What is self-confidence? Is it an over-inflated sense of self, the ability to smooth-talk, and the arrogance that you’re always right? Is it self-esteem from the opinions of others?
Or is it the ability to handle any situation–including failure–because of a positive mindset, keen self-awareness, and willingness to ask for help?
Genuinely confident people develop confidence naturally through practiced effort and self-discipline, with the knowledge that adversity is inevitable, and with a single-minded focus to help others.
I used to be very socially awkward. Then I started to work on my public speaking skills, through speaking organizations, training, books, practice, and speech contests. Eventually, others asked me for help. Through this process of hard work and mentoring others to be successful, I became much more confident.
You can’t create confidence out of thin air. It’s the process of authentic self-improvement and helping others that leads to confidence.
With that in mind, here are 8 mistakes that truly, amazingly confident people never make.
1. They don’t care what others think
Truly confident people frankly don’t give credence to the judgment of others. That’s not to say they don’t listen to advice or feedback. On the contrary. Confident people seek out legitimate, constructive feedback.
But confident people derive their pride, satisfaction, and happiness from within. They’re confident in the stoic, inner pride sort of way, not the “look how great I am” glory-hounding external-validation sort of way.
Part of this discipline comes from an ability to destroy negative thoughts (limiting beliefs) that are often centered on what we think others feel about us. Confident people don’t compare themselves to others.
You are who you are at this moment, and if you’re taking action and doing your best to provide value to the world, it doesn’t matter how you measure up to everyone else.
Confident people give the same leeway to others, avoiding judgment in favor of recognizing that everyone has expertise to bring to the table.
2. They don’t think they’re always right
A big ego leads to false confidence. It’s a house of cards waiting to collapse at the first sign of adversity. False confidence leads to taking vastly miscalculated risks that ultimately lead to catastrophe affecting everyone around you.
Genuine confidence comes from the process of learning, which naturally assumes you don’t know everything.
Wilbur and Orville Wright, the pioneers of flight, were extremely curious. They also lacked a college education. This gave them the confidence to reject the “expertise” of the time by questioning and testing everything. At every turn, the Wright brothers knew they didn’t have an answer, so they constantly engaged in discussions and experiments to learn.
The Wrights were only “right” about knowing that they didn’t know everything.
Truly confident people put the truth first, which sometimes means being proved wrong. And that’s a good thing.
3. They don’t talk more than they listen
Confident people don’t have a chip on their shoulder. There’s no need to prove yourself, because the most important part about interacting with others is the process itself.
Every interaction is an opportunity to learn. The best way to learn is to listen!
Truly confident people cultivate the skill of active listening, and they listen much more than they talk. When you’re always talking, you’re always pushing. The irony is that people will want to hear what you have to say if you’re seen as helpful.
Coach Michael Burt calls this being a Person of Interest:
It’s about having something so valuable that makes other people want a piece of you and it. It is about being perceived as the expert by what you project to the world…People want to buy you a cup of coffee, pick your brain, spend 30 minutes with you on a webinar, and hear what you have to say.
In other words, confident people–rather than talking and selling–instead offer something so compelling that others are willing to come to them. They listen, learn, and form deep, meaningful connections.
This gives them knowledge, genuine likability, and authentic confidence.
4. They don’t go it alone
Genuinely confident people don’t succumb to the “Superhero” fallacy–that success only comes from going it alone.
Instead, they are keenly self-aware of their own flaws and specifically seek out experts to address these known shortcomings.
Confident people ask for help. This shows respect for the other person, authentic humility, and wisdom.
There are lots of ways to get help from others. Let’s say you want to mentor others but get nervous speaking. You could join a group like Toastmasters to learn from other speaking experts. Want to start a business? Join a mastermind of small business owners or attend local Chamber of Commerce events. Seek a mentor. Hire a coach.
The key is to surround yourself with supportive people who are also experts in areas that you’re deficient in. Chances are you will be able to reciprocate with expertise of your own.
Not only do confident people lean on others all the time, they accelerate this process by absorbing knowledge at a rapid pace through books, podcasts, videos, courses, and tons of other sources.
In fact, reading at least 1 hour per day can put you in the top 1% of experts and income-earners.
Don’t be afraid to ask, “can you help me?”
5. They don’t take things too personally
It’s easy to take offense when someone criticizes you. But if confident people don’t care what others think, and admit when they’re wrong, it makes sense that they also recognize that the process is more important than allowing others’ judgment to amplify personal negative feelings and self-doubt.
Confident people have feelings of course, but they deal stoically with adversity as a problem to be solved, not a personal indictment.
You won’t always succeed, but if you’re confident in yourself despite what others say or do, you can at least cope with any situation.
This mental strength comes from an inner sense of accomplishment, faith in your own abilities, sense of humor, sense of curiosity, and positive approach to people and situations.
Have fun with the process!
6. They don’t expect certainty
Put another way, confident people embrace uncertainty, knowing that although you can’t predict the future, you can be prepared knowing that obstacles are inevitable.
Truly confident people expect failure and adversity, but they are ceaselessly optimistic about the future. No matter how bad things are, always look for one positive to use as a compelling source of inspiration.
Helen Keller once said, “optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
In The Obstacle Is the Way, Ryan Holiday writes that “obstacles are actually opportunities to test ourselves, to try new things, and, ultimately, to triumph.”
Expect uncertainty. Embrace the inevitable failures. Learn from them!
7. They don’t make others look bad
Truly confident people work extremely hard on making others successful. The more you help others, the more they will look to you for guidance and expertise, and the more successful and confident you will become.
It’s a positive self-reinforcing cycle that contrasts sharply with the short-term approach of Machiavellian scheming that falsely confident people use to take advantage of others.
Think about the typical workplace. When you make your boss and team members look good, everyone benefits. And this leads to new opportunities, people that trust you as a team member, and ultimately greater confidence. The most inspiring leaders are those who give credit to the team for all of the hard work.
Ask yourself the same question Benjamin Franklin did every morning: “What good shall I do this day?” Confident people focus on how to make others look good, which naturally and authentically increases their own value and inner self-worth.
8. They don’t seek the approval of just anyone
Earlier, we talked about how amazingly confident people don’t care what others think. But that’s not the whole story.
Confident people do care about what the closest, most supportive people in their lives have to say. It is this handful of truly important people in your life whose trust and support mean so much that you actively seek their feedback.
This goes back to the idea of asking for help and not going it alone.
If you cultivate only supportive people in your life, eliminating the nay-sayers, you know that these people always have your back.
Whereas attention-mongers seek the approval of thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, truly confident people focus on quality over quantity. They know what matters.
Think about the people you hang out with on a daily basis. Do they have your back? Can you share your dreams and ideas with them without getting shot down? If not, think about working on only the best relationships if you want to be truly confident.