There are things you want to do or need to do, but you just don’t have the confidence to get started. For instance, you want to go for an evening of speed dating, but you can’t get up the nerve to go even if your best friend goes with you for support. Or, you’d like to join Toastmaster’s because you could advance in your job if you could do dynamic presentations to groups. But you go weak in the knees when you think about standing behind the podium. Or your significant other has a passion for skydiving and wants you to join him and the thought of that makes you absolutely nauseous. When you encounter such challenges, you’d like to run away and stick your head in the sand or hide under a rock. So what can you do to feel confident and do those things you want to do but are afraid to try?
What is confidence anyway?
Most definitions of confidence say it is a feeling or a belief that you can do something well or succeed at something. This is good news. Why? It’s good news because you can change how you feel and what you believe. You are in charge. Some people will tell you things like “get over it,” “just do it,” or “the only way out is through.” Perhaps you have heard or said, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Those are all nice sayings. They are meant to motivate you. They may work, but more often than not, they do not. If you want to feel confident you need to make some changes in your thinking, your feelings, and your beliefs.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Like most everything else, confidence is an inside job and platitudes are like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. One size does not fit all because each of us is unique. We have our own “stuff” and we do our own “thing” different from anyone else.
So where do you start?
Short term you may “suck it up” and, after agonizing for some period of time, either give up or give it a try. The result may be a feeling of failure or, if you succeeded, a feeling of exuberance and accomplishment. But every time you encounter a new challenge you may go through the same thing. Every new experience will create the fear that holds you back.
The starting place, however, is to work on become aware of your thinking, get control of your feelings and know what it is that you believe.
How do you change your feelings? According to neuroscience, you can change your emotions by changing the concept or meaning you attach to the general feelings that arise. To learn more about how to do this see How to Change Your Feelings.
You formulate your beliefs over a lifetime of reflection. It may be that you adhere to the beliefs your parents taught you or you may think things through and come to what you believe rather than what you were told to believe. The way you do this is through awareness, study, and reflection on the key areas of your life such as personal responsibility, God, government, relationships, work and more.
You learn to change your thought patterns by becoming aware of what you think when you are alone or not engaged in conversation. If you think everything is awful (what I call awfulizing), your life will reflect that. As you become aware of your thoughts you can begin to change them on-the-spot to something you find more acceptable. If your thoughts are destructive, you might want to read about how to change destructive thoughts. It’s hard to feel confident when your own mind is telling you that you aren’t good enough or cannot do what you set out to accomplish.
But wait, there’s more
So, here’s the deal. You have to do the “inner work” if you want to become more confident about life in general and the challenges that are presented. What is the inner work? It is:
- Knowing your strengths and weaknesses
- Having a clear belief system—knowing what you believe and why.
- Being clear on what you want and what you want to accomplish.
- Understanding that failure is just a part of growth and learning and knowing how you use it for your benefit.
- Being in control of your own feelings and emotions.
- Dropping the idea that you have to be perfect in everything you do.
- Be patient with yourself.
Developing confidence also includes keeping yourself in an optimal state of health by eating nutritious food, getting adequate sleep, regular exercise and times of relaxation so you are able to handle the stress that comes with the challenges.
The primary Tools to Help you Feel Confident
You already know these tools if you have been involved in personal development/self-improvement. They are:
If you search for “how to build confidence” you will find many great references and articles. They are all good and have some great suggestions. But unless you do your inner work on a regular basis they will not be as effective.
In my opinion, this is one of the best: How to Build Self Confidence