Most of us would like to improve our level of confidence. But why?
How does a low level of confidence affect us and what changes in our lives when we gain confidence? What is confidence anyway? Where does it come from? Why do some people have more of it than others?
As someone who has helped literally thousands of people build more confidence, I think I am qualified to answer these questions. (By the way, I had very little self-confidence for most of my life but now I consistently experience a high level of confidence.)
What is confidence?
Confidence actually exists on a continuum, ranging from a very low to a very high belief in our own abilities, a sense we can handle whatever life throws at us. Very few people are totally lacking in confidence and very few feel confident that they can handle almost anything. So the issue for most people is where they currently are on the continuum and how they can improve their confidence.
It is important to distinguish between confidence about being able to perform a specific task (such as fly a plane or speak a foreign language) and confidence in yourself. One might not be confident about being able to perform a specific task even though they have high level of self-confidence. Such a person knows that her inability to perform a specific task means nothing about her as a person.
How to improve your level of confidence
The way to gain confidence about specific abilities is to learn those skills and practice a lot. The way to improve our internal level of confidence that we apply to life in general is to eliminate our limiting beliefs. Every negative belief we have lowers our internal level of self-confidence, beliefs such as I’m not good enough, I’m inadequate, I’m powerless, I’m not capable, Nothing I do is good enough, and I’m not worthy.
Once you understand that a lot of negative self-esteem beliefs lowers your level of self-confidence and getting rid of them raises it, you will understand the myth that self-confidence comes from succeeding or failing at specific projects in life.
If you succeed at tasks as a kid and your parents constantly tell you that you should have done better, you are likely to conclude, Nothing I do is good enough and other similar beliefs that will lower your self-confidence. On the other hand, if you don’t succeed at tasks a lot of the time as a kid and your parents say things like: “That’s okay, no one gets it right the first time. If you keep practicing you will get better and better”—you are likely to conclude: If I keep trying I can do anything. That belief would raise your level of self-confidence. In other words, your level of self-confidence is a function of your beliefs, not your practical results.
And if you have created a bunch of positive self-esteem beliefs, failures later in life probably will be experienced as temporary set backs that have nothing to do with who you are as a person.
Some of the consequences of low self-confidence
A low level of self-confidence can result in a host of other emotional problems, such as procrastination (we are afraid we won’t do a good job so we keep putting things off), worrying about the opinions of others (we don’t have confidence in our own opinion), a critical “little voice” in our head that constantly criticizes almost anything we do (because nothing we do is really good enough), and stress (because we are constantly worried that what we are doing is just not good enough).
Low self-confidence also can result in self-defeating behavior. It can keep you from ever getting started. Or it can have you quit at the first sign of a problem. Or it can lead you to sabotage yourself when you get close to success because you feel you don’t really deserve to get what you want. Or if somehow you manage to get some of what you want, a low level of self-confidence will keep you from truly enjoying your success. The best illustration of this latter point is a study of large company CEOs done many years ago in which most of them admitted they were terrified that they would be “found out” and that it would all be taken away from them. This fear among executives is so common that it is known as the “Imposer Syndrome.”
How building confidence improves your life
Some of the benefits of increased self-confidence include: You’ll take more chances. You’ll stop procrastinating. You’ll do whatever you need to do to move your vision forward. You’ll finally start things you’ve always wanted to do and never got around to doing. It will make social activity easier. Talking to people and meeting new people will become easier and effortless. Failure and mistakes will no longer be dreaded. And you’ll do what you want without worrying about what others will think.