Self-confidence. We’ve all heard it’s an attractive attribute to have, people seem to be happier when they have it, and we know it when we see it. But what is it really, and how do we create it for ourselves? This article is the first part of a series that will dive into self-confidence, what it is, how it manifests in the physical, interpersonal, and occupational aspects of our lives and how we can manifest more of it in each. This first installment will break down what self-confidence is, how our goals, actions, and reactions, relate to our self-confidence, and how we can manipulate each of these to build up more confidence in ourselves.
What is Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence is somewhat easy to define on the surface, but harder to understand in terms of what it means, and how we can create more of our own to become better versions of ourselves. On the surface, self-confidence is the trust in one’s own abilities, qualities, and judgements. In short, self-confidence is the trust we have in ourselves. But if you look just a layer deeper, self-confidence is really how much we trust ourselves to achieve the goals we set, without compromising our values. Basically the ability to have an inner dialog that sounds like “I feel good about what I’m trying to do, how I’m doing it, and I trust myself to put in the work to get there.”
To build this trust we must work towards the goals we set for ourselves by taking action and managing our reactions to their outcomes (success or failure). To give an example, let’s say you can run a mile in 8:30, you’re goal is to run a sub-7 minute mile, so you train for three weeks, time your mile again, and you run it in 6:55, this success allows you to trust yourself more in your abilities to train, run, and complete your goals, thus building your confidence across various areas. In this scenario, you have set a goal: run a mile in under 7 minutes, took action to achieve it: trained for three weeks and ran it again, and managed your outcome: accepting the affirmation that you can train, run, and complete goals in the future. Boom more self-confidence.
But wait there’s more! Underneath this whole actions and reactions construct is a layer made up of more minuet attributes that can be altered to help build your sense of self-confidence. These are the building blocks of a self-confident person. If you master these, more self-confidence comes naturally, so listen up.
Actions can be broken down into two parts, the courage to start and the perseverance to complete. No goal was ever achieved without a first step being taken. That first step takes courage, demonstrating this courage is terrifying and by itself can be an achievement. However, courage ultimately means little without the second part of action, perseverance. Seeing an action through to the end and having the willpower to ensure it is done with enough vigor to give yourself a true chance at success is key to achieving your goals, building trust, and thus self-confidence. You commonly hear these attributes of action being called a “leap of faith” and “the grind.” You will need both to build a strong sense of self-confidence and a fulfilling life.
Reactions can be broken down into your ability to accept affirmations of a successful action and your mental resilience to shrug off a failed one. Affirmations can be simple things like “I really like those shoes” or seeing the clock read 6:55 when you finish your mile. Focusing on these successes, however small, and counting them as goals you’ve completed is a great way to build up the trust in yourself in each aspect of life the affirmation comes to you. Resilience is how you bounce back from a perceived failure to achieve a goal, and your ability to identify what in your goal setting and/or action process prevented you from succeeding. An example of high mental resilience would be “OK, I ran a mile in 8:05 because I only ran three times in the last two weeks, let’s try again but this time I’ll run a mile four times each week”. This type of self-talk saves you from generalized failure that crushes self-confidence. Generalized failure ambiguously removes the trust you have in yourself because the whole process (aka the way you operate) feels like a failure, rather than a specific attempt at a single goal not being successful. Eliminate negative self talk with reasons why actions didn’t have the desired outcomes, derive potential solutions, and try again. The simple act of working on your goals, even previously failed ones, helps build that trust in yourself back up, giving you a dose of self-confidence before a goal is even completed.
So How Do I Become More Self-Confident?
Now that we have a general understanding of what makes up self-confidence, how do we make some for ourselves? Easy, we work to improve the building blocks that produce self-confidence. We set attainable goals, practice moments of courage, try to push and persevere longer than we did before, and work to accept our successes and use our failures to identify weaknesses along the way. But let’s dive into how to do these effectively.
Set Attainable Goals
The main acronym we’ll use here is the classic SAAM. Specific, Attainable, Actionable, Measurable. Beyond setting goals within SAAMy goal-setter’s parameters, setting goals of different sizes based on timing is a great way to build self-trust and self-confidence. Set a goal for the day, the week, the month, the next six months, the year. If you are running low on self-confidence, start with simple daily goals and build to more lofty ones over time. The key here is to make sure the goals you set are appropriate for the amount of time you are giving yourself to achieve them (think attainable). That being said, push yourself, you’ll get more done, and feel better about it when you’re finished.
The big piece of advice here is from the motion picture We Bought a Zoo (yeah, bet you didn’t see that coming) but the quote goes something like “all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.” The point being, if you simply push through and conjure a short stint of pure courage to start doing anything: hop up on a pull up bar for the first time, start a conversation with someone you don’t know, tell someone how you really feel, put on that shirt you’re not quite sure you can pull off yet. Once you’ve gotten through those first 20 seconds, you just have to keep the forward momentum. Consciously practice this, and eventually you’ll be more courageous more often. In short, work towards getting comfortable being uncomfortable.
With perseverance, it will take will power. A simple way to build will power is to use the “just push for 10 more seconds” mentality, it works great for when you’re just starting out, you can do anything for 10 more seconds. Regardless of how long you need to get through to complete a goal, getting better at persevering comes at the cost of moving through struggle. The more you work while struggling, the more endurance you will have to struggle for longer without the urge to quit. This goes for physical endeavours, deep conversations, and putting in work at your job, hobby, or home improvement task. And while this part hurts the most, the harder the struggle, the better the success feels, the better the success feels, the more confident you become. It’s like an equation or something!
Acceptance of Success
This sounds easier than it is. Make sure you celebrate your successes, not just with a victory drink or dinner out, but in your head. Take the time to reflect on what you’ve done, the courage it took for you to start working on your goal, the work you put into it, and relish in the moment once you’ve achieved it. Harping on these moments let’s your sense of self-confidence truly sink in and allows you to remember and learn from what you’ve done in order to become even more self-confident.
Identifying weaknesses is a hard but important practice, mostly because it is challenging to do right after you fail. After a failure your emotions are telling you to be less self-confident, that the process doesn’t work, that you don’t work. To combat this negative spiral, literally write on a wall, or a postit, or a whiteboard that is highly visible the question “Why Did I Fail?” and make sure you read it over and over while you are going through the throws of self-doubt after something didn’t work. Identify the weakness in your goal setting or action processes and consciously make adjustments. Most of the time failure to achieve a goal is due to either having too ambiguous of a goal, or not putting in the right amount of work in the time allotted to see a successful outcome. Review, learn, adjust, and repeat. If you fail again, cool, you just found another way not to do something, but you can be confident that you at least know the process to find the right way.
In the end, reaching a high degree of self-confidence is about achieving your goals and amplifying the trust you have in yourself every time you do. The more goals you achieve, the more confident you will be. Stay tuned for our follow up articles where we’ll dive into how we can enhance the building blocks of self-confidence specifically regarding the physical, interpersonal, and occupational aspects of life.
Do you agree with our deep dive on confidence? Have anything to add? Be sure to let it all out in the comment section down below.