Confidence is such an important part of internal happiness.
Most resources on the topic focus on trying to convince yourself, with brute mental force, that you believe in yourself enough to make something happen. I’m sure in some situations that can help. But, in my experience, there is a near fool-proof recipe we can use to create full and lasting confidence.
I must say, I feel that confidence is one of the very best gifts a person could give them self. It really opens up our ability to go after the things we want in life.
Without it, we are left sitting on the sidelines wishing we had things like more courage, better opportunities, or whatever it is that others seem to have had that gave them the style of happiness we are after.
That “Je Ne Sais Quoi”
We’ve all seen that person walk in the room with a presence that we almost can’t describe. It’s not that they walk physically taller yet they seem to do so. It’s not that their gaze is actually more focused, yet you’d swear it must be. And it’s not that they speak with perfect command, yet somehow it seems they do.
They have that “je ne sais quoi,” French for ” I don’t know what,” that is both enviable and reassuring at the same time.
That, my friends, is confidence.
Confidence is interesting in that while it is rooted in specific areas, meaning we can be confident in one area and not yet in another, it also has a cumulative effect. It seems there is a tipping point where a general sense of confidence becomes the default once confidence is found in a number of areas. Especially if they are similar to the task at hand.
So, while the confident air of the person just described isn’t simply the result of their confidence in the way they look + their ability to interact with others + their ability to work a room or handle new situations. All those pieces add up to be a part of how they have a more solid sense of confidence, in general.
If a general sense of confidence can come from hitting a tipping point of confidence in many small areas, how do we gain confidence in those small and specific ways?
That is what we believe there is a recipe for.
Shall We Dance?
To describe the recipe for gaining confidence I like to use the analogy of learning to dance.
Many people can relate to being the wallflower at a dance. The one who is busy pretending they are needed full time to hold up the wall they are leaning against.
I’ve been there!
Slow dancing may be doable. But, the moment a fast song comes on they disappear into the background. Off to the side, watching those who are on the dance floor having fun and wishing they could do the same.
So, what is it that would create the confidence necessary for this person to be out there on the dance floor having fun with the others?
I’m a fan of mantras, for sure, but no amount of repeating a mantra will suddenly have them grooving to the beat. It may help them relax a bit and open themselves up to be vulnerable enough to try. And that is very valuable… But, it’s not what gets the full job done.
Step #1: Knowledge
The first step in creating confidence is gaining knowledge.
We have to take some time to understand a bit about what it is that we want to do and what success looks like.
In this case, our wallflower could gain some knowledge about dance moves in various ways. They could study the movement of those on the floor. They could watch videos to do the same. Or they could take a lesson and work with an instructor to learn some moves.
It is key that they have a sense of what good, or success, looks like since meeting that measure will be a key part of their ability to gain confidence.
The knowledge of what success looks like and the steps to get there, are the foundation, or step one, to having confidence in this area.
Interestingly, though, knowledge is not enough.
Having studied a bit about some dance moves that look good does not mean that or wallflower friend is ready to go tear it up on the dance floor.
So, what is the next step?
Step #2: Experience
Experience. Our soon-to-be dancing friend needs to get busy shaking their bon bon. And especially with lots of repetition.
I love this analogy because it is so obvious. You can’t just see or even study a person dancing and feel confident. You have to start moving and try to get your body doing those moves before that foundation of confidence starts building.
I will say, giving yourself a kind, supportive, judgement-free environment this phase can be immensely helpful. There’s a difference between working with a teacher that provides the benefit of a critical eye to help us refine our moves and being in an environment where we feel judged negatively as a person.
It’s especially important to feel safe while we are being vulnerable – letting ourselves be “in progress.”
Step #3: Reflection
So, where are we in the progression now? Is our wallflower prime-time ready?
Maybe, but there was one final, subtle but key, step necessary for them to really feel confident. That is reflection.
I don’t mean in the sit-and-think-about-your-life sense of the word, more like the reflection of a mirror. In this case, it is literally a mirror!
The thing that really seals the deal when it comes to confidence is that moment when we see ourselves doing the dance moves well. When we see ourselves dancing in the mirror and like what we see. There is not much left to stop us from jumping up to the dance floor once we know the moves, have experience or practice under our belt and have verified that we see we can move in a way that fits our definition of success.
Let’s take another example.
In my life, there are lots of areas I feel very confident. And, I’m super grateful for that! But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t also areas where I don’t have confidence.
Now, if there is a recipe card and very literal instructions, I can bake something. No problem! But, I have come to learn that cooking is a WHOLE new animal. We are talking pans and stove top action and grills and such, here.
My nemesis? Cooking chicken.
If you give me a raw chicken breast (please don’t) I have exactly zero confidence I can return to you something edible.
There is a big blank spot in my mind between raw chicken and cooked chicken.
I learned that my recipe card confidence doesn’t really transfer. Since in cooking there are live variables you have to accommodate for and adjust to on the fly. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it-until-the-timer-goes-off type of thing.
Let’s do that same gap analysis; what would it take for me to feel like I could cook chicken?
In order to gain confidence, I’d need to start by defining my measure of success. Which is: chicken that tastes good to most people, and then go get knowledge on the topic. Read recipes, ask others, there are lots of ways I could gain knowledge on this topic. Then, I’d need experience. Reading the recipe didn’t get me to the point that I’d be ready to commit to provide something delicious in an important context, but if I cooked chicken a handful of times, I’d be a lot closer to that point.
It’s that final little reflection, though, that seals the deal – either I, or some other brave volunteer, would need to taste the chicken I cooked and verify that it is good before I can really settle into confidence in that area.
Once I have the knowledge of how to cook chicken, have tried it a few times to get the hang of it and have successfully created something someone loves to eat, I’m ready for my primetime.
Bring it, dinner party.
That being said, in real life I still don’t know how to cook chicken. Luckily, I have a husband that is an AMAZING cook and he makes incredible chicken. So, while I don’t have confidence in my ability to cook chicken, I DO have confidence in my ability to get access to delicious chicken, and that works for me!
Let’s Review Tips To Confidence
In summary, the recipe for confidence:
- KNOWLEDGE- Learn what success looks like and how to do it.
- EXPERIENCE- Try it! Do it over and over, if necessary.
- REFLECTION- Take a minute to notice that you did it right.
The more areas we gain confidence in, the more we also build confidence in our ability to do new things, in general, which leads to a stronger sense of general confidence.
It’s like a snowball of goodness.
So, even picking a few small and simple areas to tackle can yield bigger results than we’d think.
Start Yesterday, Or Now
I sincerely, believe that confidence is one of the most helpful things to have.
Confidence is essential to the feeling of power we need to have to believe we can create what we want and need in life.
For children, messages like “you can do whatever you set your mind to” or “believe in yourself” are invaluable as they help a person have the foundational courage to take on new things and assume that possibility is on the other side of those first courageous steps, instead of assuming that only failure lies there. Life does a good job, over time, reminding us that it’s not always easy, so a little boost in the other direction is helpful. Back to those mantras, I suppose.
If that foundational belief wasn’t provided by those important to us in our early years we can work to give it to ourselves, using this simple recipe to build confidence, one area at a time.
Your Confidence Challenge
Alright. Here’s your challenge.
Think of one are in life you would like to feel more confident. Something simple.
Now, think about what success looks like in that area and make a plan to get the knowledge you need to meet that. Then, get busy trying it. Over and over, if you need to, until you have enough experience that you can have that point of reflection where you know you did it.
Voila! That’s confidence.
Start small, then try the process again in more and more complex areas.
Come back to let me know how it goes!