, I had not developed my plan to the levels of specificity, and I was not worried about it at all too. I wasn’t worried about money, about how it would work out, or about the challenges I would face. All I knew was I was going to reach my end goal and I would do everything it takes to reach that goal.
The quotes from John Eliot in Overachievement sum this up perfectly:
“Confidence is a resolute state of mind by which you believe nothing is impossible.”
“Confidence is not a guarantee of success, but a pattern of thinking that will improve your likelihood of success, a tenacious search for ways to make things work.”
In all of the cases, there was totally nothing present which justified my self-confidence. Yet, in the end, everything turned out as well as I wanted, if not better. In my internship, I was one of the few interns to secure a pre-placement job offer with my ex-company. For my starting pay, I received a figure which was higher than what I targeted. And for my personal development work, it is currently moving along well toward my vision. Honestly, the self-confidence I had was probably one of the reasons why I achieved those outcomes eventually.
Become A Self-Confident Person
Whenever you see any circumstance where you do not feel self-confident – ask yourself: Why am I not feeling self-confident? Where is this uncertainty coming from? What am I attaching my self-worth to?
When you become aware of what you are linking your worth to, start releasing yourself of that limiting belief that you can only feel worthy or confident in the face of certain prerequisites. When you do that, you will find yourself filled with a sense of self-worth that is always permeating regardless of what happens. You will find this self-worth will be what leads you to outcomes you desire and bring you to become your greatest self. 🙂
Get the manifesto version of this article: The Self-Confidence Manifesto