Many psychologists will point to experiencing failure as a valuable step in the journey to success. It’s a critical learning tool, because it forces you to dig into your own reservoir of grit. It tests your perseverance and ultimately can make you stronger. “Failure really can be an asset if we are trying to improve, learn or do something new. It’s the feature that precedes nearly all successes. There’s nothing shameful about being wrong, about changing course. Each time it happens, we have new options. Problems become opportunities,” writes Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.
Mastery, of course, comes after getting really good at something. The more time you put in, the more adept you feel, and ultimately, the more confident you become. So taking action is the first step to becoming confident. And if at first you fail, well, know that you’re in good company and success is around the corner.
“Confidence comes from a very authentic place, a very whole place,” says life coach Valorie Burton, author of Successful Women Speak Differently: 9 Habits That Build Confidence, Courage, and Influence. “You believe in your abilities to do something. You show up in a very secure way. Cockiness is not authentic. It’s based in insecurity. It’s more about making other people think you’re confident as opposed to being confident.”
Jennifer Kahnweiler, leadership consultant and author of The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together, says cockiness is the opposite of humility. “To me cockiness indicates a lack of self-confidence.”
You’re more confident than you think. Just consider this: Making everyday decisions, such as what to eat for lunch or what to text your mom, requires a low level of confidence. “Every day we make hundreds of decisions, almost unconsciously, that require basic confidence,” Kay and Shipman write in The Confidence Code. Boost your confidence by reminding yourself of all the successful small decisions you make on a daily basis.
A whole new branch of psychology is dedicated to mindfulness, but it boils down to this: Negative thoughts and insecurities pop up like pimples. And, like pimples, picking at them—even if you mean to discredit and burst that negative bubble—ultimately makes it worse. So, mindfulness practice teaches you to treat thoughts as tools. Use and strengthen the ones you need; discard the ones you don’t.
It’s normal to be a confident athlete but decidedly unconfident when it comes to public speaking. Or maybe you’re sure of yourself at work but self-conscious in social situations. That’s OK. You don’t have to be confident with everything. In fact, people who act sure of themselves in all situations are probably either faking it or overestimating their abilities. Being secure in your innate worth as a person, even if you’re terrible at tennis or shy at parties, is what matters. True confidence, according to Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D., author of The Self-Esteem Workbook, is an “honest, appreciative opinion” of yourself that accounts for your strengths and weaknesses.
So how does that translate to happiness? People who believe in their innate worth “strive for excellence with less pressure or fear of failure, since coming up short of a goal does not diminish who they are as a person,” Schiraldi says. When you aren’t afraid of failure, you try more new things and pursue more goals than people who are.
To become receptive to new ideas, you must first get positive. From this place, you can begin repeating your desired characteristics in your mind, or aloud like a mantra.
Lady Gaga describes it like this: “And it’s not yet; it’s a lie. You’re saying a lie, over and over and over again. And then one day the lie is true.” Initially her circumstances did not reflect what she was saying, and that’s how it’s going to be when you start doing this kind of work. You have to live in that faith. You have to believe it and know it. There has to be a certainty behind the beautiful lies you keep repeating to yourself every day, the ones about what you want your life to be.
If your confidence is down, you might beat yourself up for not being stronger, for the role you played in the toxic situation, or for choosing a relationship with someone who hurt you. Aim to understand the roots of your actions and forgive yourself. It’s only human.
The best way you can pinpoint positive role models is to think about the people you know who embody positive behaviors. These are people who are credible, accountable and service-oriented, who have solid character and seem trustworthy.
Once you identify the people in your own life who exhibit spark behavior, you have to develop and nurture these relationships. Engage the people you admire and respect on a consistent basis, whether through conversations over coffee or ongoing email exchanges. One colleague of ours makes it a point to schedule two lunches each month with different people she admires. Her conversations with them don’t hsve an agenda; this is simply her way of maintaining the relationships she’s worked so hard to build.
Finally, we have to be open to input. If our role models are challenging us, that’s a great thing. We need to get uncomfortable in order to develop. Remember, no matter how much we want it, change isn’t easy. But it can be made easier by a focused effort to develop our confidence.
Before they were considered legends, our highly regarded history makers experienced failure. Study failure in addition to success and realize that the victory of even our most iconic influencers was built upon their conviction to continue after falling short of perfection.
- Albert Einstein: Slow to speak and read, Einstein’s parents thought he was “sub-normal,” and one of his teachers described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in foolish dreams.” It took Einstein nine years after graduating college to obtain a position in academia.
- Babe Ruth: Ruth chewed tobacco and drank whiskey by the time he was 8 years old. The first time Ruth led the American League in home runs in 1918, he also led the league in strikeouts.
- The Wright brothers: The brothers crashed their first two airplane creations before making more than 700 successful flights with their third glider.
- Beyoncé: When scandal erupted after the original Destiny’s Child members were ousted from the group, the remaining group members harnessed the public shame to catapult themselves to success by penning the award-winning song “Survivor.” Beyoncé is now a household name with a cult-like following (Hello Beyhive!).
Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout and even depression. Confident people know that saying no is healthy, and they have the self-esteem to make their no’s clear. When it’s time to say no, confident people avoid phrases such as “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” They say no with confidence because they know saying no to a new commitment honors their existing commitments and gives them the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.
Your brain has a built-in confirmation bias. That means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values and self-image. This selective memory system helps keep the brain from getting overloaded with too much information.
So recognize that your memory does not always provide you with accurate information. For example if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information that confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.
How to make it work for you: Revisit the facts of a memory loaded with self-limiting beliefs and try to gain a more accurate perspective on the event. Talk with others that might have a different perspective.
12. Walk the walk.
Body language has long been noted for its relative importance to what is actually said—and the body language of confidence has its own gestural dialect. Studies back up the idea that using your hands to reinforce what you’re saying will give a firmer impression of your competence. On the flipside, keep your hands together while listening to avoid unconscious fidgeting. Maintaining eye contact while talking and listening makes you appear both trustworthy and decisive.
We all have those days. You’re just not feeling it. Your boss gave you less-than-positive feedback on the proposal you spent months writing, you lost a bid on a huge account, and your lucky meeting shirt has a huge stain. Those days leave you feeling unproductive, unmotivated and unsure of your next move.
Sometimes all you need is a jam to pick you up out of your rut. Start with this playlist—we’ve mixed a little new with a little old, some upbeat tunes with some smooth jams.
It’s another way to gain perspective after a setback. Jenn Scalia faced challenges when she first started her business as a visibility and confidence coach. After dealing with a layoff, divorce and debt, the single mother knew she had to make some changes in her life if she wanted to see improvement. She not only invested in herself through online business and coaching courses, but also did daily practices, which helped her turn things around from $0 to half a million in revenue.
She says, “One of the first practices I committed to was doing daily gratitude. It’s really simple and it’s a great starting point for anyone who wants to start attracting more abundance in their lives. Every night, I would reflect on all of the amazing things that I experienced in my life. From running water to a compliment from a friend to getting a new client. Gratitude allows you to focus on the positive things in life—a lot of things we take for granted—and put you in a positive, high vibe.”
15. Use humor.
On the humorous side, remember your inner Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live. He said, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And, doggone it, people like me!” While a silly reference, it reminds people of a simple mantra: Of course, you can do this. Of course, you are going to get it right. Of course, you are good at this.
Each of us has a unique mark to make on the world, and when we are caught up comparing ourselves to others, it only leaves us feeling less than or not enough in some way and diminishes our capacity to make the impact we alone can make.
The fact is, most of your comparisons are unfair because you have a tendency to compare…
- Your weaknesses to others’ strengths
- Your insides to others’ outsides
- Where you are now starting out against someone who’s been in the game far longer
Perception is key in such situations, so I ask myself, What is it about the situation that might seem intimidating? Our mind creates our experiences, and when we are oblivious, it will do so based on past experiences, which can result in fear-based predictions that aren’t real. We have the power to create the experience and choose to overcome fear by shifting our perception of situations. We can view situations that might seem intimidating as ones that will lead to further growth and ultimately success.