Six Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence
by Dorothy Leeds
A fascinating concept -- confidence. We talk about it a lot and everyone wants it, but it is rarely analyzed in depth. Where does it come from? When I ask this question in my seminars, participants usually say "within." But, how does it get there? We are born with confidence. You probably can't remember what's like to be a baby, but look at your children. Are they afraid to do anything? Of course not. But that is because they haven't been told they can't. It is other people's negativity that erodes the confidence we have as toddlers the rules and the restrictions, not to mention the put-downs and the insults that every child will inevitably hear before adulthood. To be fully confident though, we need to get past that negativity and tap into that original, audacious confidence we had when we were in diapers.
Utilizing that confidence isn't an easy task, though it won't just reappear with a wave of you magic confidence wand. But there are six ways to restore your confidence and become the self you want to be. And they are:
- Self-appreciation and objectivity about one's strengths and weaknesses
- Action and risk-taking
The first strategy, reflecting on your past experiences, is the easiest to do. Look at what you have accomplished in your life your career and your children will be your biggest feats. Look back one year, then five, and even ten years at where you were then and where you are now. If you really take the time and look at what you have done, you will realize that you have come a long way and are capable of doing what you want. When I was sixteen, I toured Europe on my own no parents, no friends, and no guardians. At first, I was terrified. How would I manage? What would I do if I got into trouble? Could I really do this all on my own at such a young age? Well, I did. I had a wonderful time and that experience has enriched my life. And even to this day, I look at that accomplishment and it helps me summon up the strength I need to get me through the more difficult times. I say to myself, "If I did that, why can't I do this?"
Self-appreciation and objectivity about one's strengths and weaknesses
The accomplishments you've achieved will boost your self-confidence more than anything will, but it is also important to look at your faults. We all have shortcomings no matter how much we hate it, that is what makes us human. Some of these we are able to fix and some are near impossible to fix. You must accept that everyone has foibles they can't shake and then work on those blemishes that you can improve. A good thing about knowing your faults is that you know when to ask for help. Imagine this: You are working on a multi-million dollar proposal for your company. If you land the deal, you will be the hero of the office; if you fail, your career will suffer. A large part of the project hinges on your ability to be creative in your approach, but unfortunately that is not your strongest attribute. Which is better? To admit you aren't the most creative person and ask someone to help you? Or try to do it on your own, although you know the product might not be up to par? There is nothing wrong with enlisting someone's assistance it shows that you have the maturity (and confidence) to admit that, while you are great, you aren't always great in everything.
Action and risk-taking
The third way of cultivating your confidence is by taking risks in life. The best thing about taking risks is that they will pay off even if you fail. Because when we do fail, we must be able to put that failure in perspective. The act of trying, alone, can booster your confidence. For instance, my assistant, fresh out of college and 21 years old came, to New York City from the Midwest in search of a job. After two months of desperately searching for a job, he was about to give up and leave, when he interviewed for the position as my assistant. Even if he hadn't gotten the job working for me and wound up having to go home, he would still have been able to be proud of the effort he put into pursuing what he wanted and therefore would have been more confident. If he hadn't come at all, the thought of "What if?" would have stayed with him for a long time and slowly eaten away at his self-confidence. Ten or twenty years from now, when you think back about a risk you took, you will be able to say you went out and gave everything you had. It takes a lot of strength to put your neck on the line and when you do even if you fail you are reaching back into the childhood sense of learning and curiosity about the world.
The knowledge you gain, not only from the mistakes you make, but also from everything around you, will raise your self-assurance. If you are going into a job interview, knowing what the company does, what their goals are, and what type of person they are looking for, you are a lot better off. With this knowledge, you will be able match your skills and traits to the needs and wants of the company. I call these the "Success Factors" in my career seminars, but they apply to everyday situations, as well. When you know what it takes to be a good mother and what your child needs, you can be more confident that you will be able to fulfill those expectations.
In my business, as soon as a client hires me to present a speech or workshop, I begin my preparations. I send a list of my audio and visual requirements. I assess what will need to be included in my script and the workbook. I get my visual aids in order. All this for a speech or workshop I've given many times before. If I didn't start planning and preparing, even months in advance, I wouldn't be ready for the event. Walking in frazzled and disorganized not only looks unprofessional but makes me very nervous. When everything is in its place and I know I will have everything I need, I feel at ease and can focus my thoughts on more important things, like greeting the attendees and developing relationships with them. Preparation helps lower the chances of something horrible happening and increases the probability of success. It will calm your nerves, most of all. You will be able to say to yourself, "I have everything I need and I am ready for whatever comes my way."
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! And why is that? Because enough steady and determined practice hones your skills. No one would give a recital to an audience of thousands after only playing the piano for a week, would they? When you have done something over and over again and worked on every detail you will do a better job and have assurance of your abilities. When you had your second child, didn't you feel more confident about your parenting skills because you've already been through it and had some practice? Weren't you even more confident with the third child? And even more so with the fourth? Rarely do we ever really do something for the first time and it turn out to be a true success. Realizing that with time, repeating an action and becoming accustomed to all the circumstances that come with that action, we give ourselves more and more assurance.
For now, integrate these six factors into your life. Watch how your confidence begins to grow. It won't happen over night, but I promise once you start to feel more confident inside, people will perceive you as such. In the next installment of this article, we will talk more about improving the image others have of you.
Dorothy Leeds is an internationally
known speaker and best-selling author. She has written ten books including
PowerSpeak, Smart Questions, and Marketing Yourself. Her next book, The
Seven Powers of Questions, will be published by Putnam in 2000. As a
sought-after media consultant, she appears regularly on Good Morning
America and the Today Show and in the pages of the New York Times and USA
Today. The concepts in her books are the foundation for the hundreds of
workshops and keynote presentations she makes every year. Her clients
include many Fortune 500 companies such as IBM, Pfizer, and Parke-Davis.
Moonlighting as a film critic, she reviews for WEHM radio in East Hampton,
Web Page:www.dorothyleeds.com | email:firstname.lastname@example.org
©1997 by Dorothy Leeds, Organizational Technologies Inc.
800 West End Avenue, Suite 10A
New York NY 10025, 212-864-2424
Modified December 25, 2002