Jump to the following topics:
- What is self-confidence?
- The benefits from self-confidence.
- Techniques for developing self-confidence.
What is self-confidence? It is a belief that we have a fundamental ability to manage our lives. We believe in ourselves. We trust our basic tools: our mind (as an accurate processor of facts and reality), our emotions (as authentic expressions of who we are), and our actions (as effective instruments to fulfill our needs and desires). Even if we encounter obstacles and our own shortcomings, we know that we can attain attainable goals after we get the necessary skills and knowledge.
- We are more productive, because we pursue tasks without the distractions of unnecessary doubt and fear. We are more assertive, because we feel that our life is legitimate, so therefore our demands must also be legitimate. We contribute our opinions and actions because we feel that we have something worthwhile to add. We believe that we can conduct all aspects of our life, so we take responsibility for them; this gives us control over them, and makes us less dependent on other people. The resulting autonomy makes us attractive in social situations and in the job market; people know that our self-confidence will make us expressive and dynamic rather than passive and needy. Self-confidence gives us courage. We believe in our innate capacity to succeed in whatever we attempt, so we try new adventures, and we are creative. We see life as a series of opportunities which are within our capabilities, rather than a series of overwhelming crises. Even if we fail in an undertaking, self-confidence retains our sense of general competence -- and it lets us believe that we can do better next time, so we are motivated to learn from the mistakes that caused that failure, and then try again; the result is that we will do better next time. Without self-confidence, we might not try again at all.
- We can base our self-confidence on reality. Self-confidence has a potential for self-deception and self-destruction when we say, "I can do anything I set my mind to." This myth exists because it comes true for certain people who set particular reachable goals, but it might imply that self-confidence is all that we need; this leads to overconfidence. Certain aspirations require tremendous resources of money, time, patience, technical abilities, determination, talent, intelligence, psychological skills, social dexterity, and so on. We can acquire some of those resources to reach the goal, but we need to be realistic about other factors before we invest our self-confidence. For example, at my age, I will never become the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, no matter how much I "set my mind to it."
- Justify the self-confidence. Self-confidence is a belief in our fundamental capability, but it isn't enough to assure success; some people are more "sure of themselves" than they have a right to be. For example, self-confidence might deceive a job interviewer, but we will flounder (and be fired) if we don't have the abilities which we claimed. In any given situation, if we don't have the resources mentioned earlier (including intelligence and talent), our self-confidence is empty and foolish.
- Develop self-confidence by looking at the successes. The way to strengthen our belief that we are capable of success is by looking at our past successes; our capability is a historical fact. We make a mental note of everything that works out for us, and we acknowledge our good feeling about those events. Because self-confidence is strengthened every time we recognize success, we need to notice it whenever it occurs -- not just in major accomplishments, but in every occasion in which we intend an action and competently follow through, whether we "successfully" drove to work, or washed our dishes, or made our children happy.
- Develop self-confidence by creating attainable goals. Self-confidence is fortified whenever we achieve goals, so the goals we create must be ones which present an appropriate amount of challenge. If our goals are unrealistically high, we fail and then have to perform damage-repair on our self-confidence. But if our goals are too low, we are telling ourselves that we lack competence and, again, our self-confidence is injured.
- Be with people who believe in you. While we are telling ourselves about our competence, we can find other people who will tell us the same things. These "cheerleaders" encourage us to reach for success, and they support us and motivate us.
- Express your self-confidence. When we act self-confident, we gain people's trust; we are someone who can manage life with poise and effectiveness. We show our self-confidence by acting comfortable and relaxed, using body language which is expressive and assertive (not defensive or aggressive), talking about ourselves as if we are capable, and showing a warm smile and a firm handshake.