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Having confidence in yourself opens new possibilities, gives you the courage to take opportunities as they appear, and increases your chances of succeeding at what you want to do. Unfortunately, as we make mistakes and fail at certain things (hey, none of us are perfect) and as other people shame and discourage us, we learn to fear failure, doubt our own abilities, and become constantly discouraged.
How do we gain more confidence? How do we gain the kind of courage that will let us become more successful in life? Here are three ways you can do just that.
First, a MAJOR disclaimer:
Confidence is NOT recklessness. True confidence is backed by knowledge and expertise and is a key to getting good results. Recklessness, on the other hand, comes from a place of ignorance and will usually lead to humiliation and disaster. In real world terms, confidence is the expert who has trained for decades to become a master and avoids trouble (but wins tournaments). Recklessness is the punk who acts tough, harasses people, and then gets
his ass kicked sent to the hospital.
How to Gain Confidence: 3 Principles You Can Learn Right Now
1. Gain Knowledge
Remember how you felt on your first day at a new school, your first day at a new job, or your first job interview? We usually feel nervous or anxious when we’re forced into unfamiliar situations like those, or when we need to do something we’ve never done before. While we can just jump into it and learn through trial and error, one way of gaining that first bit of confidence is by first studying how it’s done.
I remember how, when I was younger, I was actually scared of using the gas stove because I thought that I might cause a gas leak and burn the house down. When my mom showed me what knobs to turn and how to manually light the stove, I realized how easy it actually was, and I was then able to practice cooking by myself.
That’s the first way to gain confidence when trying something new. When someone shows us how it’s done, when we see that it’s safe and it’s possible for us, then we’re more likely to try it ourselves. You can use that to your advantage. If you want to try something new, try watching videos or reading about it first. Knowing how something is done may give you the courage and confidence to try it out.
2. Gain Expertise
Fear is one of the biggest killers of our confidence and ability to act. For example, if you have a crippling fear of heights and your job needs you to rappel off a helicopter or off the side of a building, will you be confident enough to do it? Most likely not.
So how do you conquer or at least manage your fear? Former FBI special agent and SWAT Team Commander Joe Navarro shared his experience about how he completed his FBI SWAT Rappel Master Course DESPITE his crippling fear of heights.
According to Joe, the training started with practicing 18 different knots so thoroughly that he and his fellow agents could do it with their eyes closed, and even underwater at night. Their lives depended on that skill after all. Their training progressed to climbing and rappelling, until they were rappelling down a six story building face up, face down, using only a carabiner or d-ring to control the descent, etc.
To Joe’s surprise, by the time he was confident in his knots, he found out that he wasn’t so scared of rappelling from great heights anymore. Thanks to so much practice in that controlled training program, he learned to manage his fear of heights.
Sometimes that’s what attenuating fear is all about: validating the fear and then managing it through step-by-step repetition and structured practice.— Joe Navarro, Be Exceptional
Want to be more confident in those situations? Learn about the thing you fear, and then slowly, in a safe environment, start learning it step by step, and practice. By the tenth, hundredth, or the thousandth time you do it, you’ll have true confidence. Why? Because you’ve become an expert at it! While the first timer will be nervous, you, the master, will have full confidence in what you do.
Nothing is difficult or easy in itself. You make it difficult or easy on yourself. There’s nothing you can’t learn to do, if you really want it. If you want to do it, nothing is difficult. If you don’t want to do it, nothing is easy.— Sifu Shi Yan Ming, The Shaolin Workout
3. Have Faith
Have you ever wanted to try something difficult, like quitting a job you hate, starting a side business, or even just trying to chat with that stranger you like? If you have, then you probably felt a certain amount of fear. If you’re like most people though, that fear could discourage you from even trying. How can you gain confidence in yourself for those kinds of situations?
William James once said that “our belief at the beginning of a doubtful undertaking is the one thing that insures the successful outcome of your venture.” There’s a whole lot of truth to that statement. After all, our performance improves when we believe we can succeed. On the other hand, we slow down, hesitate, and lose opportunities if we think we will fail.
How do we gain that type of confidence that comes from faith? One way is through putting our faith in a higher power.
Disclaimer: I’ll be using Christian methods here, but you should be able to use the same principle regardless of your religion. Put your faith in a force greater than yourself (God, Allah, the Tao, the Universe, Karma, etc.).
Florence Scovel Shinn said that you should look out for that positive statement that “clicks” in your mind. The one that gives you realization, confidence, and faith. Keep repeating it until you feel the burden of fear and doubt leaving, especially when you need a boost of confidence. Here are some bible verses I found featured in several self-help books:
- “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:24)
- “If you have faith… nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20)
- “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
- “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Have faith. “Throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow,” said a famous trapeze artist in Norman Vincent Peale’s book. Give yourself that mental boost, and just jump right in! Make that call. Send that email. Drop by the front desk and ask. If they say no, then this opportunity simply wasn’t the right one. There will ALWAYS be others when you keep looking. In fact, this may not even be the path that’s good for you in life and there might be something better. Whatever the case, have faith in the fact that it will all work out well for you in the end.
Fear is the most powerful of all thoughts with one exception, and that exception is faith. Faith can always overcome fear. Faith is the one power against which fear cannot stand. Day by day, as you fill your mind with faith, there will ultimately be no room left for fear.— Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking
When you gain confidence, both in yourself and in a higher power, you’ll become better at finding and using opportunities as well as in persevering through adversity. After all, who can stop you from achieving what you want when you believe that you can eventually succeed, right?
- Gain knowledge. You’ll eliminate the fear of the unknown and you’ll find courage to make the attempt because you already know what you’re getting into.
- Train to be an expert. Spend time on deliberate and controlled practice, and by the time you’ve become a master, you’ll have the confidence of one.
- Find faith in something greater than yourself. Remember that no matter what happens, as long as you have faith, then everything will work out just fine.
While it’ll be difficult to undo decades of discouragement and become instantly confident, these three lessons should show you some principles on how you can get started. It’ll take a bit of work, but if you make the effort, the rewards will definitely be worth it.
In any case, we’ll end here for now. I hope you enjoyed learning from this article and found these lessons useful. If you want to learn more, try reading these books that we recommend below!