So many of us lack confidence. Why? We most likely had it as a small child, so what happened and how do we get it back?
Have you ever watched toddlers learning to walk? It can be hilarious and inspiring. They try their hardest to find balance and then pitch forward and their little legs attempt to move fast enough to keep them upright. Inevitably they fall with a whump! Stunned for a few seconds by the unexpected impact, they summon their focus and strength and try again. This scenario repeats over and over.
Apart from its entertainment value, watching toddlers and small children trying to overcome obstacles and master, what is for them an exceedingly difficult task, can teach us something very important. Not only can we observe the “never give up” mantra in action, but also, there seems to be no sense of lingering dismay at multiple failures. It’s as if their minds are so focused on the task at hand, that there is no room for self-consciousness.
This brings us back to our topic of self-confidence. According to Dr. Ivan Joseph, self-confidence can be described as:
“The belief in your ability to accomplish any task, no matter the odds or difficulty.”
So, it follows that a lack of self-confidence is our belief in our inability to do something. However, since a lack of confidence precedes the accomplishment of a particular task, how do we know that we can’t do it? Wait. Let me check my crystal ball…
In our competitive world, our shortcomings are intentionally or unintentionally highlighted by others. Repeated negative comments from parents, teachers, peers etc., such as “No, that’s bad,” “That was stupid,” “Why can’t you do it right?”, “Can’t you do anything?” and so on, serve to create a lack of self-confidence. One’s subconscious begins to believe “I’m no good.” Our self-talk then becomes negative. We take on the negative comments of others and we replay them over and over. So, as adults, instead of being that toddler who fails and then brushes it off and continues with the task, we give up too easily, fearing inevitable failure and reproach from others, thanks to that broken record in our heads. We stop trying new things.
Note: Self-confidence is not to be confused with self-esteem (which I go into in a separate blog).
What is self-confidence?
- “Confidence” comes from the Latin fidere, “to trust.” It is to trust yourself to rise to challenges and accomplish what is needed.
- We can be confident in some things and lack confidence with others. To say that you don’t have self-confidence is describing a general and pervasive, distrust of yourself.
- Lack of self-confidence is fear-based. We are afraid that we either can’t do something or can’t do it to the standard required by the situation.
- We fear what we do not know. When we trust that we are capable of amazing things that we have yet to discover, we do not fear doing things that are new.
- Confidence comes from feeling the fear and doing it anyway. We learn to trust that we can do what we don’t think we can do at first glance.
- Confidence is trusting that at the end of the day, all will be well. Belief in a benevolent higher power, or that nothing is as serious as death, helps with this.
How to improve our self-confidence?
I’m glad you asked 😉 Complete the tasks below to improve your confidence by leaps and bounds!
- First, recognize that feeling a lack of confidence in a situation can be remedied with removing your focus on yourself. If giving a speech, think only of your audience and how you want to serve them. If you’re at a big party with a lot of strangers, forget about impressing them. Listen instead, show real interest in other people, and speak only when you have something of value to add or something kind to say.
- Now, make a list of 10 things you’re able to do well. They can be simple things such as cooking an omelet or telling a good joke.
- Next, make a list of 10 things that you’d like to do well, such as tell a good joke!
- After that, do something from your first list and congratulate yourself. Think about how you first learned to do it. If possible, relive the feelings and the first attempts in your mind. Visualize this as clearly as possible. The point is to recognize that everything must be learned. At one time, you didn’t know how to do it. Then you decided that you wanted to. You learned by observing others or through study or trial and error. You weren’t perfect the first time. No one is.
- Then, choose from your list of 10, something that you would like to learn to do first. Observe others, or study how to do it. (Blind trial and error are time-consuming!)
- Allow yourself time to develop a new skill. When we give up too soon, we lose confidence and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. (“I knew I couldn’t do it. See, I told you!”)
- Set yourself mini goals along the way. You will feel confident after achieving each goal. Pat yourself on the back!
- Practice, practice, practice! Remind yourself that your skill is a beautiful work under construction.
- Remember that everyone is different. New research shows that we all have unique ways of learning. It is no longer recognized that 10,000 hours are needed for anyone to be great at something, it can be more or less. However, the goal is to accomplish what you set out to do, whatever it takes you to do that. Confidence comes from the accomplishment. This is true no matter how large or small the task or skill.
We can achieve so much with even a little, consistent, targeted effort. Unfortunately, some people won’t even start. This means that they could be missing out on some wonderful life experiences because a fear of the unknown is paralyzing them.
I remember going to Mexico with an ex-boyfriend who only had confidence in doing a very small number of things. He wouldn’t even try snorkeling in a beautiful area off the coast. He claimed “There’s no enjoyment in doing something you’re not familiar with. You need to be good at it first.” I saw this for what it was: fear. No amount of coaxing would budge his stance on the matter. Did he not realize that in order to become good at something, you actually had to do it first? Needless to say, a wonderful opportunity was lost. How sad. Don’t be like this. Seize your opportunities, kick fear to the curb, and rock your life!