A while back I ran a short survey asking people of all generations, both genders, and different 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 taking action and making our dreams come true is our lack of self-confidence. Even though we realize this, very few of us are willing to take a little time and a little action to improve it.
We fail to realize how improving our self-confidence, which is made up of thought patterns we develop over time, can be a true gateway to help us score that incredible life partner, create that million dollar business, get that degree, land that dream job, create that dream body, stand up to people who intimidate us, not allow others to treat us badly, and most of all, help us stop self-sabotaging our own lives.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-confidence is defined as, “confidence in oneself and one’s power and abilities.” But where does confidence really come from? Why is it that some have more while others have less of it?
Self-confidence is a belief and an emotion.
I would describe it most simply as the measure of thought patterns about oneself that develop over time. These thoughts patterns then produce feelings, which produce actions (or lack thereof), which then produce a specific outcome.
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 toward them.
We usually see confident folks as happier people, and it makes us want to break off a piece of that happiness for ourselves. We see them as those who continuously shower themselves with self-love and have a high sense of self-worth – this makes us respect them more, and even makes us want to model them.
We see confident people 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?
Whether we were conditioned by society to increase our confidence using the following ineffective ideas, or we developed these thoughts based on our own experiences, I’m here to debunk the following confidence myths for you.
Here are five self-confidence myths and simple steps on how to avoid them instantly to increase your confidence and win at the game of life.
1. “I need to build up my confidence first, then I’ll take the action.”
One of the biggest mistakes I have heard that confidence coaches made when they were younger, and before they become coaches, was waiting to feel confident before they did something.
Biggest. Mistake. Ever.
I can, however, relate to this belief because I used it all the time.
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 project my voice and actually speak in front of large crowds. I kept putting this off because the thought of actually acting up on my idea terrified me.
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 many times.
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 and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I predicted.
After I finished speaking each time, I realized 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. I did not expect that!
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 it would take.
Pretty soon, I sought and obtained leadership roles in college, graduate school, and work-related organizations, including becoming student class president of my medical school.
Moral of the story: By facing my fears and taking the action first, I was able to build solid confidence in this area as a result of taking the action.
Today, I love speaking in front of crowds of hundreds of people. I get asked to host social events and have been offered to be paid to speak for conferences.
People ask me today, were you always this confident in public speaking? I tell them “heck no,” and if they’re interested, I tell them a little bit about my story.
This isn’t just about me and my journey, though; this is about you, my friend. I want you to know that I would have never gained confidence in the area of speaking if I waited to become confident first. It doesn’t work that way.
How many times have you sat in a meeting wanting to speak up, but holding back because you’ll wait ‘till the day you feel more confident to speak up? Again, the problem with this mentality is that unless you actually speak up when you’re not ready, you will never gain the confidence you are looking for. The confidence will develop after you raise your hand and speak up. When you do this over and over again the confidence will grow very quickly.
Remember, to avoid 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.
Confidence will come as a result of doing this over and over again. You may find it won’t be long before the action that you once feared becomes second nature to you, and you’ll wonder why ever held back in the first place.
Coaching Exercise 1: Confidence comes after taking the action. Today, I want you to take action on one thing you’ve been putting off or have been holding back on. Don’t think about it – just do it. It could very well change the course of your life.
2. “When I ‘look like this’ or ‘have that’ or ‘get this,’ then I’ll do it.”
How many of us have ever said, “When I look like this, I’ll pursue her.” Or, “When I have X amount of money, I’ll join a gym.” Or, “When I get this job, I’ll finally pursue this other hobby?”
There’s nothing wrong with planning and setting goals. Usually, however, when we have that kind of self-talk it’s because we are putting off doing something that we want or is important to us because we have low-self confidence.
Due to social media and the pressure to look “perfect” these days, a common thought pattern seen in many today is wanting to look a certain way before pursuing a partner. Even worse is believing that you have to look a certain way before you can feel like you deserve someone whom you like.
The truth is that we use these excuses to put off taking action and actually pursuing. We may not recognize we have low self-confidence in this area. We blame our inability to take action on some deficiency in our looks. We refuse to admit that the issue we really have in this area comes down to our low self-confidence.
The problem with the above example is not that you want to look better, but your negative beliefs about your physical appearance and how you assume you must associate those beliefs with pursuing someone you like.
As you may recognize by now, these negative belief about physical appearance stem from low self-worth. If you’re someone who thinks like this, what can you do about it?
The first step is to recognize that your self-talk and perception of yourself may not be actual reality, and may certainly not be the reality that others see in you. Your self-talk is just that: self-talk.
The second step is to realize that your negative self-talk stems from a place of low self-confidence. If this wasn’t the case, then how are there people who are more overweight than you, older than you, and superficially speaking, not as physically attractive as you, who are pursuing and getting incredible partners? What sets them apart from you?
It’s most likely their self-confidence and their sense of self-worth. What they believe about themselves has a lot to do with how others perceive them.
When a person feels confident in his or her own skin, they do not allow their looks or any other excuse to hold them back from getting what’s theirs – the partner they desire. This confident go-getter approach to life is considered attractive by everyone, and ironically, it’s the confident attitude, not the looks, that capture the attention and attraction of the partner they are pursuing most of the time.
This confidence myth isn’t just associated with looks, though.
Many people use excuses of waiting until they “have this” or “get that” before they can pursue their goals or go after their dreams. Granted, sometimes there may be circumstantial limitations involving money and resources when wanting to pursue a goal, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start pursuing your goals right from today. You just have to learn to start using other paths to reach your end destination until you can secure what you need to go full out with your pursuits.
Waiting until the “perfect time” to do something is the worst thing you can do. A lot of us believe that by doing this, we’re actually doing the right thing, because we’re waiting until we reach that perfect state to take action. There will never be a “perfect state” for most of us to pursue anything. Even when you don’t feel confident, you just have to dive in and go after what you want.
Remember, confidence is a result of going after what you want.
Coaching Exercise 2: Never make an excuse again about how “when this happens” or “when that happens” you will pursue X goal. Recognize that those thoughts stem from low self-confidence in those areas and decide to go after what you want, right now. You may never feel completely ready, and there may never be a “perfect time,” but if you want to develop rock-solid confidence you have to start going after what you want before you’re ready.
3. “My self-worth is directly associated with how I look and how much money I have.”
Perhaps the biggest struggle people have in life with self-confidence is associating their self-worth with 1. their physical appearance, and 2. how much money they have.
Society has conditioned us to place an unhealthy and enormous amount of importance on these two aspects, and because of it, we are seeing a society of less and less confident people and higher and higher divorce, depression, and suicide rates.
There are reasons why people value looks and money so much in society. It’s not always a bad thing, so let’s dissect this a bit.
We like looking at a good-looking person. Not just because of the aesthetics and pleasure our eyes get from it, but because of what we associate with a good-looking person. We usually believe when a person is really good-looking that they’re also probably really popular, well-liked, treated better by others, and that they may even get certain shortcuts in life because of their looks.
People also look up to people with money, not just because they are fascinated with the wealth they’ve acquired or how big their bank balance is, but because of what they associate with a person who has a lot of money. We usually believe when a person has a lot of money that they are also extremely independent, self-sufficient, have a big reputation, a higher social status, prestige, and the ability to make others happy by contributing to them through their wealth.
We associate all of these positive societal advantages to someone who has good looks and/or a lot of money. It makes us want to be around them or be more like them so we can enjoy the same perceived advantages.
Having a lot of wealth and being in your best physical shape are great things, and can lead to a lot of happiness and good things in life. There is nothing wrong with working hard to become very wealthy or working hard to get into the best physical shape of your life. Those are enhancements to your life, and you can enjoy and appreciate them.
I’m here to tell you today, however, that those two things are not everything, and that your self-worth has absolutely nothing to do with how you look and how much money you have.
I repeat, your self-worth has nothing to do with how you look and how much money you have.
Your self-worth comes from who you believe you are as a person. These beliefs should stem from your character, your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses, your skills, your determination, your drive, your sense of humor, your empathy, your contribution, your creativity – the list can go on.
Your self-worth as a person should be measured by the beliefs you have about yourself as a person.
If you have a lot of wealth or a great body and aesthetics to go with it, hey, those are cherries on top. Who doesn’t like cherries on top? But your self-worth stems from the belief you have about who you are as a person. Once you can look into your bank account, look yourself in the mirror, and realize that the two things you find in both places do not define who you are or your self-worth, you have set yourself free.
Too many of us are conditioned to believe that our self-worth is directly associated to those two factors, and most of the time these beliefs come from our own family and friends; not out of spite, but perhaps out of ignorance, prioritizing the wrong things, or possibly from a self-perpetuating cycle of self-confidence myths being passed on from generation to generation.
Aim for the highest and work hard to have financial freedom and look your best if you want. If pursued in healthy ways, these two areas can add to your life in incredible ways and bring lots of perks with them.
One thing I’ve learned, though, is that if you were a generally happy person before you had those two things, you’ll become an even happier person after you get them. If you were a miserable person before had those two things, you’ll most likely become an even more miserable person after getting them. Money and looks can only take you so far. They are not and never will be who you are. Remember that.
I want you to go out today and start living life, speaking up, taking action, and doing what you want, when you want regardless of how much money you have or how you believe you look. Continue to work towards your goals in both departments, but realize that your self-worth comes from only what you think about yourself, not what anyone else thinks of you.
Coaching Exercise 3: Do something today that you stopped yourself from doing because of the amount of money you have or because of how you believe you look. Remember that your self-worth only comes from what you believe about yourself. Do something bold today that is a reflection of this. C’mon now, make me proud!
4. “Building high self-confidence is a long process, and God knows how many years it’ll take me.”
A big myth is that developing high self-confidence takes many years, or even a lifetime to achieve. That’s just not true at all.
Honestly, it’s more about how frequently you perform certain actions that will be an indicator of how quickly you develop confidence.
For example, if you want to become more confident when talking to strangers in social settings, then you have to take the action and practice this often, especially when you don’t want to. If you do this 10 times in a row within a span of two weeks versus doing this 10 times over the span of an entire year, you’re much more likely to gain confidence in this area after two weeks in the first scenario and gain confidence after a whole year in the second scenario.
You see, some will say the length of time it’ll take you to become confident in a certain area is time dependent, but I came up with a different term to describe it better: frequency dependent. The number of times you take action on something you fear or are not confident in will determine how quickly you develop confidence in that area. Therefore confidence is frequency dependent and not necessarily time dependent.
Developing high levels of confidence in public speaking did not take me years; in fact, it was only a matter of a few months where it really exponentially catapulted, meaning my confidence levels in this area went from 45% to 95% (if I were to put a percentage on it). It was in my second year of college when I held an officer position for an organization that required me to get up in front of a group of people every two weeks and make announcements. By the six or seventh time doing this, it become so easy that I didn’t get nervous, and my confidence levels in this area soared.
If those six or seven announcements were spread out over the entire year however, it may have taken me a lot longer than just a few months to develop high confidence in this area.
Coaching Exercise 4: Make a plan today of an action you will take and write down 1. what you will do, and 2. how often you will do it. Whatever you’re planning on doing, I highly recommend that you do it at least once a month. The number of weeks, months, or years it may take you to develop high confidence in this area is relative to you, your current state of confidence, and the action you’re choosing to take, but if you stick to taking the action at least once a month you’ll get there sooner than later.
If you take the action daily or weekly then expect the wins to come in much faster! Before you know it, it’ll be time for a Confidence Party! ;)
5. “Some people were just born confident. I know I’ll never have that kind of confidence no matter how much I practice.”
How many of you have seen someone super confident walk into a room for the first time and just completely own it? Confidence oozes out of them, and you know they demand respect and get it!
When you saw this person you probably thought to yourself, “This person was probably born confident. It’s in their DNA. I can never be that confident no matter how hard I practice. They’re lucky.”
Guess what? Contrary to what some may believe, no one was born confident.
When a person is growing up it’s because of how they choose to react to things, or their choice to take action that determines their confidence levels. Just like all the factors we’ve discussed above, confidence comes from taking repetitive action and practicing a certain skill set over and over again.
You may have certain family members, friends, or coworkers who seem extremely confident, but I’ll bet you that they weren’t always that way. They were either forced to take action in certain areas or they chose to take action and build that confidence up over time.
Having the right mentors and support as a child can definitely help speed up the process of building self-confidence, but if you don’t really have that growing up it doesn’t mean you’re at a permanent disadvantage.
The good news is that confidence is something that you can develop and build at any age and in any area of your life. If you’re not there yet, you can decide today that you want to become the most confident version of yourself.
You can decide today that you’re going become that confident person who walks into a room and dominates it.
You can decide today that you’re going to become the most confident person among your family and friends.
It’s possible for you to become this person through a tiny shift in your mindset when you realize 1. change is possible, and 2. it happens by taking massive action.
Coaching Exercise 5: Think of one person you believe is extremely confident. Every time you interact with someone or go out, model this person and pretend to be as confident as him or her. It’s like the “fake it ‘till you make it” strategy. Don’t complicate it too much, just think and act how this person would in any social situation – even when you’re alone.
The more you do this, the more you will innately develop your own self-confidence. Very soon, you won’t be modeling anyone else, and will transition over to becoming the most confident version of you.
Years ago, I was extremely lean, but I had major body image issues, and would literally starve myself some days because I thought it would make me look leaner in certain clothes, and because of it, people would accept me more. I could barely speak up in a group of 3 people because I believed no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I would decide to be the “nice guy” rather than fully express my opinion for the fear of disagreeing with someone else.
I would allow myself to react to other people in negative and unhealthy ways. I was scared to walk into a gym because of what the other guys would think of me. I was too shy to ever think about approaching someone to pursue as a life partner.
Today, I can’t believe that guy was me. I still love that guy and I have absolutely no regrets, because I had plenty of wonderful times during those low self-confidence phases, filled with lots of loving family, friends, and blessings. But today I’m nothing like that guy.
Public speaking is one of the things I enjoy most. I love debating and expressing my opinion on controversial and intellectual topics, and I don’t care about disagreeing with someone because I do it in a respectful way.
I’m technically “overweight” in my recommended BMI right now, but I’ve never loved the way I look as much as I do today – I appreciate the muscle mass I’ve put on over the years, and when I look at myself in the mirror I love what I see. I know there’s work to do, and I want to improve, but I’m happy with how I look today.
I’m okay with not being the “nice guy” and disagreeing with others, because it’s a lot more important to just be real and to be myself – I’ve noticed people respect me more for it too.
I don’t’ immediately react to negative people anymore – I’m much more grounded and have enough self-respect to pick my battles.
I love going to the gym every day, seeing other guys of all sizes (bigger and smaller than me), and connecting with them because we’re all there for the same reason – to improve our health and fitness.
Over the years, I developed the self-confidence to show the “real me” to a girl and pursue her until she became my wife; she is truly the most beautiful woman in the world, inside and out – the woman who solidified my belief in love, soulmates, and a “happily ever after.”
By the grace of God, I have been able to do all of this because I chose to invest in myself through coaching, reading, practicing, and working hard on one area: my self-confidence. I know with the right guidance and strategies, you can achieve the same, if not better results.
Here’s wishing you a ton of success on your self-confidence journey.
Remember, you’re never alone on this path. I’m always here for you if you need me.
Now go out and put your unique dent in the universe. Much love.