Do you ever hear yourself or someone you know saying "If only I was more confident, I could ask her out/interview for that job/work on that skill/etc."?
I've thought that way many times; and I'm sure that's not surprising to hear, sounds like a pretty reasonable thought, right? Society and pop psychology has taught us that confidence is the key to success in life. There are so many well-intentioned self-help gurus and mental health professionals out there encouraging us to work on building our self-confidence so that we can achieve our dreams.
As a result, I have clients who come to me all the time stating that their lack of confidence in themselves is getting in the way of having the life they want. They mention uncertainty, the fear of rejection, the fear of failure...all of these are perceived as these giant barriers getting in the way of them achieving their goals. They want to know what they have to do to gain this resource and tap into it so that they can then take action.
But why? Do we really need self-confidence to get the things we want in life?
First, let's take a look at what confidence means (at least in the way we're referring to it here):
"a powerful feeling of certainty or assurance, a lack of self-doubt or insecurity, an absence of negative thoughts of mishaps or failure, an absolute belief that you will perform well and achieve a positive outcome."
Sounds pretty nice to me. Sign me right up.
Except that unless you're a robot, it's a completely unreasonable (if not impossible) feeling to strive for. When you're a human being, and you're faced with a new or challenging situation, you're not likely to feel all that sure of yourself. You're probably going to have some worried thoughts about failing or messing up somehow. That's just part of being a functioning person, it doesn't matter where you come from, what your genetics look like, or what kinds of experiences you've had in life. It's a normal human reaction to encountering a new or challenging situation.
So you can go to therapy and read all the self-help books about changing your negative, worried thoughts and guess what? You still might not feel confident enough to pursue your goals.
Because your thoughts don't control what you do. You control what you do. And taking action is the only real way to become more confident.
I'll use myself as an example- I don't have much confidence when it comes to public speaking (I find this is one many people can relate to).
Some of the thoughts that come up are:
- "You're going to mess up."
- "Who wants to listen to you talk about anything?"
- "Everyone's going to laugh at you."
And the feelings that come up are:
So what do I do to feel more confident about public speaking?
I practice public speaking.
That simple. But definitely not easy.
Because the feelings of confidence about public speaking can only come after taking steps to make myself feel more comfortable with public speaking. So I could take public speaking classes, sign up to give talks, prepare speeches and practice them, etc. Will it be fun? No. Will it be comfortable? Not in the slightest. Will it be worth it if feeling confident about public speaking is something that's valuable to me? Absolutely.
So stop putting your life on hold waiting for the ever-elusive feeling of confidence to show up. Take action now and you'll be surprised at how much things can change.