Here’s an obvious fact: self-confidence is the foundation that determines the quality of every area of your life and relationships.
In contrast, self-doubt and insecurity will guarantee that you never achieve your full potential. You will play small and remain second fiddle living, at best, a life that is mediocre and uninspiring. And we all lose as a result.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- If I were truly confident, what would be different?
- How would I feel, what would I think, say and do?
- How would I respond to life’s challenges?
Playing it cool
Most people present a cool persona, pretending a confidence they don’t really feel. I used to do this a lot. The problem was that, when I was confronted with a challenge, my confidence would evaporate.
This type of confidence is fragile because it isn’t based on a solid foundation. This is also why so many people feel like frauds and are afraid that, sooner or later, they will be ‘found out’.
When you hide behind this mask you exclude a large part of yourself such as when you feel uncertain, vulnerable, sad, in pain, angry, irritated, frustrated and other so-called negative qualities – everything that actually makes you human.
Accepting your own flaws
Here’s a provocative thought: accepting the whole of yourself, even the bits you dislike or even despise, is the only way you can become truly confident, truly whole and human. Why? Because accepting your flaws has two huge benefits:
It makes you less judgmental, less critical, more tolerant and more compassionate. How can you judge another when you yourself are flawed? This alone will transform your relationships.
It creates in you a solid sense of confidence because there’s nothing anybody can hold over you – nothing you believe you have to justify, defend or explain. This enables you to withstand unexpected and unwanted challenges without being blown off course, for example when you are rejected, criticised or judged – as I guarantee you will be in the course of your life.
Inner resilience is one of the elements that forms self-confidence. This enables you to deal with the painful challenges life throws at you, like all manner of disappointments, failures and setbacks, large and small.
Most of us manifest a variety of behaviours that sap our energy, eat away at our self-confidence and undermine our relationships. Here are some examples:
Non-love (part 1): how we treat ourselves badly
‘Non-Love’ is a term I coined to explain three sets of critical behaviours that seriously damage the quality of your life and relationships.
Part 1 covers a wide range of behaviours including beating yourself up, pretending you feel one thing when you feel another because you don’t want others to feel uncomfortable, putting everybody’s needs and wants ahead of your own, and many more.
Non-love (part 2): how we allow others to treat us badly
This is when you allow other people to treat you thoughtlessly, carelessly, offensively, hurtfully, and so on, without putting a stop to it.
The antidote is to identify your personal boundaries (something most people rarely think about), and then make sure you uphold them when people cross the line. This doesn’t mean you have to engage in a shouting match; rather, it’s an educational process that takes time, persistence and consistency so you don’t send mixed messages.
Non-love (part 3): how we treat others badly
You manifest these behaviours when you treat other people badly by nagging, criticising and judging them, trying to control and manipulate them, making it clear they’re not good enough, or putting them down in an effort to feel better about yourself.
Another manifestation of low confidence is playing the blame-game whenever something goes wrong.
The frustrating part is that none of it works – at least not in the way you want, as I know to my cost. I used every one of these behaviours with my ex, which caused him to retreat into passive resistance and me deep into resentment, because I didn’t see at the time how I was contributing to the death of my marriage.
I got a handle on this years after I left, having blamed him for everything he said or didn’t say, and everything he did or didn’t do. While I have regrets, accepting my part of the break-up was hugely liberating and empowering because I learned how not to engage.
Today I know something I didn’t know then. Before diving into whatever it is that’s frustrating or irritating me, I ask myself:
- How important is this ‘something’ to me?
- Can I accept this person not doing (whatever) without feeling resentful?
- Is there space for us to negotiate a mutually agreeable outcome?
If the issue is fundamental to your relationship then perhaps it’s time for you to reconsider the longer term prospects, especially if this problem comes up regularly.
The question then becomes an insight: “I deserve better” – which is what happened to me, although it took me 37 years to get there…but that’s another story.
Today I attract into my life people who are like-minded, open-hearted, generous, loving and supportive.
How do I define self-confidence? I define it as trusting myself, including my judgement, my choices and my intuition – even when I sometimes get it wrong. That’s because no mistake, setback, disappointment or failure is that bad, even when it hurts at the time.
When I reach the other side, I’m usually presented with the option of trying to forget the whole unhappy experience or to making it into a learning opportunity about what does not work for me – a process of elimination.
If at first you don’t succeed…
You may have heard this story hundreds of times but it fits here quite nicely:
We all know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. However, what you may not know is that he failed again and again. Because Edison was well known for his inventions, a journalist came to interview him and asked: “Mr Edison, you keep failing to invent this so-called light bulb of yours. How many times have you failed so far?”
Edison replied: ‘so far, I have identified 1,000 compounds that do not work. Each failure causes me to learn something that brings me closer to success.’
And the rest, as they say, is history.
This is the first in a series of articles in which I examine the various components that will enable you to develop a strong sense of self-confidence.
I look forward to your comments!