If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.– Vincent Van Gogh
We are all beset with doubts sometimes. Even the most self-assured and successful people can be unsure of themselves. Some people are clearly more confident than others, though. To what extent this is ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’ is unclear, though I suspect that ‘nurture’ has a lot to do with it. I’ve seen my own confidence wax and wane over the years, and external factors have certainly played a part. Some signs that you might be lacking somewhat in confidence are:
- Thinking that other people are better than you
- Expecting the worst outcome
- Engaging in negative self-talk
- Feeling the need to justify your behavior to others
- Overreacting to criticism
- Not having many friends or avoiding social situations
- Body language that is defensive and closed.
If you have some of these traits, perhaps you need to consider building more confidence. Can this be done? I think it’s clear is that confidence, like most other traits, can be developed. Like a muscle, with training and in time, it can become strong and powerful. To put it another way: confidence is a habit – confidence begets confidence. Here are some training ideas to develop this most important of habits.
Make friends with your failings and limitations
This is a key area. Obviously, you are not perfect – far from it. So long as you are challenging yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone and seeking to develop, you will be making mistakes. The mistakes are signs of growth and nothing to be ashamed of.. Confident people are comfortable in their own skin, happy with themselves in all their imperfection. They have nothing to prove.
Don’t be pushy or aggressive
Confidence can manifest itself in many different ways, and sometimes there is a visibly assertive quality to it, but there is also a quieter and more restrained confidence. When you meet a confident person, you tend to pick up that the person is happy with himself and feels comfortable in her own skin. Confidence does not mean aggressive, pushy, loud or superior, which is often a sign of over-compensation for some kind of inferiority complex.
Don’t be defensive
Listening to and acting on criticism is an important part of being confident. It is often very hard for us to be objective about ourselves, and other people can give us great insights into our strengths and weaknesses. Of course, we have to be critical about the things that people tell us, not falling into credulity and taking everything they say at face value. But the insights afforded by others can be very valuable. If people laugh at you or attack you, this probably says more about them than about you. Insecure people often try to cover up their feelings of inadequacy by falling into such behaviors.
Do what you believe to be right
Confident people tend to rely on an internal guidance system to keep them going along the right track, whereas those with less confidence can be buffeted around by other people’s opinions and agendas. Having an inner compass is an essential part of living assertively and confidently, and following the compass can sometimes mean having to take risks. But without risk, there is no growth.
Set challenging goals
Confident people tend to live in a more conscious and deliberate way, setting goals for themselves. They are secure enough to tolerate failure, and are comfortable with not getting things right first time. If we are not growing, then we are falling back – there is always movement. As we challenge ourselves, our comfort zone grows, and this growth often involves the pain of failure. This pain is too much for insecure people to bear. But to confident people, failure is only a stepping-stone, not the destination. Success, for confident people, is inevitable. It’s only a matter of time.
Keep a record of your achievements
It is common for people with limited self-confidence to compare themselves unfavorably with others. Such people may assume that others are ‘better’ and have achieved more, so it can be very helpful to make a list of achievements. If you do this, you may find that the list is longer than you thought. Imagine what you would think if this were a list of someone else’s achievements. Would you be impressed? Would you think highly of that person?
Learn to be optimistic
People who lack self-confidence are often pessimistic about the future and tend to think the worst. It’s important to replace negative, self-defeating mental chatter with upbeat, positive self-talk. All day long, thoughts are swirling around inside our head and we need to be conscious about this. Such self awareness isn’t easy, but with some gentle persistence you can become more aware of your thoughts and, when you catch yourself thinking in a negative way, replace the thought with something more positive. Examples of negative thinking are: exaggerating the negative aspects of things, taking things personally, feeling you are being blamed for things or feeling like a victim, to name just a few. Simply being aware of negative thinking modalities can be a great help in overcoming them. When you catch yourself thinking in such negative ways, try to replace the thought with something more self-affirming.
Take a balanced approach
The benefits of confidence are clear but, as with most things, too much of it can be unhealthy. Over-confidence, which can lead to errors of judgment and under-performance, is dangerous and should be guarded against. Confidence is about getting the balance right.
Confident people are more relaxed, happier and enjoy situations, however challenging, a lot more than those with low self-esteem, trusting that they can deal with whatever problems and challenges might arise. If you fail, if you get it all wrong, it won’t be the end of the world. If you’re tense and worried about how you’re being perceived, your energy is being wasted – it’s not going into the matter at hand. So let go, take the focus of attention off yourself, relax and enjoy the ride.
Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.– Norman Vincent Peale
The benefits of being confident are clear: you’ll be happier, more relaxed and probably healthier. You’ll use time more effectively because you won’t be worrying endlessly about other people’s opinions, and you’ll have a clearer sense of purpose, so you’ll be a lot more effective. Confidence, in a sense, is the key to happiness and fulfillment.
What a fool am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.– John Bunyan
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30 thoughts on “How to Build the Confidence Habit”
Mark, your post got me at hello. I mean, the title :)
Because confidence is a habit and it takes practice. You don’t just wake up one morning and you’re confident, you don’t become confident just because you decided to. Even if we wish we did. It’s about repetition, reinforcement and having some fun with it.
I identify with the first two. I fall into someone else is better and expecting the worst outcome. I comes from comparing myself to others. Only causes pain. The other from fear. THanks for the inspiration!
This was a very insightful article and got me thinking. It’s so hard not to be defensive and take things personally when you are out there blogging and people can take shots at you. We can always try to react better though. Strive to be better the next time…
Having a list of your achievements and reviewing them is something that I personally do when my self-confidence is low.
Nice post and excellent use of quotes. I have to agree with the benefits of being confident – you’re spot on. I can definitely see the difference from when I had no confidence to my current state.
Make friends with your failings and limitations,I love this sentance. I am going through one of biggest challenges in my life.It is so hard for me to accept the failures. once I read this article, I feel much more comfortable. Now I feel much better.Thank you Mark. I hope that I cld meet u in HK one day. Love your blog.this is my first comment here. Cindy
Great post, Mark. A lack of confidence often has to do with fear for whatever you are afraid of. Loving yourself and accepting yourself can greatly improve confidence. I look forward to more posts like this!
Hi Mark .. what an interesting post – becoming confident is knowing that you can’t possibly do it all and if we know this – then we can ask for help as and when we need it .. then we learn as we go and accept failures are learning areas too ..
Thank you – Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories
Being optimistic is the far best for me. ‘I didn’t study as much as I should, but I can still make it’ when you say that, you are optimistic and you actually are going to believe it. Because you are you, you can do it. Confidence is great.
This is great! My “word” for 2010 is confidence. So the shift to seeing confidence as a habit definitely works well for me. Building it day by day is the way to go!
I totally relate to some of the first few “issues” that some might experience if they aren’t feeling confident. The good thing is that it is possible to change. I personally love writing down achievements and successes since it keeps building upon itself.
Confidence is a habit, thanks for sharing this post!
One thing I have learned, is that your input is your output,
meaning that to have confidence you need to have strong,
positive, confident thoughts. “As a man thinketh, so he is”
Confidence is a choice. Uncertainty can create anxiety and fear but it can also offer opportunity and possibilities. Uncertainty can be managed with self-awareness: Knowing and understanding that the human brain seeks safety allows for an individual to mindfully resist the temptation to turn away from categorization, rationalization, biases, preconceived notions, and conventional thought — to break away from the self-defeating “comfort zone.”
“The crowd is untruth.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
Can you explain your point a little clearly please??
Well, this is a very nice and in-depth post about confidence, and I think that it is right on for the most part. I struggle with confidence often, as I suffer from social anxiety disorder, and even though it’s not perfect, I can see many of the differences described by you, Mark. Keeping a positive attitude is very difficult, especially if you go into the same situation repeatedly and don’t have the outcome you desire. It’s hard to gain any footing sometimes. Sometimes, I have found that I have to look at even the smallest improvement as something to be appreciated in order to keep up my motivation. Great post overall though!
nice one mark
I am a pessimist at heart and feel that finding the right crowd of optimists who are willing to open their hearts and interests and lives to me and allow me to do the same will help me even more to be happier and find my self confidence.
Good post! :)
Ack! I suck at not being defensive. Any recommendations?
I find with confidence that you have to slowly build it. Just do something slightly out of your comfort zone each day and progress from there. Before you know it you will be looking back amazed.
Great post! I love the idea of keeping a record of your achievements. I take it even further by keeping a record of all the good in my life. Each day I write down a list of things that are going right for me and it really helps me to keep life in perspective.
On a day when you have to make a speech and your clothes aren’t fitting right, it’s easy to forget all the other wonderful things about yourself. Taking a moment to look for the good and jot it down really works wonders for me.
Relax and do your work if you are busy with the work, don’t be panic.
That was a really well written piece with easy to implement tips. Thank you.
It is worth working on personal confidence by challenging ourselves, bit by bit. Over time our personal growth will take us to some unexpected places, that we might have never visited if we hadn’t done that work.
“Words and actions emit their own peculiar influence. There is in them an inaudible sound which all other men inwardly hear and instinctively detect. They know the false ring from the true, yet know not how they know. As the outer ear can make the most delicate distinctions in sounds, so the inner ear can make equally subtle distinctions between souls.” From http://eightpillarsofprosperity.com
People remember how we made them feel before they hear any of our words. So to work on confidence, and the vibration that we emit, is necessary for any success we wish to accomplish.
Thank you again. Cheers, Thea
I love this post and the idea of keeping a record of acheivements is fabulous. I never thought about doing that. I think it’s just what I need:)
Eventhough I am very late of reading this article, however I had same opinion as yours.
In fact since more than last 6 months I am feeling that I have confidence problem, so I could nor properly express myself. However do you have some improvements after..
Feel good to know;thanks.
This post is terrific. Building confidence is kind of like exercising to build muscles and tone up. It takes time and practice. You’re absolutely right — confidence is a habit.
I’m a career change coach and my clients are women 40 and over. One of the common areas they struggle with is a lack of confidence. It’s scary making a major life transition like a career change at midlife. What you said about relying on your own internal guidance system is an important point. Most of us know when we’re off course but sometimes it’s tough to find your way back to the right road. For instance, if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you’re off course. That’s where your inner guidance system and being willing to take a risk and try a new approach comes in.
When you take even the smallest step to follow your heart, you gain a tiny bit of confidence that you’ll succeed. Every step forward helps. I always tell my clients that Motion Trumps Meditation. Just take one step and start building momentum. Momentum builds confidence.
Thanks for a great article!
You could not have said it any better thank you,
I agree. Believe it or not many people struggle with low self confidence. Many would be surprised to know the level of value that exercises like these provide to the average Joe and the Entrepreneur.
I have all the signs of lacking in confidence, and have always struggled with it, and while you make some good points, I hate it when people recommend to write a list of your achievements to compare with other people (or in another topic I read to make a list of all the good things that happened in your day to avoid depression) because when I make those kinds of lists it only makes me feel worse, as it isn’t ALWAYS the case that your perceived failing compared with others are only in your head.
Also in the ‘stepping stones to success’ I seem to be going the wrong way down it as every step I take makes my situation worse; such as forcing myself to go to careers fairs as it’s a positive step that confidant people do, and all that happened is it made my self esteem even less from what they’ve said; or another time having taking part in an art exhibition where for 10 hours my work got ignored while the artists’ work on either side of me got admired all day long (and no that’s not in my head as I can directly compare the amount of work they sold to what I sold, which was nothing).
Both these times I would have been better off not taking these steps at all, especially as these things cost me around £400 (about 3/5ths of my savings) which below you will see I really need.
I’ve been unemployed for over a year but have been applying for jobs everyday, going to job agencies but they don’t want me on their system, I’ve never had a relationship, I can’t afford a car even if I hadn’t failed my driving test 5 times so far, and roughly in 2 months I won’t be able to afford the internet or my mobile which will further screw up my ability to find any work, and potentially I could end up evicted.
So please tell me how I’m supposed to raise my self-worth when every step I take to improve my life makes my situation worse, yet everyone in my life around me is succeeding in theirs?
Hi, I am really impressed by this article and the idea of keeping a record of acheivements is fabulous. I never thought about doing that. I think it’s just what I need:)
I would say that the most important confidence habit is to constantly expand your comfort zone (do things that make you feel uncomfortable). Every day do at least one thing that scares you and I’m sure that you’ll quickly improve your confidence. It’ll transform your life – just try it!
Good post. I have been aimless for some time now. May be I should start setting some challenging goals which will build my self confidence.
Great article, Mark!
Confidence is indeed a habit and we should work on it daily if we are ever to expect any significant improvement.
I also really liked your point regarding defensive behavior. It is easy to spot a person struggling with confidence issues by the way they handle criticism and verbal attacks.
Thank you for your useful insights!