Sometimes we see people entering a room, very upright, drawing a lot of attention to themselves. They seem to enjoy it and we just can’t ignore them. Then again we are admiring people who seem to be calm and showing confidence in every situation. We wish to be as confident as those people are, but we don’t know how to get there.
What is confidence?
While working with athletes I often realized, that many people have a misleading idea of what it means to be confident. It’s even a misconception that someone’s “show-appearance” is a sign of confidence and that people who seem to be very confident always are.
In my point of view, the following quote makes it:
“Confidence is silent, insecurity is loud.” (Unknown)
People who are truly confident know who they are, they are aware of their abilities and weaknesses. They are in harmony regarding their personality and they accept that they are great at some tasks while not so great at others. There is no need to pretend something or to be someone; there is no need to play a role.
Luckily, confidence is not given by nature; it’s a skill which you can learn. That’s a good thing. In order to gain more confidence, it’s helpful to get on a journey and find out who you truly are! Because in our daily life it often happens that we focus on what we can’t do and we disregard our strengths.
How to improve self-confidence?
Building confidence is a process that does take time, based on your own experience. There is no shortcut, no quick fix! It’s comparable to building a house: The better you stabilize the basement, the better the building can withstand storms later on.
A surface-confidence (like a nicely painted but porous basement), based on quotes or affirmations is not enough, the first wind (or failure) will wipe it away easily.
If you want to start to improve your confidence, an inventory gives you a good idea about your starting point. It’s much more reliable and objective than the picture we have of ourselves, which is usually quite biased.
4 Steps to improve confidence
Work on the following points by making a list and collecting the relevant points. Take your time; this task might require several days. If it is very difficult for you, ask family members or friends who know you well and value you as a person (but before you ask for help, try to collect some points yourself).
- Your achievements: Any small or big success in your life not only focused on the job or money can be mentioned here. Think about your successes regarding relationships, skill development, overcoming fears, but as well as getting a certificate, acquiring an education, a job or realizing a dream. It might be easier if you write them down in chronological order.
- Your biggest strengths: Any skill or character strength can be considered for this collection. Sometimes they are very obvious (e.g. learning five languages in 3 years), and sometimes you might even hesitate to name them as a strength. Try to assess your strengths not only by making use of other people’s more obvious praise you got in the past. Instead, also consider your “quiet” strengths which might have never been mentioned before (e.g. being a loyal friend) or might even be a little uncomfortable (e.g. being a critical thinker).
- Your coping abilities: Everybody experiences difficult situations in life. These are the times where you grow and develop. Collecting examples you were coping with difficulties shows your ability to get back on your feet. In difficult times a list of these situations will help you to see what you are capable of.
- Your Trait & Skill Profile: Assessing your skills & traits will give you some valuable insights regarding your overall profile including the “weak points”. Nobody is perfect. Our world would be so boring without the small lovable flaws of each person. I recommend seeing strengths and weaknesses as two opposites of a continuum: Some traits or skills are strong in nature and others are poorly developed. As this assessment seems to be a big project, my goal is to make it as easy as possible for you.
My recommendation: Draw a long arrow that points to the right and list the traits and skills below on the left side as done in the example below (pic 1, the finished profile will be much longer).
The list of 24 character traits below (pic 2) will be helpful too. Feel free to add more (skills or traits), if you think something is important but not listed yet. Be honest with yourself when assessing your profile, it’s not necessary to impress anyone.
In the end, you will get a clear picture of your character traits and skills. Focusing on the right side of the picture you find your strengths (in pic 1 this is “Gratitude”). Maybe some of them you forgot to mention before when listing your strong traits and skills, so you can add to the list you already created (see point 2 above). Checking the traits and skills on the left side, everything far left from average is your less developed skills or “weak points” (in pic 1 this is “Leadership”).
Decide, which skills to accept
Now you can decide, which of these weak points you accept as being part of you (“that’s me”) and which of these weak points you want to improve: In the example above this could mean either “I’m not a leader” or “I want to improve my leadership skills”.
If necessary, ask a friend for help. Thinking about weak points always includes assessing which skills and traits are important for you to better cope with challenges in your life and to be free regarding your choices and decisions (e.g. When afraid of public speaking, you will probably avoid anything that could bring you in a situation like this. Even though you feel more comfortable this way, it’s frustrating because at the same time you miss the chance to inspire people and to share your passion.)
Once you found a weak point you want to improve, continue your journey! Do some research and start to gather more knowledge. Often there are easy hands-on strategies and a book or video proves to be very helpful but also coaching sessions can be a good start. Even less developed character traits like “leadership” can be improved by learning the necessary skills.
After finishing the first lesson of self-confidence improvement you hopefully learned that you are unique and amiable with an individual profile of strengths but it is still possible to work on skills to become a better version of yourself.
Knowing your strengths, achievements and coping abilities and being forgiving with your flaws is a good start on your journey!
“Just be yourself, everybody else is already taken.” (Oscar Wilde)