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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Build Confidence From Scratch

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How to Build Confidence From Scratch

Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie “The Eagle” is a British skier whom no one believed in before he made it to the Olympics.

Eddie was slightly overweight, extremely far sighted (he wore thick glasses) and trained in second hand equipment. At times he even stayed in a Finnish mental hospital because he couldn’t afford genuine accommodation. Many people came to doubt his ability as a skier.  If he didn’t have confidence in himself, he could never have endured all this, and never would have made it to the Olympics; which he did, and became internationally loved as a figurehead and emblem of the Olympic spirit.

When I think about all the great people like Eddie, who achieved greatness through their confidence, I wonder where it came from. I don’t think confidence came naturally to them. It didn’t come naturally to me.

If confidence doesn’t come naturally, where is it from?

When I was a small child, before attending school I remember my friends and I seemed almost limitless in confidence.  We lived fearlessly. Though all our lives were open to us, we never looked forward and worried. We had not collected any regrets.  I remember nobody seemed more confident than anyone else, nobody carried themselves as superior.

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All this changed at school. In school, competition is entrenched. It didn’t matter what we did or studied, whether we studied English, Art, P.E, some naturally stuck out, scored better and were rewarded for it. Our conduct at school even separated us. This in turn seemed to affect self confidence.

I was never a straight-a student. My grades were good but not great. I was never one of the kids rewarded for some high grade or performance, and never had their levels of self esteem.

Confidence for me came later.

In high school, I discovered my passion for technology. I loved writing code (I still do) and each successful program I wrote, each line of effective code was rewarding to me in a way I never felt before. Each time something didn’t work, or when I came across a difficult bug to overcome, I was presented with an exciting challenge. I received no praise in school for it, no accolades, but that didn’t matter. I was doing what I loved, and every time after solving a difficult coding problem, my confidence grew.

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Here I discovered something that changed my entire outlook on confidence and ability.  Self confidence can never be found outside.  It is something that only comes from you.  No matter how much you look, or where you look, no matter how much praise you do or don’t get, you will never find confidence unless it comes from within.

Confidence came from working though difficulties, making myself work on challenging pieces. It didn’t seem to matter if I succeeded or failed (but I’ve long known that even if you fail a hundred times, you will succeed if you are able to keep trying). I only needed to keep pushing myself and confidence grew as a result.

Confidence comes when challenges are overcome

When struggles are overcome, it feels good, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction. From this satisfaction comes confidence.

Perhaps you have an unhealthy lifestyle and losing weight, doing exercises and going on diets are the difficult things for you.  Perhaps, you are shy. Delivering a talk in front of a large audience will then be something difficult to you. Or perhaps you are a perfectionist, then embracing mistakes will be the most difficult thing for you.

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No matter what it might be, you probably felt proud, strong, and sure in your abilities once you overcame that obstacle.  That is the true feeling of confidence earned through effort and experience.

Confidence grows from doubt and criticism

There will be setbacks and disappointments. There will be failures because many breakthroughs require trial and error.  There will be criticisms because everyone is far from perfect at the very beginning.

When I first started Lifehack, it took a long time to gain readers. It took me a while to get 100 visitors. This was difficult for me because I had great ambitions for this site, and for a time it seemed doomed to fail. I received plenty of criticism.  Some thought that the world didn’t need another advice site, others thought there was something wrong with the idea itself. It was hard for me not to listen to them and agree.

But in the end, I believed in my dream and persisted.  I tweaked the layout, reconsidered how the articles would be structured and written. Made the site more user friendly. The team grew with the hiring of some extremely dynamic and talented people.  With each determined effort, the site grew in popularity, and a few years later we have now influenced millions.

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Pushing out of my comfort zone and getting past the most difficult challenges were the greatest factors in growing my confidence.

Pushing yourself through is tough, I’m not denying that.  They wouldn’t be called “challenges” if it were otherwise. But there is a quote by Churchill that I think about whenever I am faced with new ones, a quote that I feel related to everything I’ve written about above:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

Some people avoid challenges.  Perhaps they may have failed at something one too many times, perhaps they’ve been told that they lack something needed to succeed. Instead they rely on stability, coasting through life.  This can be fine for them, but ultimately its restrictive.  They will never grow in confidence, and their fear of failure will become so powerful that will give up before seeing success.

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The key to self confidence is to face every challenge head on.  With every challenge you face and overcome, your confidence will grow to face the next.  Welcome the challenges that come, don’t avoid them.  They are all opportunities in disguise to feed your growth.

Featured photo credit: Eddie the Eagle via foxmovies.com

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 8, 2021

7 Ways to Eliminate Your Excuses

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7 Ways to Eliminate Your Excuses

I have this friend. She uses excuses to get out of everything related to being a responsible adult (and I mean everything!). The worst part is, she’s been doing this for so long, excuses are now a deeply embedded part of her personality.

I used to gently nudge her toward ways to solve her excuses so she’d stop holding herself back, but she has the market cornered. Seriously, it’s an impenetrable force field. Her life isn’t at all how she wants it to be, and instead of taking responsibility for it, she pulls out her scroll of excuses and reads out the section called “Reasons Why Nothing Is My Fault.”

Truthfully, I’d have more respect for her if she were to just come out with it and say, “I’m not doing this or that because I’m too lazy.” Let’s face facts: if she wanted her picture-perfect lifestyle badly enough, she’d do anything to get it.

Why do I bother with her? Because at one time, I was her: ambitious, motivated, determined, but when things weren’t going how I wanted them to I was suddenly a victim of my environment. This led to years of spinning my tires. My excuses were always there to break my fall… until they weren’t. Like my friend, I was participating in a blind game of self-sabotage that led to my life turning out exactly how I swore it never would.

Like all bad habits, excuses are easy. They allow you to box yourself into your comfort zone and be “okay” with your life. After a while, you’ll find this way of living isn’t enough for you. You can either accept where your life is (which is the excuse-coated version of “give up”), or you can eliminate your excuses by taking responsibility for where you are now and more importantly, why you created the excuses in the first place.

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So what’ll it be? Yeah, I thought so. To help you get started, here are 7 ways to eliminate your excuses:

1. Read Between the Lines

Usually, the excuse you’re using is masking the real reason why you “can’t” accomplish something. For some, it’s a fear of failure. For others, it’s a self-esteem issue. For others still, it’s a fear of success or having something to lose.

If you’re unsure of where the excuses are coming from, simply ask yourself: if you were to succeed and accomplish what you want, what’s the worst thing that could happen? List off every worst case scenario, and you’ll likely recognize a theme. This is the issue to tackle.

2. Stop Ending Your Statements with a “But…”

This is a little trick I use that works every time: instead of saying “I’d really like to, but…”, cut yourself off and say “I’d really like to.” This triggers your mind to focus on the plans you need to make to reach your goals, instead of the roadblocks currently in your way. Instant motivation!

3. Avoid Other “Excusers”

One of the big things I noticed once I began stepping out of my comfort zone was the number of people in my life who were also making excuses. So many excuses, in fact, that looking back on our conversations together, we were always complaining and excusing! Imagine if we instead put all of that time into doing!

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Like you, those you spend time with might not realize they’re making excuses, and trust me you can point it out all you want – it’s a realization everyone has to come to on their own before they can change. Jump start a new conversation; be the one who changes the tune. If you eliminate your excuses, you’ll likely encourage those you care about to do the same.

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4. Trick Yourself

Depending on your goals, sometimes just thinking about them is overwhelming. This is especially the case with enormous goals, such as succeeding in a challenging career or building a business from the ground up. It’s too easy to become so overwhelmed you don’t get started at all.

Eliminate your excuses by creating the mother of all to-do lists as it relates to that specific goal. Break it down into itty bitty baby steps. Only work on one tiny step at a time, and hide the rest of the steps in a drawer. When you’re done the step, it doesn’t feel like it was such a big deal. Then move onto the next, and the next. This worked wonders for me when I started working on my first screenplay while simultaneously recovering from adrenal fatigue. Now, I’m able to work on it regularly—and comfortably—without a list at all.

Soon, you’ll look back on all of your tiny steps and will be amazed at your progress!

5. Build Excuse-Free Habits

As they say, “Feel the fear, but do it anyway.” Recognize the excuses you’re making, own up to them, and do what you want to do regardless of what you think is holding you back. Yes, it’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s one thing to say you have control of your life and another to take control.

Building these habits is difficult, and sometimes painful in the moment, but afterward you feel refreshed and indescribably proud of yourself. So much so, you’ll want to set your next challenge right away. It’s an addictive practice once you get started! Make testing your limits fun and enjoy the process on your own terms.

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6. Use Your Excuses As Signals

Once you recognize your excuses for what they are, you can begin using them to your advantage. Consider your excuses a signal to a deeper underlying problem. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with what makes you tick. Each time you find yourself making an excuse, look into it further, find the true cause and work toward moving past it. The more you practice this, the less you’ll hold yourself back from your full potential.

7. Trust the Process

There are times when you sincerely want to do something, but there are aspects of your schedule/lifestyle/workload that hugely conflict with what you want. In these instances, you’re not in denial or making excuses, you’re simply examining the roadblocks that are in your way. It’s when you allow these roadblocks to stay in place that they become excuses.

Oddly enough, it’s when something’s really important to us that we start layering on the excuses. If you immediately turn to a proactive attitude when these situations arise, and trust yourself to think of a solution, you won’t have to eliminate your excuses – you won’t be able to find one.

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