Some people exude super-confidence. But why? What is confidence, and where does it stem from? How does confidence manifest itself, and what impact does it have? How can confidence be developed, and what are the steps to instill life-changing confidence in just seven days?
Most individuals aspire to be confident. A positive confidence level feels empowering and has the potential to displace negative states such as anxiety, depression, and overwhelm. Indeed, confidence appears to offer some degree of protection against a variety of mental health issues.
So, what is confidence? It is an amalgamation of belief, thought, attitude, decision, and behaviour. Being confident involves harbouring a sense of certainty that things are, or will be, as one expects, or simply that “it will be OK.” This leads to empowering decisions and behaviours, which increase the likelihood that the confidence will be justified.
Confidence thus becomes a self-fulfilling, virtuous cycle. Increased confidence leads to greater effort because we believe our efforts will be fruitful. More effort raises the chances of success, which in turn boosts confidence, and so the cycle continues.
Confidence can be defined as our belief in ourselves and our abilities to achieve our goals. It’s also about possessing a sense of self-assurance and self-worth.
If you’re reading or listening to this, you have confidence. You trust that you can absorb and learn from this material. Perhaps then, confidence is context-dependent. We may be confident in one setting, but not in another. If you are healthy, you trust in your ability to eat and drink. However, unless you’re one of the top 100-metre sprinters in the world, you wouldn’t bet on winning the gold medal in the 100-metre race at the next Olympics.
This suggests that confidence is also tied to competence – that is, the greater our competence, the more confident we feel.
Yet, some individuals display confidence in every situation, even when they lack competence in most fields. What explains this phenomenon? They understand that lacking expertise in many areas is the norm for humans. They also trust that with time and effort, they could become competent, or at least more so than they currently are.
Confident people are aware that they can develop competence if necessary. They believe in their ability to learn, to master skills, and to acquire knowledge.
How do competent individuals handle setbacks, failures, and adversities?
Having coached many elite performers across various fields, I’ve noticed that confident people expect to either achieve their goal or learn how to achieve it. Even when a goal proves unattainable, they welcome the learning experience because it means they can redirect their talents towards a new objective.
Taking it a step further, confidence can stem from the belief that even if goals remain out of reach, the enjoyment and pursuit of these objectives are vehicles for personal development.
Adapting Earl Nightingale’s insightful observation, “Success is the pursuit of a worthy goal,” we could say, “Confidence comes from the pursuit of a worthy goal.”
Confidence emanates from the belief that somehow, sometime, somewhere, a person will either achieve or learn how to achieve their intention, or they will pivot after learning that the goal or method needs to be replaced.
Confident people trust themselves to “figure it out”, or “persist until it happens”. They have faith in their own abilities and character, even as novices in a new field.
We can often recognise a confident individual. Confidence can be observed in many ways:
- Through body language, such as a healthy posture, making eye contact, and speaking clearly
- In behaviour, including assertiveness and taking managed risks. Confident people are not afraid to advocate for themselves or to try new things.
- In their effective communication, they convey their thoughts and feelings with clarity and honesty. They aren’t hesitant to express their opinions or to seek assistance.
Here is a seven-day programme to set you on the path to building your confidence.
Day 1: Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Create a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Solicit feedback from friends, family members, and colleagues. Knowing your strengths allows you to leverage and build upon them. Address only those weaknesses that, if ignored, would hinder you from utilising your strengths. Disregard the rest.
For each strength, devise a plan to enhance it. For instance, if introducing yourself to new people at networking events is a strength, create a strategy to excel even more. If following up after meetings is a weakness, develop a plan to learn and implement the best follow-up techniques.
Day 2: Set realistic goals
Break down your long-term goals into smaller, more manageable objectives. Establish a deadline for each and a method to measure your progress. Draw on the insights you gained on day one.
Document your confidence goals in a manner that keeps you accountable and motivated. Create a checklist of daily confidence-building tasks to reinforce your pursuit of these goals.
Day 3: Practise self-affirmation
Start each day by repeating affirmations that bolster your self-belief. These affirmations should reflect your core values and goals. “I am confident in my ability to complete my tasks today.” Repeat these affirmations throughout the day, especially when faced with challenges.
Day 4: Learn a new skill
Choose a new skill related to your goals and begin learning it. This could be a soft skill like public speaking or a technical skill like coding. Take the first steps in learning this skill, whether it’s signing up for a course or practising at home.
Day 5: Engage in physical exercise
Regular physical exercise is not just beneficial for your health; it also boosts your confidence. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s walking, swimming, or yoga, and make it a part of your daily routine.
Day 6: Reflect on your achievements
Take time to reflect on your past achievements. Write them down and consider the skills and strengths you utilised to attain them. Recognise that these same attributes can help you achieve future goals.
Day 7: Challenge yourself
End the week by challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone. This could mean speaking up in a meeting, asking someone out on a date, or anything else that requires a level of confidence you’re working to achieve.
The development of confidence is a gradual process that requires commitment and practise. By following these steps, you can embark on a journey that will lead to greater confidence and, consequently, greater success in all areas of life.
Remember, confidence is not about being the best; it’s about being the best you can be. By nurturing your confidence, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals.
Professor Nigel MacLennan runs the performance coaching practice PsyPerform.