You have to know what it is before you can find it. You have to know where it comes from and what it costs. It’s an essential nutrient, a “requirement not an option.” It brings clarity and motivation. It inspires and sustains. You have to know the side effects. Don’t use too much, but keep enough of it really close. Take the correct dose, everyday.
Confidence is trust in your abilities. It begins with a vision and is followed by a commitment. It’s the precursor to action. It’s when you make decisions and follow them to completion. It says, “I will…” It doesn’t matter if you’re mastering your hook shot or playing a saxophone. Either way, confidence is an obligation to act, a reward that comes from dedication. People confuse it with arrogance, but arrogance and confidence are complete opposites. Arrogance is rooted in entitlement, in privilege. Because it isn’t earned, it’s common and cheap. Because confidence requires daily payments, it’s rare and expensive. It begins in the abstract and is manifested through actions, and actions lead to accomplishments.
Everyone begins at a different level. Some people have a natural inclination, but others have to study. Like an art, it is unique to everyone who practices it. Confidence can be standing against an army or approaching a pretty girl on the opposite side of the room. Graceful and muscular, confidence begins abstractly, remember a vision that is followed by commitment. You worry about the words coming out wrong, and they do. But confidence makes you keep talking. You discover that the pieces don’t fit. That’s okay. Stick with it. They will. Michelangelo was an accomplished sculptor before he was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He was an odd choice, his style varied dramatically from his contemporaries, focusing more on the human form than the fabric draped over it. He was unsure of his ability to work with colors, and the project was huge. It took years to complete, and all the while, he made tiny mistakes, leaving behind smears and stray hairs from his brushes. He found himself in awkward positions. He questioned and studied, stopped and examined, but he grew as an artist through the process, his style evolving, the scenes becoming more complex as the work progressed. When you develop confidence, you pursue an intangible beauty that is formed through tenacity and sweat. You make decisions and mistakes. Your perspective evolves with experience. You get confused and frustrated. At times, you have to step back and remind yourself to breathe. Then lift your head and see your vision taking form. As your natural ability inches towards true potential, you are reaching a new level of confidence.
You develop confidence by focusing on the things that you control. Everyday, you are up against impossible odds: challenges at work, obligations to your family, personal goals, getting in shape… These odds have nothing to do with you at this moment. Think of yourself as a boxer with ten rounds to go. Get out there. Focus on your strength. Know your technique. Focus on you, not the situation. Instead of worrying, be rational, consider foreseeable complications and develop a response. Have a plan. Take your blows but hit back. Your finances will be insufficient. You will have pulled muscles and migraines, nausea and insomnia. The situation will change without your knowledge. People you trust will turn on you. People you love will become cold then stop answering your texts. You will deal with all of this and worse. Just remember, it’s how you handle the situation that matters, not the situation itself. To quote Bukowski, “What really matters is how you walk through the fire.”
The trials you face aren’t specifically against you. You say you don’t deserve them. Maybe, you don’t. They are challenges not personal inadequacies. They happen to most people. Take them at face value. It’s okay to feel wounded because these things occurred. This is “self compassion.” It is part of having a healthy self esteem. If a friend turns on you, feeling betrayed is normal. However, don’t tell yourself that you are unworthy of friendship. That is one situation, and it is beyond your control. Never tell yourself that bad things always happen to you. They don’t. This is “self-pity.” It is a flawed perception that paralyzes your efforts and poisons your future. If you deserve better relationships or opportunities, demand them. Don’t compromise, and don’t stop. Catch your breath, reclaim your clarity, move ahead.
Avoid “self-doubt.” It is just an abstract concept. Change it to an action and call it “facing reality.” View your situation objectively. If you can improve, then do it. Whether it takes minutes or years, simple repetition or advanced education, always be better. This is going to make other people jealous. They will criticize you. When this happens, know that they are only spectators. They hide in the anonymity of the crowd, but you stand alone under harsh lights. You have no control over them, but you have complete control over your reaction to them. Don’t allow their words to cloud your thoughts or slow your actions. You aren’t obligated to respond. You’re not even obligated to listen. Stand your ground. You never claimed to be perfect, but you are always improving. You’re not required to question your abilities. That is beneath you. You are on a new level of confidence. You are committed to your vision and obligated to act.
Some people don’t like you, and you accept that. As you practice confidence, petty people will nitpic your words and actions. At times, someone will correct you. You don’t mind. Aggressive people will try to demean you, and jealous people will insult behind your back. This is the only thing they have going for them. Even when you forgive and offer your friendship as a peace offering, they will reject you. Insults reveal insecurities. This is about them, not you. Rejection is not personal even if it feels that way. It’s beyond your scope and control. Don’t listen to them and all of their sad little reasons. Don’t analyze what others say about you. Be who you are. Answer your call. If someone doesn’t like it, who cares?
But Sometimes you are wrong, and your failures are deserved. Your ego is bruised. Your mistakes overshadow your potential like a shadow covering the sun.
Your mistakes will embarrass you and sting for a while. But stop analyzing and staring.
Remember, only focus on the things that you control. You have no control over your past actions. Come to terms with them and move ahead. You apply for another position, join a new team, begin a new relationship. Confidence diminishes when you fall but compounds when you pick yourself up. Learn to see it when you look inside yourself. When you act, it becomes reality. Be confident enough to move past your mistakes, to forgive yourself. Pride only hurts when you look in the mirror.
Confidence can be abandoned and forgotten. The vulnerable have their strong moments, and the mighty have their Achilles’ heel. But confidence can be summoned as well. When you’re not feeling it, try these:
Claim your personal space.
Uncross your arms.
Open your hands.
Speak in complete sentences (even when interrupted).
Feel free to pause and breathe.
Never be defensive.
There is nothing to prove.
Confidence is a belief that you act on, an art to be refined. It doesn’t require the approval of others or seek any internal validation. It’s the reward of the dedicated, arriving after you stammer through the first sentence of that job interview. It is when the words flow easily, when you make that hook shot that you practiced every day for ten months, when you claim the sax break after the second chorus. Sound familiar? No? Then maybe, it’s time to step up.