In the workplace or in the classroom, there’s always that one person who seems to feel so sure of themselves. They always have the right answer, and they don’t hesitate to offer up their opinions or add to the conversation. Then there are those who, no matter how knowledgeable or practiced they might be, find the idea of speaking up terrifying.
The difference between these two people is rarely about talent or skill. Instead, what sets them apart is their confidence. As someone who has felt incredibly insecure in the past, it was important for me to learn that being confident doesn’t just happen. It’s a skill that’s built over time. Here’s what I’ve learned about becoming surer of myself.
Create a Case for Confidence
I’ve always been more critical of myself than anyone else possibly could be. Before I could learn to feel more confident, I needed to create a case for my abilities and knowledge. How did I do that, exactly? I worked on the evidence first.
In his book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear talks about changing personal identity by creating evidence of we want to be in the future. For me, this means engaging in actions that cause me to be nervous or anxious, like taking risks in my work or speaking up in conversations, and then taking notice of my success. These small wins, experienced over and over again, are evidence that I can be a confident person without falling flat on my face.
Expecting Confidence Setbacks
Criticism and failure are hard to face — so much so, that even as your confidence grows, you may feel as though you’re still faltering. Sometimes criticism for a small mistake rolls right off me. Other times, it creates a visceral response. I feel sick to my stomach, worried all this confidence was just a good show I was putting on.
Confidence setbacks or attacks of insecurity are normal. I’m learning to expect them, to be okay with them and then move on. Accepting setbacks as just another part of life can be huge in building your confidence. Consider: overcoming an obstacle is a win. And this is an obstacle.
False Pride and Confidence Aren’t the Same
It isn’t realistic or normal to feel sure of yourself in all areas of life. In my experience, false pride robs a person of true confidence because it keeps them from being honest about where they need to grow and improve.
Confidence is much different from being prideful because it’s built on hard work, accomplishment and improving your knowledge and skill set. Ditch showing off or bragging. Honor your talents enough to address mistakes and shortcomings with persistence, and the confidence will come, naturally.
I know now that confidence isn’t something humans are just born with — it’s nurtured over time. For some people, that begins in childhood. Others must do the work as adults, and that’s okay. It’s always possible to change and grow into a more whole version of yourself.
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