A while back I ran a short survey asking people from all generations and walks of life what they thought was the biggest problem most humans face on a daily basis. Not to my surprise, the answer was “self-confidence.”
Many of us are aware that the one thing really holding us back from literally taking action and making our dreams come true is our lack of self-confidence. But where does confidence really come from? Why do some have more than others?
Self-confidence is a belief and an emotion. It is the summation of thought patterns we develop over time in our brains. These thoughts patterns then produce feelings, which produce actions (or lack of taking action), which then produce a specific result.
Most people relate self-confidence to a positive belief and emotion
In society we look up to people who are confident. There is something about confident people that magnetically draws us towards them. We identify confident as those who are not afraid to take risks, and more importantly, we see them as those who take massive action in their lives to create the exact life they want; a life that others dream of.
Most of us want to improve our self-confidence, but so many of us are trying to do it the wrong way. Could it be that we were taught and told the wrong things about self-confidence?
The most common self-confidence myth is,“I need to build up my confidence first, then I’ll take the action.” One of the biggest mistakes I have heard confidence coaches made when they were younger and before they became coaches, they said they were waiting to feel confident before they did something. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.
I’m guilty, because I too, used to think this way.
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu
How I was able to build my self-confidence
When I was younger I knew I enjoyed teaching, performing and speaking in front of big groups. Although I would practice speaking alone and would pretend to play “professor” with my imaginary students, I didn’t feel confident enough to go out into the real world and try it.
It wasn’t until I forced myself to take the action of speaking in front of big groups as officer of student organizations in high school, that I was able to finally start chipping away at my fear. The first few times I did, it was nerve-wracking. Each time, right before I had to go up to speak there would be hundreds of thoughts that would cross through my mind such as, “what if everyone thinks I’m weird?”…”what if no one wants to listen to what I have to say?”, and the worst, “what if I embarrass myself and look like a complete fool?”
In those moments, I would regret putting myself in that position to begin with. When I would go up to speak I couldn’t even look at the audience. The whole time I would lower my eyes and stare at the page I was reading off of. I would feel my ears turn really hot and feel my heart beat faster and faster. This continued to happen every time.
However, each time after I was done speaking I would feel a sense of calm wash over me and I would take a huge sigh of relief because it was over. The good news was it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had predicted. All the fears and “what ifs” I had built up in my mind before speaking never really occurred. People actually treated me the same, or even better, in some instances, because they liked what I had to say.
Building self-confidence propelled me forward
After repeating the action of speaking over and over again, I was able to quickly develop confidence in this area much faster than I thought. I could now look people in the eyes when I spoke and my pulse would actually stay regular.
Pretty soon, I obtained leadership roles in college, graduate school and work-related organizations, including becoming student class president of my medical school. By facing my fears and taking the action first, I was able to build solid confidence in this area.
“Any idea, plan, or purpose may be placed in the mind through repetition of thought.” – Napoleon Hill
To avoid acting upon this myth from now on take the action and just do it when you’re not ready. Do it when it feels uncomfortable. Force yourself to do it if you know the action will be good for you in the long run. Rinse and repeat.
The confidence you seek will come as a result of doing this over and over again. To your surprise, it won’t be long before the action that you once feared becomes second nature to you and you’ll wonder why you ever held back in the first place.
What action are you going to do today that you’ve been putting off? Leave your thoughts below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com