Developing your confidence can seem like an overwhelming task, but the most important place to begin is at its source: you. Your confidence is an emotion that is expressed by knowing who you really are. This can be challenging because we are so busy doing that we can forget about being. Activities and responsibilities abound, but it’s vital to look beyond what you do every day to discover who you are. Your chores and errands, your volunteer efforts, your hobbies, and even your professional work don’t define who you are as a person. While these tasks are important because they help you manage your life, they don’t tap into what’s at the core of your well-being.
Spend time reflecting on what makes you who you are, and make a list of those qualities that distinguish you as a unique person. Get to know your personal strengths and add those to your list. Review your list carefully. It is essential to realize the danger of basing your definition of yourself on circumstances or shallow qualities that can change, such as your body, wealth, career progression, clothes, friends or car. If your confidence rests on something that circumstances can take away, you’ll lose your confidence along with it. Choose to base your confidence on what will never change – the true essence of who you are as a person. Confidence that’s based on your true qualities, and not your daily activities or a shallow sense of self, is unshakeable. It weathers upsets, disappointments, and it isn’t vulnerable to rejections that tear it down. It will be there for you when you need it most, during those challenges like crises, goal derailment, and unexpected life events.
A clear view of yourself will lead to a healthy sense of confidence, where you won’t fall victim to extremes of either inferiority or pride. If you find that your confidence suffers when you compare yourself to your friends and their success, determine why you perceive yourself in the way you do. Then work to develop coping mechanisms, such as positive reinforcement, that you can use when your confidence is challenged. Learn how to view yourself from an accurate perspective so you can think properly about yourself – with humility yet strength – allowing you to avoid either arrogance or low self-esteem. Then you’ll be free to develop confidence.
Identifying Your Priorities to Live Confidently
As you re-center yourself you will discover a newfound desire to live with purpose and passion, furthering your confidence journey. After you have a solid grasp of the qualities that define you as a person, work to discover your core values – what matters most to you – and why those values are so important. Become aware of what you think, how you feel, and what you want. Ask yourself questions like:
· “What are my beliefs and opinions?”
· “What do I most enjoying doing, and why?”
· “What are my hopes and dreams?”
· “What are my anxieties and concerns?”
· “What am I supposed to do with my life?”
· “What do I continue to return to regardless of disappointments and setbacks?”
· “When or where do I most enjoy my work?”
When you have identified what your priorities and purpose are in life, you are able to make choices that reflect those priorities. When faced with indecisions about what to do in your life, your priorities become an important reference point to serve as your guide and road map. As you make decisions based on what you value most, your confidence will grow. You’ll perform best at the things you have the most desire to do. Figure out what specific actions you should take to live out your purpose in the world.
Then take a look at your schedule and see the way you’re currently spending your time and energy. Ask yourself if you’re investing the best of your time and energy into your core values, or if you’re using up your resources on other, lesser pursuits. What changes can you make that will free up more of your time and energy for pursuing your core values? Remind yourself regularly of the contributions you’d like to make to the world during your lifetime, and let that motivate you to focus on what matters most. Decide today to build your priorities around your core values, so you can live with the sense of purpose that fuels confidence.
Having the Confidence to Be Who You Are Can Inspire Others
Leaders often inspire confidence in their leadership by sharing who they genuinely are with the people around them. Since relationships are based on trust, it’s vital for you to be authentic with the people you lead. Doing so will build their confidence in you. So once you discover who you are, have the courage to be that person among others. Being known by others doesn’t mean being a celebrity or the life of a party. It doesn’t require you to make yourself vulnerable to strangers or act in any ways that aren’t natural to you. It simply means that you share your genuine self as you interact with others, and that doing so enriches your time together.
People who are most confident also feel the most free to be themselves when interacting with others. Confident people don’t waste their time and energy on “impression management” tactics to project the image they believe others want to see; they simply decide to be themselves. If you can’t be yourself in all situations, you have a confidence problem. The more you are focused on what others think of you, the more of a challenge it’s going to be to be authentic. Yet being authentic is what allows others to view you as credible and inspirational. Being comfortable in your own skin allows you to meet the challenge of being accountable instead of defensive and honest instead of deceptive. So don’t worry about trying to project a certain image, hoping to make people think you’re popular, intelligent, outrageous, or anything else you hope will impress them. Instead, simply decide to value the real you and share that wonderful self with others!
Whitney Hopler works as Communications Director at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB) and has written for many media organizations, from About.com to the Washington Post. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and connect with CWB on Twitter and Facebook.