Being successful in life requires confidence. Succeeding as an entrepreneur takes confidence. How do we fuel the confidence that’s so essential to achieving our goals?
Are we born with an inherent capacity for confidence or uncertainty? While some children seemingly burst on to the world stage with great conviction, others draw their energy from within, often experiencing self-doubt. Nature certainly plays a crucial part in the origin of confidence, but it can also be nurtured.
You’ve probably heard, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” In fact, words do have the power to hurt, to make or break you. Kenyan writer and academic Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote about the “barrel of a pen”—the equally destructive and redeeming power of words (both verbal and written). Indeed, one can recover from physical harm, but not necessarily from the words we absorb—particularly during our childhood.
Raise a child telling her she is “stupid,” and she will grow up to believe it. The invisible barriers to success are created with words, and these obstacles often become endless.
You can probably recall someone in your life who profoundly knocked our confidence. As for me, I remember a teacher in high school telling me I couldn’t become a pilot due to low grades in physics and chemistry. I was 15 at the time. I trusted and looked up to her enough to swallow the fact I couldn’t be a pilot even though I had dreamt of doing so all my life. Words can be lethal.
When it comes to building confidence, in children and in yourself, I believe there are four important steps:
1. Provide positive affirmations often. Research suggests that positive affirmations lead to positive change and can help develop confidence. Instill confidence in your children from the outset by affirming their ability to succeed and encouraging them to try new experiences. Raise your child to intrinsically believe that he or she can do anything they put their minds to and you will purposefully lay the foundations for confidence in adulthood. Likewise, raise up your spouse, family members and friends when with supportive, encouraging words and you will effectively unlock their potential and boost self-assurance. And, of course, affirm your own strengths and capabilities regularly. Remind yourself daily of your worth, absorb positive mantras and accept compliments with grace.
2. Stay open-minded and curious. Your ability to adapt to different environments will likely stem from your childhood setting. If you are somebody who was brought up to form your own opinion by exploring the world around you, you are likely to live more confidently. The subconscious process of being able to draw your own conclusions and make personal choices without fear of family indoctrination or judgment is the very essence of self-confidence.
3. Practice, practice, practice. We gain confidence from life achievements. These achievements often come from investing time in our interests and craft. When we consistently practice a skill, we get better. When we get better, we gain more confidence.
4. Practice self-acceptance. Being comfortable in your own skin is the holy grail of self-confidence because our deepest insecurities stem from doubt, lack and rejection of self. When you reach the point in your life where you are self-aware, able to acknowledge your desires and also assertive enough to pursue those wishes, you are defined as being comfortable in your skin.
Nothing will chip away more at your confidence than allowing your outside persona to differ from your inner self. Bridge the gap between who you genuinely are and how you portray yourself. Stop the agonizing battle of pretending to be someone who others expect you to be, and your confidence will soar. It all comes from within. Confidence is like a gas stove; you control the size of the flame.