The Top Three Myths about Self-Confident People – and how to use this knowledge to get more confident yourself!
Myth One: There’s such a thing as a ‘Confident Person’
Yes, the whole idea of being ‘confident’ or ‘unconfident’ is not true! In actuality, confidence varies according to whatever we’re doing. It also changes within people over the course of their lifetime. As a really simple example, when you were a baby learning to walk you weren’t yet a confident walker – but as an adult, you probably are (unless you’ve got health problems). All of us are confident in some areas, and not confident in others. So why do we believe this myth?
Well firstly, if you describe yourself as confident, the myth is really helpful to you! Believing you’re “a confident person” means you go into social situations, new experiences, and activities outside your comfort zone with the mindset that you’ll be okay, and this helps you to be okay. So the myth helps some people.
Secondly, our brains are lazy. It’s much easier to say to ourselves ‘I’m not a confident person’ rather than to be specific and say, ‘I’m not confident talking at big parties, but I’m confident when talking to my kids, and I’m semi-confident at speaking up at work meetings if I know everyone there and I’m pretty confident talking in the lunch room even though…’ That’s exhausting! So we tend not to focus on the truth, and instead say something that’s simpler, but not really accurate.
Thirdly, if you tend to think of yourself as ‘not a confident person’ then it’s likely you make this judgement by comparing yourself to other, seemingly more confident people. No matter what area of life we’re talking about, if all you do is compare yourself to people who are better than you at it, you’ll begin to feel terrible. Stop that!
“No matter what area of your life you choose, if all you do is compare yourself to people who are better than you in that area, you’ll end up feeling terrible.”
If it’s an area you’re working to improve, it’s much better to compare yourself to you last week than to focus on other people. If you simply can’t help yourself, find people you are less confident to you to compare yourself to. That way you’ll begin to feel like you are a confident person. This is a very simple trick that you can use in any area of your life to instantly change your feelings: if you’re feeling down, look for someone worse off to compare yourself to and you’ll feel better. If you’re feeling arrogant, compare yourself to someone better than you and you’ll soon be back to humility!
Myth Two: Confidence comes from having high self-esteem
Wrong! Confidence comes from the way we interpret our early failures in a particular area. Confidence is associated with failure, not what we usually associate with high self-esteem!
This is because it's easy enough to feel good when you go into a situation and experience success, and if you enjoy it as well it’s likely you’ll continue to go back to that activity (at least until it gets hard and you experience a failure).
But what about when you go into a new situation and fail? There are two possible responses. The first is to assume that the failure means you shouldn’t continue. To assume the activity isn’t right for you because you don’t have ability in that area. The trouble with this is that it takes power away from you. It doesn’t matter if you like the activity or not, you won’t continue with it if you’re not successful.
The second response is to not see failure as a reason to stop. This is what separates a confident person (in that area) from an unconfident one. If you enjoy an activity, but aren’t good at it to begin with, you can learn from your mistakes. You can learn what skills you might need to practise. You can learn that even if you fail at first, it’s okay to continue if you like the activity. You can continue to do the activity just because you like it, even if you’ll never be good at it (hello, me and drawing!).
A confident person doesn’t let the results decide for them. If they like the activity, they keep going regardless. Because they like the activity it’s easy to keep practising until they get success, or until the sting of failure fades (those people who sing off key at the top of their lungs at parties, I’m looking at you!). Keeping going is what builds self-esteem – because a strong sense of self comes from feeling powerful, rather than pushed around by circumstances/ ability/etc.
So while confidence is associated with having a positive sense of self, the relationship is backwards. You practice confidence (which is simply the ability to keep going despite adversity) first, and then a positive sense of self naturally follows this.
Practising confidence like this leads to being free to pursue what you like, not matter what other people say or whether you’re ‘good enough’ at it. This is a powerful way to live. In fact, it’s how you get satisfaction in life. Not from only doing things that are easy, but by doing what you like, regardless of if it’s easy or not. That way, you get to follow your heart, you get to live your values.
So don’t let failure push you around! Yes it hurts, but don’t let it stop you from doing what you love/ enjoy. Not doing what you’d like to do for fear of failure hurts so much more than failure itself.
Myth Three: Confident people know what they want
It may look that way, but as mentioned above, when starting out in a new situation, confident people don’t know any more about what they want than you do. However, their ability to keep going if they enjoy the activity, despite early failures, means that they become clear on what they like and don’t like, because this feature stands out more to them than focusing on their success/ failure. Confident people don’t limit themselves to only continuing with what they’re good at.
Over time, this means that confident people work out what they value in life, what’s most important to them. And through the application of confident behaviour, pursuing their dreams/values/goals despite what comes up at them, they come to know not only what they truly want – they very often they reach goals that seem unattainable to other people along the way.
Start Being More Confident
Try the tips below to become more confident, fast!
* Stop comparing yourself to people better than you. Compare yourself to your past performance if you’re actively trying to improve. If you must compare, find someone worse off than you to compare to (it’s just in your head, so don’t worry that it’s mean to do so!)
* Start being more specific. Instead of saying ‘I’m not a confident person’ rephrase your words/ thoughts to be specific ‘I’m not a confident person when …riding/ speaking to strangers/marketing myself’.
* Bonus tip: Follow up your 'I'm not confident...' with something you are good at to boost your confidence in that situation. For example, ‘I’m not a confident person when riding, but I’m very confident when cooking.’
* Bonus bonus tip: Follow up 'I'm not confident...' with words that show what you’re doing to become more confident. For example, ‘I’m not a confident person when riding, and I’m working on that by practising three times a week’.
* Pursue what you love, like and enjoy, even if it’s difficult. Confidence comes from learning to handle and/or overcome failure, not from avoiding it.
* Keep pursuing what you like until you find your passions, your values, your reasons for living. The things that you will keep going for even when it’s difficult to do so. Keep practising what you value and watch your confidence grow as you learn how to handles mistakes, failures, etc. in an area of life which really matters to you.
Has lack of confidence become a bad habit, a limiting belief, or swallowed your whole identity? I work with people to improve their confidence so they can go after what truly matters to them in life. For further information, check out: http://www.lanahallpsychology.com/what-i-do.html
Lana Hall, Psychologist. Helping you to live your best life, using the power of psychology.