“I am not confident, what do I need to do to become more confident?” I get asked this question a lot. Here is how I respond…
Self-confidence is an inside job. Self-confident people are optimistic. Self-confident people face their fears and act. Self-confident people surround themselves with positive people. If you want to build your self-confidence, focus on becoming an optimist, facing your fears and surrounding yourself with positive people. Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.
Max More says optimism is “the fuel of heroes, the enemy of despair, the creator of the future”. Optimism is the opposite of pessimism, which Denis Boyle says is “as magnetic as any black hole, swallowing one good day after another until there are no good days left”. Read that sentence again. It’s great career advice for becoming more self-confident – avoid the black hole of pessimism.
In a very interesting article in the March/April 2007 edition of AARP, The Magazine (yes, I’m old enough to be a member), Mr. Boyle makes some great points about optimism and pessimism:
“The essential truth about optimism: the opportunities for it are everywhere. They just get ignored… Pessimism though, is the default state of our psyche, and the easy way out. We tell ourselves there is nothing we can do because life sucks, black holes abound, Murphy’s Law rules. Meanwhile, optimism takes effort. Despites tons of information provided by zealous pessimists, optimists believe everything will turn out fine. They are able to do something no pessimist can: they do their part to make sure tomorrow will be better than today. To subscribe to optimism means that you have a role in shaping your own future. Why is this important? Because it’s how stuff gets done. No successful individual could conduct business with a set of pessimistic assumptions… Work, progress, great ideas, all are fueled by optimism.”
I agree. I am an optimist. I admit that in these days of high unemployment and oil spills it can be difficult being optimistic, but I choose to be relentlessly optimistic. I believe every day is going to be a good day – and set about making it so. I believe I will succeed in every project I undertake. This optimism fuels my self-confidence, and my self-confidence drives my performance.
Tal Ben-Shahar teaches a course in Positive Psychology at Harvard. He had 800 students in his course last year. He offers the following three tips for becoming more optimistic:
- Give yourself permission to be human – don’t beat up yourself about mistakes.
- Express gratitude often.
- Engage in activities that give your life pleasure as well as meaning.
Fear is the enemy of self-confidence. It’s also very normal. We’re all afraid sometimes. Usually it’s a fear of failure. Fear can be debilitating, paralyzing us into inaction. Over the years, I’ve found how to face up to my fears and to conquer them. Indecision, procrastination and inaction feed fear. Action cures it.
Here are my four easy steps for dealing with fear.
- Identify it
- Admit it
- Accept it
- Take action to deal with it
In the post on Success Tweet 46, I discussed these four steps for dealing with fear in detail. Check it out if you missed it.
Surround yourself with positive people – people who are both positive by nature, and positive about their success in their life and career. Positive people are optimistic – and as I’ve discussed above, optimism is the first step in building self-confidence.
Positive people help you feel good about yourself, because they feel good about themselves and life in general. Positive people are there when you begin to doubt yourself. They help you build your self-esteem because they have a strong sense of self-esteem. People with a strong sense of self-esteem are not threatened by others. They realize that self-esteem is not a fixed pie. There is an unlimited amount of it to go around. Therefore, you can build your self-confidence just by being around upbeat, positive people.
Self-confident people take the time to identify and build relationships with mentors. Wikipedia defines a mentor as “a trusted friend, advisor, counselor or teacher; usually a more experienced person… Today mentors provide their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks.” Mentors are positive people by definition. You cannot be willing to lend your wisdom and expertise to another person without being hopeful about that person and his or her future.
I have had several mentors over my career: Bert Phillips, Maggie Watson, Dick Pelton, Bill Rankin, Howard Sohn, were all trusted friends and advisors at one time or another in my career. I believe that mentoring is so powerful that, as I turn 60, I am working with three mentors. Russell Brunson, Stephanie Frank, and Nancy Marmolejo are helping me turn the intellectual property that I have developed over the past 35 years into products that can be sold on line.
Mentors challenge you to do better. That’s why they are so important in building self-confidence. As they challenge you, they are also telling you that “you can do it”. Having someone who believes in you – like a mentor – is one of the best ways I know to build self-confidence.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people are self-confident. They understand the career advice in Tweet 56 in Success Tweets. “Self-confidence must come from within. Outside reinforcement and strokes can help, but you have to build your own confidence.” You can build your self-confidence by becoming an optimist, facing your fears and acting and surrounding yourself with positive people. Self-confidence is an inside job. You have to create it yourself. But once you do, you’ll find that it’s an upward spiral. Your confidence will inspire you to take on challenges. Your success in dealing with these challenges will help you become more confident – which in turn, will allow you to take on and meet even greater challenges.