Updated: Aug 7
Five Steps to Cultivate Confidence
To do or not to do
Many of us struggle with taking steps towards change. Change involves risk, it involves vulnerability, it involves the possibility of failure, it involves discomfort and not knowing.
While your current life is not going so well, it’s at least something you know. So you stay stagnant because you feel like you don’t have the confidence to take that step.
What is confidence anyways?
Webster’s defines confidence as “a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances”. Confidence is an internal trait where one believes in their own ability to do things.
Confidence is developed through the messaging we receive growing up when our caretakers tell us that we are capable of doing things. Confidence is developed through experiences.
Whether the outcome is considered a success or a failure, is not important, it is the willingness to try again and again.
The Man in the Arena
Below is the famous Teddy Roosevelt quote:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
This quote speaks to the courage and confidence one must have to take on the challenge and take risks.
Confidence must exist if one is to enter the arena, and every time he enters the arena, he walks out with more confidence because he has allowed himself to walk in and take on the challenge.
The big question is “how do I get there?” When you are scared, or worried about what others will think, or you have people telling you that you cannot do it, how do you tune out the naysayers and do the uncomfortable things that can build your confidence.
It’s not just about saying to yourself “I believe in myself”. It’s not about having blind faith or affirming to yourself that you can just do it.
Confidence is a knowledge of yourself and assessing what you are capable of. Confidence is looking at examples in your life where you have done the hard things and seeing that you have been successful in various areas.
The problem is that many of us DON’T think that we are capable, and therein lies the problem. The problem so often is that we only remember the failures or minimize the moments where you were confident, leaving you paralyzed and scared. So how do you work through the negative chatter and cultivate confidence? Here are things to consider.
1. Start looking at the past (selectively)
We only seem to remember the embarrassing moments, the moments where our heart was broken, where we failed. In some ways this is evolutionary and automatic. We remember these major failures as a way to remind us to stop taking risks. Taking risks might kill us. If we don’t take risks, we increase our chances of survival.
However, do you ever notice that when you talk to a woman who has given birth, they will tell you that the pain was the worst experience they’ve ever had, yet when the baby is placed in their arms all is forgotten. Forgotten to the point that they will willingly get pregnant and go through the painful labor again and again?
What is remembered is the moment the child is placed in your arms, or you hear that baby’s first cry. Why? Because our minds have selectively decided what is important and what isn’t. Our minds choose to remember that so that we can love that baby and take care of it.
In order for you to cultivate confidence, you must make the conscious effort to go back in your memory stores and find examples where you have succeeded. Find memories from past where you have put in effort, have had some successes and have made progress. Be more selective about your memories and find moments where things worked out.
2. In the present moment, document where you have been successful.
Think back to the last 24 hours…to the last hour….to the last 15 minutes. What did you do well? Was the dinner you made delicious? Did you nail that presentation at work? Did you finish that puzzle? Did you complete your to do list?
Go through your day and identify areas that went well and write it down. When time has lapsed and life happens, it is very hard to remember these small details, however, if you can document over time, the small wins, you can cultivate confidence, by having a track record.
3. Be careful about the stories you tell yourself and the narratives you create.
“I’m no good at math”. “I’m ugly”. “I’m fat.” “I’m pretty good at crossword puzzles” “I know my way around a kitchen”. Forget what people say about you…what do you say about yourself.
So often we walk around with stories about ourselves that were developed through painful experiences, but we never stop to differentiate that one experience does not define who you are.
Begin to analyze how you came to define yourself as “good” or “bad” at something. And if you have history of being “bad” at things, make a choice to say that “from this day forward, I will work to be good at this…I was bad at that in the past”.
Seek out knowledge and experiences that will help you get better at something and keep working at it, looking for progress along the way.
4. Challenge the future visualizations and worries that you have created in your mind.
So often we are deterred from taking action because “we can already see it…it’s not going to end well”. That future outcome has been formulated, not with the possibility in mind, but rather past experiences and past failures.
Past experiences have dictated that the future outcome will not be successful, but get this, when you work at getting better at something, the outcome has a strong likelihood of being different too.
When you can identify past memories where things HAVE worked out, you can reference those memories to be hopeful in your ability to have a better outcome. The problem is often that we cannot see the future outcome with new eyes, but this is where we have to challenge the visualization.
We must be willing to say “that might have happened in the past, but I know more things now, I have more knowledge, I have gotten better, let’s see”. Use your imagination, come up with four or five scenarios, where the outcome works out.
And if you struggle to see an outcome where things will work out, go back to the steps above to develop greater awareness about what is possible.
5. Take action and do uncomfortable things.
Make choices that can give you confidence. Ask yourself what things scare you? Is it cooking? Is it asking someone out on a date? Is it applying for the supervisor job? Before you take the leap to do hard things, are there things you can do that are uncomfortable but feel safe?
Can you order a meal kit from Hello Fresh and follow a recipe where afterwards you can say “I made Chilean Sea Bass with a lemon vinaigrette for dinner last night”. Can you talk to a neighbor you don’t know very well and ask them to come over for dinner where afterwards you can say “I invited a stranger over to my house and cooked for them?” Can you sign up for leadership courses and can say “I want a supervisor job at some point so I’m taking classes to learn how to do that at my current job or somewhere else?”
Focus on taking aligned and parallel action so that you can develop the confidence to go after the “big thing”.
Confidence is not something you’re born with but rather is something that must be cultivated over time. Just as an athlete cannot just go to practice one time and develop confidence, one must work at it consistently so that it becomes part of your narrative and your identity. May you walk into the arena confidently.
My name is Edwige and I am a therapist who specializes in mom issues (stress and anxiety) and trauma. Find me on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.