by Ginger E. Blume, Ph.D.

Samuel Johnson once wrote: “Self-confidence: The first requisite to great undertakings.”  We all yearn to be successful and Mr. Johnson is telling us how to do it:  cultivate your self-confidence.  People are attracted to others who appear self-confident.  Some people secretly envy others who possess this gift.  Enough about wishing we had more self-assurance.   This article will address the nitty gritty facts about self-confidence:  what it is; what it isn’t; and how you can possess more of it. 

It’s difficult worrying all the time that you’re not good enough; that you’ve disappointed others you care about; that your decisions are all wrong; that you’re making mistakes; etc.  When you lack confidence in yourself and your abilities, you’re likely to imagine that others are simply born with confidence and you missed out!  Not true.  There are many ways to nurture a sense of self-confidence that I want to share with you.  Some of my suggestions may not be what you’d expect to hear, especially if you’re a perfectionist at heart.  So, keep an open mind, judgments at bay, and consider some of the ideas in this article for expanding your own confidence.  

Self-confidence:  What it is and what is not

First of all, self-confidence can be nurtured by how you talk to yourself.  We’ll explore how a confident person thinks; what type of beliefs they hold; and how they view the world.  Once you’ve grasped the differences between what they do and what you do, you’ll have a good map for personal change and growth.     

It is important to educate yourself about what a self-confident person is really like. Many people have an unrealistic, idealized notion about self-confidence.  For instance, many self-confident individuals have their doubts and apprehensions, make mistakes, and are certainly far from perfect.  But, they are not cocky, know-it-all people who don’t care what anybody else thinks, either.  

Their sense of “place” in the world is located somewhere midway between a black and a white opinion.  Indeed, a crucial feature is that they are willing to acknowledge their inadequacies without dwelling on them. They do this by maintaining a sense of humor, putting problems in perspective, and focusing mainly on what they’ve done right; not what they’ve done wrong.  In many ways, they are optimistic about themselves and others.  They consciously choose to focus on the positives.  

While self-confident people believe in themselves, they don’t try to over-power others with their ideas or beliefs. They possess confidence in what they know, not only because they are curious and soak up knowledge in various ways, but also because they respect their instincts and their intuition.  They seem to understand that they don’t have to be considered an “expert” to believe in their own truths that have developed with experience and living.   They trust their own experiential knowledge. 

Another key feature is that self-confident people don’t undermine their own worth by comparing themselves with others (only to conclude that they aren’t “good enough”).  They appreciate their strengths and accomplishments and can acknowledge without embarrassment their weaknesses (as simply an aspect of being human).  They are realistic with themselves and therefore, accept themselves more fully.

Self-confident people take control of their own life and feel responsible for whatever happens.  They refuse to live their life as a “victim”. Even if something really bad has happened to them, they have a tendency to turn it into a challenge that they can learn from.  These negative events from the past don’t overshadow the good in life.  They have a tendency to be grateful for the little things, so they don’t needlessly dwell on negative events of the past. 

Let yourself shine

When someone has self-confidence, they’re not likely to hide their strengths under a bushel.  Instead, they let the world know who they are.  They’re not afraid to advertise their abilities and they’re happy to recognize the abilities of others, as well.  If they want something badly enough, they know they have every right to “go for it.”  Yet, they don’t expect the path to be easy.  They view mistakes, blunders, mishaps, and failures as part of the learning process.  They understand that it is a waste of time to torture themselves over what “could or should have been”.  Instead, they adopt a practical approach and stay focused on what they want to accomplish.  Their focus is often on the present and the future.

Self-confident people are open to the viewpoint of others and often curious as to why someone has a viewpoint different from their own.   Yet, a self-confident person’s sense of self is strongly grounded, so they are not constantly fluctuating with each new opinion they hear.  This is especially true when it comes to their values.  Their life is usually guided by a strong commitment to certain values and principles. 

Drop the search for perfection

As you can see, the self-confident individual is not that “Mr. or Mrs. Perfect” you may have been imagining.  There is no such individual who feels totally confident, totally competent, and totally perfect in existence on earth. If you stop setting yourself up to constantly fail (by comparing yourself to such an unrealistic image), then you will begin to recognize your own abilities as the unique individual you really are and learn to value yourself as a person of worth--------no better and no worse than anyone else. 

I hope you’ll commit to this personal journey with renewed energy toward a more realistic goal of improving your confidence as only humans can.  

© Copyright, 2009, Ginger E. Blume, Ph.D.
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