Can I Learn to be More Confident?

By Sherry Siska

All you have to do is take a gander at any actor, singer, musician, or pro athlete who is “making it” in their profession and you’ll see the confidence just oozing off of them so hard that it’s practically rolling down the street. These folks are nothing if not confident.

I, on the other hand, am decidedly NOT always confident. I worry incessantly that I have messed up, embarrassed myself and my family, and/or made a fool of myself. I fret over what I’ve said, done, and written as well as what I’ve failed to say or do. In other words, I spend a lot of time being less than the fearless gal I aspire to be.

How to be confident and capable

A quick Google search turned up about 82,000 results, most of which emphatically say “YES. Yes, you can learn to be more confident and here’s how.”  They then proceed to tell you that it’s simply a matter of deciding you want to be confident and following certain steps. In fact, the very first one that shows up is a list of “25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence”. 

The author, Leo Babauta, gives some good advice, including the one that you could probably guess without Googling: can the negative self-talk. Easier said than done.

Which is, of course, easier said than done.

It’s not that I don’t try. As soon as I realize it’s happening, I pull out the big gun affirmations and start trying to shoot it down. The problem, though, is that my aim isn’t quite as good as it needs to be. 

And, maybe, in a way that’s okay. Maybe I’m just not ready yet. Maybe the lack of confidence is simply a sign that my skills still need sharpening. 

Overconfidence in my abilities might make me lazier. Right now, because I am not rock-star confident, I work REALLY hard. I practice, read, study, and practice some more. 

Practice, practice, practice

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, discusses studies that show that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice to get good at pretty much anything. It’s how Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps, Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall became world class athletes.

Sure, they have oodles of natural talent, but they have also worked their butts off and continue to do so.  If they weren’t continuing to practice, to improve, they’d soon find themselves relegated to the stacks of “has-beens”, people who are blessed with all kinds of talent but who are not willing to put in the practice time

Most coaches will tell you that they’d much rather have someone with a little talent and a lot of determination and drive on their team than a highly talented, but very lazy and overly confident athlete.  

Breaking out of my comfort zone

Other folks say that one way to becoming more confident is to act “as if” you are a confident person. The fabulous Cheryl Richardson recently posted about how she made a conscious effort when she was feeling less than confident to “do the opposite of what  I normally do.”

She goes on to remind us that “A comfort zone can become a prison if we let it.”  When I read it, that sentence stopped me in my tracks.  I thought of that old saw “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” 

Part of my lack of self-confidence manifests as not asking for help or advice, which is precisely the opposite of what I should do. For some reason, I convinced myself awhile back that by reaching out to people, I’d just be wasting their time. Why on earth, I thought, would a successful person want to spend their time talking to little old “nobody” me?

I realize that, even if I’m shaking in my boots, in order to feel more confident, I need to escape from my comfort zone prison and pick up the phone, send the email, ask for the meeting.

So that’s the track I’m going to try. I’m going to pretend that I’m confident on the outside, and do the opposite of what I normally do, even as I’m quaking on the inside. 

I’m giving you this heads up so that if you see me around, you won’t have to wonder what in the world is trickling out of my shoes and running down the street: you’ll know it’s my new found confidence.


image: by Raymond Sam