I have wished lots of times for more confidence, more guts to put myself out there and ask for what I want. I have not followed through on plans because I was scared of looking stupid or failing.
I have as many doubts and insecurities as anyone else.
Fortunately, I also have courage and a growing list of chances I have taken that have not ended entirely badly. I’m learning to channel that into the confidence I need to live out my Big Fact Scary Purpose.
Even if you don’t consider yourself naturally confident right now, I believe you can learn how how to feel more confident. I think we both can.
What is confidence, anyway?
Confidence is an emotion, and one thing we know about emotions is that we tend to fall back on the ones that are familiar. That’s why when you’re in the middle of uncertainty in one area of your life, you may start to feel insecure about everything.
Just like you can get used to feeling insecure, you can get used to feeling confident.
Confidence is also a reflection of how you see yourself. If you believe you’re capable, you’ll feel confident.
That belief has little to do with reality. You probably don’t keep an accurate accounting of your skills and shortcomings. Instead, we base our beliefs on what we think we see in the mirror, or the stories we tell ourselves.
Fortunately, that means you don’t have to drastically alter reality to boost your confidence! You just need to shift your perspective a little.
How in the heck do you do that?
Everyone is good at something. That’s where you naturally feel confident.
I’m confident when I’m standing in front of a crowd telling a story. I’m confident that I can make you laugh and feel at ease with me. I’m confident that I make kick-ass stuffing. (Seriously, it’s amazing.)
On the other hand, I hate pitching myself. I am in awe of people who assume everyone in the world wants to hear what they have to say. That’s not where my confidence lies. (Says the blogger, ironically.)
I bolster my confidence by spending more time doing what I already know I’m good at and paying attention to my sense of confidence in those moments. Then, I can draw on those emotional memories when I have to pitch myself to a conference planner, for example.
What are you good at? It doesn’t have to be your passion or your calling or your thing that you think is going to change the world. Whatever you already know you’re good at, do it as often as you can and pay attention to how awesome it feels to know you’re rocking it.
Get yourself a win every day.
The great thing about teaching is that it proves you know what you’re doing – or at least that you know a little more about what you’re doing than the person you’re teaching. Congratulations, you’re at least one step up from the very bottom!
Being able to teach is a reminder that you have skills. Focus on that proof and the experience of teaching to shift your perception about your capabilities.
It comes down to self talk. When you hear yourself saying, “I suck; I can’t do anything!” you can refute that with, “I can ice skate well enough to teach an eight year old!”
Do that often enough and you’ll build a backlog of “I can” tapes in your head.
3. Keep a praise folder.
When I was having a confidence crisis recently, a friend of mine said, “it sounds like someone needs to go read her reviews on Amazon.” She was right.
Your brain has a natural tendency to focus on criticism, so it’s a good idea to refresh your memory by revisiting old compliments. That’s not douchey; it’s science!
I keep a folder in GMail of emails from readers. I also slap a star on favorite tweets. Science!
Make a habit of revisiting your own testimonials. Whether you have customer emails or a Facebook wall full of birthday wishes, know where you can go to listen to the good over and over again.
Remember: repetition makes the good stuff stick.
Getting better at a skill is a great way to experience confidence. Remember how great it felt the first time you figured out how to publish a blog post or make cookies that you weren’t ashamed to share? That sense of accomplishment had nothing to do with being the best and everything to do with progress and improvement.
The best way to improve is to practice.
Keep doing what scares you and you’ll get better at it. You’ll get to do the mighty fist pump in the air that says, “yes! I am slightly better at this than I was yesterday! Suck it, Yesterday Me!”
(You can also cheat a little and practice a skill that feels slightly less terrifying. But, know that you’re cheating and will eventually need to practice That Thing That Scares You. Sorry.)
5. Meditate on your purpose.
It’s easier to practice scary things when you know it’s for a good reason, like fulfilling your higher purpose, but knowing intellectually isn’t enough. You need constant reminders.
Start your day by meditating on your purpose, your big reason for wanting to feel more confident in the first place. Think about what you want to accomplish and why you think it matters so much.
Confidence is about trust. Literally. The definition is to have “full trust”. If you don’t completely trust your abilities, trust your reason.
Let that faith push you out the door, on the phone, or into the office of the person who can bring your vision to life.
You’re not stuck with your current level of confidence. If you want to have a greater faith in your abilities, make a habit of feeling confident by doing what you’re good at. Practice so that you’ll excel more often. Pass on your skills to someone else.
And, most importantly, be mindful of how you’ll use your confidence for good.
When you’re no longer afraid to fail, what will you do?