Shameful self-doubt, a crippling fear of failure, and an overall lack of confidence in one’s ability contribute to society is pretty much the most dangerous combination of attributes a person can have if they want to live a happy and fulfilling life.
You can thank your amygdala for providing you with all of those fearful, anxious, and totally-unsure-of-yourself feelings that plague you in certain situations.
The amygdala is an almond-shaped part of the brain that involves a lot of your emotions related to survival, and also acts as an alarm for your body when it senses danger.
In other words, your lack of confidence stems from the fears and anxieties being processed by that almond thing in your head — and that probably helps to explain why certain people are more confident in themselves and less fearful overall than others.
For people like me, who have an overly sensitive brain almond, “being confident” is just about the hardest thing ever.
But in my quest to make my life not suck so much, I’ve invested both time and money into exploring the art of being a confident person (and I have a long way to go).
Bear with me here as I dive into some of the real shit that’s actually true about building confidence, even if you’ve never taken a real risk in your entire life.
1. People lack confidence because they want certainty.
When you break it down, the underlying reason why people struggle with being confident is because they want to know for absolute certain that everything is going to turn out alright.
They focus on the “what ifs” and the millions of tiny things that could go wrong and the expectations of others and the self-comparisons to all the other wildly successful people.
Uncertainty is the explanation why even the most wildly successful and talented people lose confidence in themselves from time to time.
It’s crazy when you hear your favourite public speaker or actor or singer say that they were nervous about a performance, isn’t it?
It’s because they want certainty in knowing that they can do their best again.
How do you beat that?
How do you find confidence when you can’t look into the future and know for certain what’s going to happen?
There’s no easy answer, but really the best thing you can do to build confidence is to prepare yourself as much as you can for what you need to do, and focus on your strengths and past positive experiences.
I know it’s easy to focus on that one presentation from back in grade school when your pit stains could be seen from space, or that one first kiss with your high school crush when you were so nervous you burped in his mouth.
We focus too much on the bad stuff that happened to us, and that’s exactly what just feeds our self-consciousness.
You need to divert your mind to focus on all the times you succeeded instead.
Recognizing your past accomplishments and unique skills will put you on the path that will bring you closer to certainty.
Guess what else people do?
2. People don’t just have confidence — they generate it.
This comes from a very well known quote from my favourite motivational speaker, Brendon Burchard.
He always uses the metaphor, “the power plant doesn’t have energy — it generates it.”
Most of us never even realize that our happiness, our motivation, and our confidence doesn’t just come out of nowhere.
But we spend our time wishing and waiting for it to happen anyway.
“I’m not feeling happy / motivated / confident enough to do the thing today, so I won’t.”
Talking yourself out of doing something is a lot easier than forcing your mind to think the exact opposite, and then do it.
It’s like we expect the universe to just give us our mojo, so we take the easy way out when we don’t get it.
If you want something, you better start acting like you want it.
So start acting confident even if you feel like a pile of poo not even the hungriest dung beetle would want.
It’s like that old saying goes, “fake it til you make it” — but to be more specific in this case, you really only need to fake it until your mind and body start believing you.
Simply telling yourself that you’re confident AND acting confident will give you the momentum you need to actually be confident.
It feels silly and dumb at first, and it sure does take practice, but it works.
What if you’re worried about what people think of you as you try to level up on your confidence?
Well, I hate to break it to you, but…
3. People don’t care about you or your problems as much as you think they do — they care about themselves.
Okay, that’s a bit harsh.
Of course people care about you.
What I mean to say is that you may be so self-absorbed about your own problems and other people noticing them and judging you for it, when in reality, they really don’t care that much.
Think about it.
How many times have you worried about how your hair looks?
Probably once in a while, I bet.
How many times have you worried about how other people’s hair look?
Um, probably almost never.
You don’t care about other people’s bad hair days, you care about your own bad hair days.
Switch that perspective around and you realize that other people don’t know or care that you’re having a bad hair day because obviously they’re too preoccupied with how their own hair looks.
DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN?
This exact same scenario can be applied to pretty much every little trivial thing you’re so self-conscious about, from worrying about whether you’re smart enough for a work-related project to wondering if anyone noticed that your shoes don’t exactly match your belt.
And even if you do become the target of bad gossip, guess what?
It’s still not really about you, even if the nastiest chick at work is throwing shade and spreading rumours all about you left and right.
On the surface it always seems as though you’re the real problem, but when you dig deeper you realize the truth is that people only gossip about other people to feel better about themselves by making those other people look bad, and that’s all there is to it.
It’s always about them.
Confident, happy people don’t bash other people mainly because a) they’re truly comfortable with themselves without all the toxic, gossipy self-reassurance, and b) they don’t waste energy on people they don’t agree with or like being around.
So, now that you can breathe a big sigh of relief knowing that people aren’t judging you as badly as you think because they’re more interested in their own lives than they’ll ever be in you (sorry, but it’s true), you’re probably still wondering about that common problem that almost everyone seems to struggle with at times, and that’s the right thing to say.
What the hell do you say to people not only without looking like a fool, but also without worrying so much that you’ll look like a fool?
Okay, so, let’s take a second to think about what a self-conscious or shy person might talk about.
They’d probably mumble something about the weather or try to avoid conversation all together by looking at their phone.
What do people say when they seem comfortable with themselves and with you and with the entire situation that’s going on?
Well, they definitely don’t talk about themselves — those people are either arrogant or just trying really hard to hide their self-consciousness.
Rather, they ask questions about other people.
4. Other people see you as a truly confident person when you show genuine interest in them — by asking them questions!
I could tell you to just go ahead and read Dale Carnegie’s acclaimed How to Win Friends & Influence People, but I won’t because this isn’t anything that complex.
Remember how you just realized that people are definitely more interested in themselves than they are in you?
It’s even true when it comes to making an impression on people through conversation.
People like to talk about themselves, or the things they know, or the things they do.
You automatically become likeable when you show interest in someone (by asking them questions).
Try to think back to the last time you met someone who asked you questions in a casual conversation — whether it was a person who eventually became a close friend, or just a random cashier at the grocery store.
Unless they didn’t ask you something really uncomfortable (like about your recent divorce or your dead dog) then you probably warmed up to them pretty quickly.
Not only that, but your experience meeting them probably remained pleasant and memorable.
You tend to remember people who took interest in you, and you probably ended up liking them too.
So, how do you even become that type of person?
All you really need is a handful or so of some good questions to ask.
Here are 10 really basic questions you could ask someone you just met in almost any social situation:
- How did you find out about [thing or activity or event]?
- Are you having a good time?
- What’s been your favourite part of [thing or activity or event] so far?
- What made you decide to attend or do [thing or activity or event]?
- What do you do for a living?
- That’s really interesting, how long have you been doing that?
- Do you have any other favourite hobbies?
- Do you have any kids?
- Do you know [person’s name]?
- Wow, I know [person’s name] too, how do you know them?
Build off their answers with even more questions to keep the flow going.
This probably sounds a lot like Socialization 101, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this when they really want to make a great impression and come off as a confident, friendly person.
Don’t equate confidence with talking about yourself, because not only do people not care, but you also end up either coming off as even more self-conscious (and seeking approval), or just completely arrogant.
Always ask questions.
And don’t forget to pay attention to your body language.
You won’t do yourself any favours by asking a stranger you just met how they like the appetizer that was just served if you’re avoiding eye contact and crossing your arms and speaking quietly the whole time.
5. You owe it to the world to be confident.
Here’s something you don’t hear every day: being confident isn’t really about you.
It’s about taking responsibility with your role in society so you can help other people feel cared about and as comfortable as possible around you.
Because guess what?
REALITY CHECK: When other people notice you lack confidence, they feel uncomfortable around you.
Admit it, you know a self-conscious person when you see one, and they’re not exactly the most pleasant people to be around.
As soon as people sense that a person is really self-conscious, they feel like they have to protect that person’s feelings in some way by altering their conversation or attitude or something.
You’ve probably seen it happen or maybe you experienced it yourself possibly with someone else who was acting shy around you.
Take a moment and try to think of a person from school or work who seemed visibly nervous or shy around everyone else.
Whoever it was, their lack of confidence most likely made you and others feel pretty uncomfortable, and you or someone else may have even tried to rescue them by going out of their way to include them in whatever was going on in hopes of making them feel better.
So remember, it’s not about you — it’s about your role and relationships in this world with other people.
Too many people mistake their lack of confidence for being just their problem that affects them only, like a curse they were born with.
But it’s totally up to you to fix it, and yes, it is fixable, because other people are counting on you to be awesome.
You don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable around you, do you?
Of course you don’t.
Go ahead and save this URL or bookmark this page somehow to re-read every time you’re feeling bad about yourself or intimidated by what other people might think of you.
Take those feelings and work hard to turn them around, because you are what you think you are — and that should be great person who’s pleasant to be around and confident in themselves.
You don’t need to gloat in order to manifest it, nor do you need to be liked by everyone in the entire world.
All it takes is a change in mindset, a course of action, and the willingness to care about other people.
More on the topic of confidence in future posts coming soon.
Photo via Steve Straiton
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- How to align your mind to get exactly what you want - April 3, 2016
- Why we’re so bad at sticking to good habits (and what to do about it) - March 19, 2016
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