What is Confidence? How Do We Get Confidence?

Man Striking a Pose of High Confidence

When I made a decision several years ago to learn how to be more confident, I struggled with it.  The first problem I encountered was just trying to define what confidence is.  Naturally, I turned to the biggest resource I know, the Internet.  Yet, almost every website I visited contained a fuzzy definition on exactly what this abstract term is.  Through trial-and-error, and the collaboration of numerous sources of information, I think I finally understand what confidence is.

Confidence is self-assuredness and self–assurance.  It is knowing with a high degree of certainty that you are correct about something.  For instance, you could be confident in navigating yourself in and out of a computer, but be totally clueless when it comes to social situations.  So, confidence in one thing hardly means confidence in another.  Confidence, as most people think of it, is a general assuredness in oneself.  It is easy to see a confident man.  His posture is good.  His voice is booming.  His actions are deliberate and concise.  He dresses well.  He conveys a sense that he knows what he is doing.  Others look to him for information and guidance.  He has become a de facto leader.

How then do we become that man? In order to be a confident man, we must build up several factors in our lives.  In no particular order, they would be social, career, mind, and body.

To be able to talk to almost anybody, make him or her feel at-ease, and as if you two are old friends is a skill set that certainly can be learned.  To have a wide network of acquaintances is beneficial to one’s emotional and mental health.  People who are socially active tend to be happy people.  It is always easier to find a job through people you know rather than what you know.  Hobbies are a favorite context of mind in which to make new friends.  Join a photography club.  Better yet, do something physical and save yourself from having to go to the gym.  Go hiking with friends.  A commonality of likes is a good way to make new friends and to build up your social circle.  To be able to talk to almost anyone is a good skill to have.  You might use it to market your skills, your own business, or even meet your future spouse.

To move ahead in your career, you will of course need to continually improve your skills.  Confidence in one’s skills increases his chances of being promoted, getting a pay raise, or getting the more interesting projects.  Continue to network, even if you are employed.  Maintaining a social network of friends is beneficial to the mind, too.  Be nice to people above and below you.  After all, your subordinate now could end up being your superior later.

Learn to be grateful and happy for the things you currently have.  As humans, we evolved with a survivability instinct.  We are always conscious of lack and danger rather than abundance and joy.  Rather than focusing on the negative, start by being grateful and thankful for the sandwich you have for lunch, the coffee at 3 PM, the walk around the block, and good health.  Every night, when you have 10 seconds, list out five things from today for which you are grateful.  I am grateful for the tasty green tea I brewed to bring to work.  I am grateful for the exercise on the elliptical today that helped with my back pain.  I am grateful for the Italian squash and chicken leg meat, served over a plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce.  I am grateful that Apple finally released iOS 7.  I am grateful for the ice cream I had for desert.  Notice how simple my list is.  Keep yours the same way.  Be grateful for the little things, for they bring the most joy.

By changing how you think, you will change how you feel.

The mind-body connection is important in the path towards improving confidence.  Take care of the body, too, through exercise and eating a well-balanced diet.  Put on muscles and lose weight.  You’ll not only look better, but also feel better.  With this comes a biofeedback mechanism of the mind following the body, just like you feel taller and more confident whenever you stand up straight or strut your stuff as you walk.  Take a class in martial arts.  Being fit lets you know you can take care of whatever trouble comes your way.  Your body language will unconsciously change as you become more self-assured of your skills.  In time, you appearing confident will cause you to be confident.  To an extent, the old saying has some truth to it: Fake it until you make it.

Update your fashion.  Dressing well shows the world that you have good self-esteem, respect yourself, and respect people around you.

One common theme, a common thread that runs through everything I just discussed is the importance of putting yourself out there and doing things.  Only by doing things do we get experience.  Only through experience do we start to become more self-assured of our own skills and abilities.  In time, we gain confidence.  My father was essentially absentee when I was growing up.  By the time I was a young adult, I had very little experience with the real world.  I was also very shy.  It would take several more years after I started my career and making money before I learned to overcome my fears and start to do things by myself, things that would help me gain experience and help me become more self-assured.  These things led to the fascinating side-effect of building my confidence.  A lot of the fear of putting myself out there and learning to do things comes from lack of knowledge on how to actually go do those things.  It’s an interesting situation.  I wanted to learn how to do something.  Yet, I was unsure how or where to start.  This is where finding local clubs are helpful.  They have people that will help you get started, in most cases even provide equipment so you can try it to see if it is something you might enjoy.  The other motivating factor that finally led me to going out and doing things by myself is I finally realized that if I wanted for someone to take me by the hand and show me, that I would be waiting for a very long time.   Most people have the same angst and fears, so they might be waiting for you to show them, too!

Confidence in the most general of terms is a self-assured quality that you convey to people around you, mainly through your body language and actions.  It could be a perception, something you are good at mimicking, though I strongly suggest against it.  It would be very obvious that you are faking it when your actions and words are in conflict with one another.  Confidence comes with time.  When you do speak on a topic of which you are passionate, such as a hobby, you speak with great authority because you come from a place of knowledge.  You got out there and just did it, even though you failed a bunch of times.  Failure is a good thing.  Look at it as a process, as building experience.  Laugh and shrug it off.  After all, it is through failure that we gain insight into corrective action.  Through corrective action, we build up a wealth of knowledge.  Through a body of knowledge, we become more self-assured.  In time, we become confident of our skills.

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