“How can I be more confident?“
Maybe you’ve asked yourself this question once, or a trillion times, before. I know I have. The truth is that confidence, or more correctly the lack of it, has been one of the major reasons I’ve held myself back from pursuing my dreams.
At first, you might dream, imagine or visualize the life you desire. In that space, you probably feel high on life and like you’re capable of anything.
Then, when it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing – everything comes to a halt.
Suddenly, you become aware of how little you know about this topic. Or how much more talented or skilled others are. Maybe you compare your behind-the-scenes with someone else’s big breakthrough and get down on yourself for not being further along.
As adults, we have a habit of believing we must be great at something we’ve never done before. But, we don’t expect a baby to walk the first time he or she tries. We don’t blurt out, “Oh, I guess walking wasn’t for you, maybe you should try something else?” Instead, we expect stumble, falls and many second chances.
We need to adopt this attitude towards ourselves, too. Remember: every expert was once a beginner and every pro was once an amateur.
How to be confident when you’re not
We all battle with lack of confidence at times. (Unless you’re a superhuman or a psychopath). The question isn’t if you lack confidence – but if you choose to overcome it. Because eventually, it is a choice.
I’ve had uncountable fears that have held me back for long periods. Fears that have stopped me from pursuing the work, relationships, and the life I long for. And I still have them. But today I have tools to move past them. (Which I’ll soon share).
Thanks to these tools, I’ve gone from thinking I was a terrible writer to writing for sites like the HuffPost and MindBodyGreen. From sweating and panicking when thinking about public speaking to running workshops for Fortune 500 companies. And from feeling scared of going to yoga classes to becoming a certified yoga teacher in the Himalayas.
Here’s the great part: Confidence isn’t something you have or don’t have. Instead, confidence is built on accomplishments, which means that the more time and energy you put into something – the more confident you’ll feel in that area.
Below I’ve outlined 3 key things that have helped me to become more confident in certain areas of life. You don’t need to do all of them at once. Instead, choose to focus on one and then move on to the others. Here they are:
1. Be more confident by upleveling your self-talk
A game-changer when it comes to increasing your confidence is to work on your self-esteem. Most people use the terms self-esteem and self-confidence interchangeably, but they are two different things. So, let’s start by clarifying the two:
Self-esteem is about the way you feel about yourself; your self-respect and personal worth. “Esteem” comes from the latin word aestimare, which means to value. So think about it in terms of how much you value yourself – no matter your performance.
Self-confidence, on the other hand, is about trusting in your ability, power and judgment. “Confidence” comes from the latin cōnfīdō from con- (“with”) + fīdō (“trust”). Simply, it’s about trusting in your ability to succeed or accomplish a task.
A person with low self-esteem will feel that it’s terrifying trying new things. Stepping into unfamiliar territory, which is required when boosting your confidence, will then be a journey filled with fear, anxiety, and insecurity.
Compare this to a person with high self-esteem – who knows that their worth is consistent no matter how they perform. They will perceive going outside familiar boundaries as more fun and exciting.
Your worth is always consistent no matter how you perform – but you’ve got to practice knowing and feeling that.
Self-esteem, similar to self-confidence, is something you have to work on consistently. And one of the best ways I’ve found to build your self-esteem is by changing your inner dialogue. Like this:
“I can’t do this!” can be turned into “I can give it a try.”
“Who am I to write a book, start a business or try salsa dancing?” can be replaced with “I can figure this out.”
Changing your inner dialogue will help you to gradually go from fear, insecurity, and self-doubt into playfulness and curiosity when it comes to trying new things.
2. Move forward by taking consistent baby steps
Now that we’ve established that your worth is consistent, no matter if you succeed or fail and that your job is to remind yourself of this by upleveling your self-talk – we’re going to look into how you can take steps forward.
Because let’s face it. Taking action can be freaking scary. Especially when you feel like you have zero confidence within a specific area.
But, you can’t think your way into greater confidence. As mentioned, increased confidence comes from accomplishments. So the more time, energy and action you pour into something – the more confidence you’ll feel in that area.
“But”, you might say. “What’s the solution to moving forward when you lack confidence and the task feels overwhelming?”
Glad you asked.
Here’s my answer: Baby steps.
By breaking down big things into smaller and more manageable tasks, we can get ourselves to do pretty much anything.
What matters isn’t big action – but doable and consistent action.
That’s right, you gotta keep moving forward and that’s when baby steps can potentially change your life. If you commit to making a 1% improvement in one area of your life each week, the compound effect of that commitment will result in a 68% change in one year.
Don’t believe me? Here’s the formula: 1.01^52 = 1.677.
Pretty epic, right? So don’t underestimate baby steps. Instead, commit to moving forward by taking small and consistent action.
3. Focus on the action and ignore the results
Let me tell you a story. A couple of years ago, I found myself in a place of being single after a long relationship. When it came to dating and meeting men – I was like Bambi on slippery ice.
I wanted to feel confident talking to guys and since I wasn’t at the time, I began challenging myself. I wanted to make the uncomfortable more comfortable. So every time I went out, I told myself that I had to start a conversation with a guy.
(OK, now it’ll get a bit awkward.)
When I saw someone attractive, I’d tap on their shoulder and say “you’re cute” or “I like your shoes” and then I’d run off. Once I even ran off into a pole in front of an entire restaurant. (Told you… awkward!)
But what mattered wasn’t the guy’s reaction or the results – but my action. That I actually did it.
Once I got more comfortable talking to men, I could look at the results. Then I’d challenge myself to stay and talk, instead of running off. (Which turned out to be a more successful tactic).
You can control your actions, but not the results. So, at first, when you lack confidence in something, you can’t make it about the results. Instead, make it about the action.
What matters isn’t what you produce or how others react – what matters is that you do it.
Focus on progress, progress, progress
To be held back by lack of confidence is painful, frustrating and kind of heartbreaking. One part of you wants to realize that project, vision or dream – while the other is taking every chance it gets to pull you down.
To build confidence, you got to commit to small and consistent changes. To become aware of the way you speak to yourself. To change “I can’t do this” to “I’ll give it a try”. To take small steps forward, even if it feels scary, and to ignore the results and instead focus on building momentum.
Remember, confidence is built on accomplishments. So find a baby step that doesn’t feel too overwhelming and do it today. What you’ll notice is that small and consistent steps forward will bring you, one friend, closer.
That friend is called confidence.
About the author: Maria Stenvinkel is on a mission to help people get a career they truly love. Download her free worksheet Get a Clue to Your Calling With These 10 Powerful Questions.
Photo by Bekir Dönmez