Some Thoughts on Confidence and How to Have More of It
Do you remember the last time that you were able to act with an unflinching confidence? It can be tough for a lot of us, and if you are like me, you likely associate your best confidence with an activity. But what about yourself - Are you confident?
Confidence is ultimately a flow state attached to an activity, behavior, or attribute. Some people know they are attractive, others have spent thousands of hours perfecting a skill, and others have ascended to a place of self-awareness to where they are not bound by the ebbs and flows of daily life.
Confidence though, is broken down into two subsets:
Confidence in Action
Confidence in Self
All of us acquire confidence in action when we repeat activities time-and-time again. Confidence shouldn’t be measured only in the big, heroic actions done in the public eye or in the skills that few acquire. Confidence in action can be as simple as your daily routine.
Brushing your teeth, making your breakfast, driving your car to work, and so many other unexciting daily activities are beaming with confidence. Why? Repetition. Do something enough times and eventually you’ll be at least moderately proficient at it. These repetitions are going to be, and should be, positive and negative. Doing things wrong often provides more feedback than doing it right and so you should desire some failure on your journey to confidence.
Great hitters in baseball are considered so even if they only succeed 3 out of 10 times when at bat.
We all need to keep the perspective that effort doesn’t always equate to success.
If you want to become confident in action, then you need to be able to put in the time and achieve the requisite successes and failures until you’ve acquired the capital to establish confidence and flow. But, all of this is hard to accomplish if confidence in self is not a part of the picture.
As stated above, we all have activities that we know we can crush at a moment’s notice. Time and proficiency have lead us to that mountain top. Some people can play guitar solos in packed stadiums, others can drive fast without crashing
, and I am a proficient trainer. We all have our things. Yet, actions don’t always lead to actualizations of self. The direction of confidence typically flows downwards (from self towards action) unfortunately. Some can rise above and become something more by dedicating themselves to activity to the point where the pride and confidence of proficiency leads to a change in character. Most of us though, don’t have such a realization.
Millions of people walk around everyday confident in action and broken in self. Their insecurities blanket them like a jacket that only comes off when they find that flow state doing what they love.
And that is exactly where confidence in self is so unique – it translates across platforms. It is the USB port for all the gear, gadgets, and attachments we’ll seek, find, and own in life. Having confidence in yourself is the backbone of having confidence in a wide array of activities. Moreover, it is the hard wiring that keeps you from taking failures personal and ripping apart at the seams.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never played tennis before – you’ll be confident that you can learn it, and even if you don’t, you are a hell of a human and tennis just isn’t your thing. You’ll enjoy the experience of playing, shrug off the sensation of messing up, and learn something (one way or another) about yourself and tennis.
This is where I struggled for years. Only recently have I began evolving to place where I can operate with needing to great at everything. I’m no expert on confidence, but I have my own story, which I share below, for you to read and see it for what it is – a absolute lack of confidence in self.
I was always a bit smaller and less athletic than other kids. As I got older this led to many of my peers being significantly better than me at sports – so much so I had to work harder just to make the teams. I didn’t fit into the “in-crowd”, wasn’t the best-looking guy, and hell…I wasn’t even the best at Call of Duty.
I was just average at everything. As a result, I dreamed of being someone else.
In college I found fitness and with it came the physique and athleticism I’d always been lacking. The friends, opportunities, and attention from the opposite sex followed. All-in-all I began living a well above-average lifestyle, but I still wasn’t the “star”. I enjoyed my new place in the social hierarchy, but I still dreamed of being the star of the school.
It only worsened as I grew through my mid-twenties here in Washington D.C. I’d talk about my career achievements as though people would suddenly lift me up in a bar chair and carry me home like the Persian King. I’d boast to anyone who’d listen – a true fool with a microphone.
So desperate to show the world that I could be the star I convinced myself that with the right amount of exercise, arrogance, and whiskey I was the best.
I wanted to be a create-a-player with every stat maxed out to 99. And when moments arose that were to the contrary? Well, the arrogance and a desperate need for someone to stroke my ego took hold.
But then I realized something:
“You can’t be great at everything and trying to portray that you are actually makes you look like you are good at nothing”
I lacked confidence in myself. I didn’t love the man I saw in the mirror every morning. And a result, there were a mountain of ugly behaviors that proved to the world one thing, the thing I wanted to project the least – that I was not a confident man.
See, by trying to project to the world that I was untouchable in everything I was screaming “I need this to go right so badly because I don’t know what else to turn to”.
Thankfully, much of this has changed in the last few years. With the growth in myself I’ve also discovered a series of rules and behaviors that helped me
In my journey towards where I am now I’ve developed a list of 5 major rules that I observe everyday to the best of my ability. Nothing is perfect, but having these rules allows me to stay fluid and confident in the face of any adversity.
Shit Happens even when you are Prepared
Tom Brady throws interceptions. Michael Jordan has thrown up an air ball or fifty. And even Ted Williams struck out. Embracing that sometimes other people make great plays or that the universe doesn’t always float your way is critical to earning true confidence.
The key is to shake off events, learn from them, and don’t repeat the behaviors. Be happy with what you bring to the field, boardroom, bar stool, or Christmas with the In-Laws, especially if you took the time to do some preparation.
You Deserve Nothing, but you can earn everything
No one likes being around entitled people. We’ve all been around that person who won’t eat a food because it looks wrong or expects someone to treat them as royalty. We hate it don’t we?
So, why do we do expect that we’ll get that promotion, expect that they’ll text us back, or expect that it will be sunny for our wedding day?
You deserve nothing in this life but you can earn everything you chase. You can work your tail off for that promotion and earn it. Even if one promotion passes you by – your behaviors and reactions may just kick off something greater that you couldn’t fathom.
Be confident that you are driven and capable and that you’ll find a way to earn your way in this world. Be confident that you can overcome silly things, big setbacks, and heartbreak and don’t proceed as though you are the only person who has ever experienced pain and discomfort, and remember this:
It’s not what happens to you – it’s how you react to it.
Begin and End every day with 3 Appreciations
We spend so much time dreaming about what we could have and not enough time being thankful for what we do. You’ve heard this before though, and so I’ll pass over the part where appreciations lead to lower instances of depression, a greater sense of community, and even better health markers later in life.
I try to begin everyday by being appreciative of:
An opportunity that is in the future
Something about myself that I feel is Unique
A person(s) in my life that make everything better
Just the same, I end everyday with:
An event from the previous day that I enjoyed or learned from
An interaction that either improved my day or someone else’s
An action I took naturally (not a forced one) that showed my value
Each of these appreciations set me up for a successful and confident life. My morning begins with self and social reflection, as well as a strong dose of optimism. My night ends with my thankfulness for events, interactions, and my own actions. In doing so I’m thankful of the world around me, the people I interact with, and myself.
In time you realize that the same people make your lives better, that you improve someone else’s day more often than you need your own improved, and the opportunities that excite you become the events that you enjoyed because you remained true to yourself and the characteristics that define you.
So many people go to jobs that don’t highlight their talents in the name of paying the bills. Many creators, intellects, and emotional types have been stifled by the trappings of the real world. I get it, we all have bills to pay and jobs to do, but every single day should bring you the opportunity to shine.
I forget where I heard this quote, but the idea that “everyone deserves a round of applause once in their lives” strikes me so powerfully. How many people do you interact with daily have never felt the bliss of being applauded? How about you, have you felt it?
If not, you should seek moments that allow you to prove to yourself that you are an absolute rockstar at something. In doing so you’ll also receive recognition and praise that is always important, no matter how “evolved” we become.
For me, it’s when I can use my intellect and extroversion to lead others. Whether it is group fitness classes, in-house lectures for other trainers, or seeing the responses to my interactions on social media. I love leading and changing others lives for the better.
So, it’s OK if you need that job to pay the bills. But, chase your passion at night if you must. If you love singing, then at least do karaoke on the weekends. If you want to paint, then stay in one weekend and lose yourself with the brush.
Don’t spend your life faking it.
Do something you’re not good at, or scares you
This final rule is the latest addition, but maybe one of the more useful elements of earning self-confidence. No one likes being bad at something. People who can’t dance don’t like being in situations where they must do so, and people will fake illness to get out of public speaking if it scares the shit out of them.
But is it dancing or public speaking that cripples you?
Most likely, no. It is your inability to deal with not being the best at something, or at least proficient, that scares you away. You aren’t confident that you can own the moment without formal training, better feet, or the gift of absolute extroversion.
And so, you avoid it, and by doing so, you don’t learn how to cope with failure, uncomfortable situations and overcoming barriers; stunting your growth and limiting what and who you can become.
I’ve recently gotten into boxing with a former golden gloves boxer. We do technique for a half hour and then spar for another half. Now, neither of us are throwing knock out shots, but we are really hitting each other to increase the intensity (AND RESPECT) of the craft. Trust me when I say this, I’ve been punched in the face so many times in the last few weeks it is hilarious.
At first, I was nervous of getting caught and feeling the pain and embarrassment that follows. Now, I immediately laugh and get back into it. Again, we aren’t hitting each other hard enough where safety is a concern – but it is enough force to provide immediate feedback if I slipped the wrong way, got too aggressive, or dropped my guard.
I immediately must adapt to my failure and grow from it or risk making the same mistake. What better way to build confidence than to literally get punched in the nose and bounce back from it?
Seal the Deal
Confidence is ever-growing and ever-shrinking. I used to use ego to compensate for what I lacked and ended up accomplishing things I never considered because my ego broke down walls around me. Yet, my ego almost destroyed the floor I stood on. Each day it got heavier and began to weigh me down. People could see through the act and were annoyed at the bravado. But in time, I accepted a journey and I’m so thankful I did.
By putting away the shields and swords of bravado and instead picking up the chalice that holds truth – I stopped fighting to prove myself, stopped dreaming of a better tomorrow, and began acting as though I already had what I needed – within me and around me.
I hope that you can experience such an epiphany too. Oh, how great a feeling to know, to truly feel, that you are ready for the world.