Self-confidence comes from knowing you have the ability to succeed. Without it, you’re less likely to try new things, seize opportunities, take risks, or go for the things you really want in life.
Understanding how to build your confidence is a serious advantage in life. Being born with a knack or passion for something is one thing, but having the confidence in your ability to do it is something you have to develop.
In this post, I’ll try to take the mystery out of the process and help you develop your own confidence.
Self-Doubt Overrides Reality
Lack of confidence is usually an issue when we’re starting something new—or thinking about starting something new.
It’s unavoidable. If it’s your first day on the job, or if it’s your first time visiting a new city or new country, or starting any kind of new adventure—if you don’t have doubts, you probably don’t have a brain.
It makes you cautious. It makes you careful.
It allows you to pinpoint the first things you need to get answers to and the first things you need to do. It identifies the first questions to ask and steps to take. Pretty soon you find yourself feeling more comfortable more at home and your confidence begins to build.
The last time you decided to take a leap, did you think, “This is great. I’ve got this. No problem. Whatever happens, I’ll be able to figure it out.”
Or did you think, “I’m not sure I understand? This seems hard to learn. What if I make a fool of myself? What if I fail? Maybe I’m not cut out for this.”
For most people, it’s more likely the latter.
Why is that?
Scientists and researchers have shown that people often don’t recognize their own achievements or their own strengths. Even when we are good enough and strong enough to succeed, the brain is overwhelmed by a natural negativity.
Our default thinking, especially when facing the unknown, is to focus on what we’re bad at, our weaknesses, where we’re likely to fail, and what threats we face.
Self-doubt overrides reality. And, as a result, most people beat themselves before they even get out of the gate by talking themselves out of things that could have turned out well.
Want to get past doubt? Fill your time with the most activity as possible.
Confidence Comes From Achievement
In their book The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman share insights based on a ton of research into what it really takes to build confidence.
I absolutely agree with their conclusion: “Confidence is linked to doing.” Why? Confidence comes when we have proof of success that can shut down our self-doubt.
The more you do, the more you convince yourself what you are capable of—self-doubt starts to disappear and confidence starts to build.
I cover this concept in my book, Serial Winner. And one of the most highlighted passages in the entire book is: “The best form of confidence is the confidence that comes from achievement.”
Overcome the Fear of Trying New Things
The biggest hurdle to building our confidence is our fear of trying new things.
We lack the confidence we need to get started, but we need to get started to prove to ourselves we can do it and build our confidence.
It’s a vicious cycle, but you’ll ever win if you’re too afraid to try.
The best approach is to break it down into achievable goals and do things step-by-step. Every time we take action and reach a new milestone, we experience a small success, which leads to a boost in confidence and encourages us to take the next step.
To start, you may have to force your brain to acknowledge that you are strong enough and capable enough. If you truly have an interest in something, there’s a good chance you will succeed—even find out it’s something you can do well—and that will build your confidence for the next challenge.
When we do this, we not only build our own self-confidence, we also build mental toughness, emotional stability, and the ability to make steady progress towards even bigger life goals.
Identify Your Strengths
To change negative thoughts and add a brick to your wall of confidence, start by identifying your strengths.
No one is great at everything. But, if you want to do great things with your life, you greatly increase your odds of success if you go with your strengths.
Give yourself tools that will help you start with a positive default instead of a negative one.
Are you thinking to yourself: “What are my strengths? How can I think of them? I don’t know what I am good at.” These are all typical responses when you are asked to name or identify your strengths.
Below are assessments that will assist you in identifying what you are good at according to Forbes Contributor, Trang Chu.
1. Self-Assessment: A quick way to discover your strengths is to take the “Brief Strengths Test” created by Martin Seligman.
2. Assessment by Others: Ask 5 people to take a moment and write down what they think your biggest strengths are.
Doing this will allow you to not only analyze the result you’ve came up with yourself, but also compare it to others’ perception of you.
Now, try these four lists:
1. List the five types of work you most enjoy doing.
Research has shown over and over that we’re happiest when we’re doing things we’re good at.
Why? Because when we put energy into it, we usually get a positive result. And that brings satisfaction and feelings of competence.
When are you happiest in your work? Is it when you are coaching others? When you are organizing a project? When you are brainstorming ideas with colleagues?
2. List the five things that most fascinate or interest you about work, life, or even the world.
When we follow our natural curiosity and interests, we usually discover talents and strengths that we didn’t realize we had.
It’s rare for somebody to be fascinated by an idea, a line of work, even a hobby that isn’t connected in some way with a strength.
3. List five natural inclinations—things you’ve been led to do most of your life.
Natural inclinations are those things you have consistently wanted to do and what others consistently ask or expect you to do.
I have a friend who gets put into leadership positions all of the time, often without asking for the role.
Years ago, she went in for an interview for a supporting role and they called the next day and asked her if she’d like to manage the department. Actually, that happened to her twice. At another company, they were launching a new task force and the VP overseeing it called and asked if she would head it.
Once she had jury duty and was immediately nominated to be the foreperson. When she told her husband, he said, “Of course you were.”
I’ve had similar experiences.
I can’t explain how these things happen, but, one way or another, I wind up being in some kind of leadership role in most things I get involved in.
It’s not something I aspire to, but time and time again it happens.
In high school, I was President of the National Honor Society and President of the Student Council. I wound up being the Resident Advisor as a freshman in the Junior/Senior dorm at Georgia Tech. I still don’t understand how that happened.
The funny thing is no one has ever asked me to sing in front of a crowd or help out with cooking. It’s interesting how life pushes you in some directions, but not in others.
4. List five things other people have told you you’re great at.
Sometimes you have to ignore others’ opinions.
When you’ve made up your mind to do something—something you’re compelled to do or that you believe will define your future—and people in your life tell you that your chances for success are low, you should go after it anyway.
If you don’t, it will always eat at you.
But there are times when other people’s opinions are valuable.
If we aren’t good at recognizing our own strengths and accomplishments, sometimes we have to turn to the positive feedback others have given us.
Find the things that others have said that align with your own interests.
Getting feedback can also help you identify new strengths that you’ve developed or uncovered—because you have taken on new challenges or responsibilities—that you may not yet recognize.
You will probably see overlap in these lists, and that’s a good thing. It helps you spot the strengths you know you can rely on, and develop a deeper understanding of how to build your confidence.
Now that you’ve identified your strengths, you should have more belief in yourself and know what areas you are most interested in exploring.
Remember, confidence comes from doing. So use this insight to fuel activity. Try something you’ve always wanted to do, apply for the job you want, take your business to the next level, get involved in something that interests you. The more you do, the more you will build lasting confidence.
Every time you are preparing to start something new, review these lists and think about how these strengths will help you succeed. Then, as you take action and start building a stack of achievements, you’ll see your confidence soar.