Everyone wants more of it. Some seem to be born with it. Others had it and lost it. Some never seem to get it, no matter how hard they try. Whatever your story is, if you want more confidence, you’re going to have to go build it yourself. Here’s how.
Confidence isn’t actually required to do anything. We can get the job offer, land the new big client, ask that person out, or make a speech all without confidence. Even though technically we don’t need it to accomplish our goals, we still want it — and struggle to get more of it.
Despite what you might think, building and strengthening your confidence can be a piece of CAKE. Cheesy, but catch this, because it’s useful.
- C = Confidence
- A = Attitude
- K = Knowledge
- E = Experience
Everyone wants more cake, right? To get more of that C, here are some helpful tips on building your A, K, and E to become more confident.
Tip #1: Nail Your Attitude
Simply put, attitude refers to a belief in yourself. At first glance, it might appear that believing in yourself is a tall order. You’re probably thinking, “Come on Johnny, if I have no problem believing in myself, I wouldn’t be looking to build my confidence.” That’s a fair sentiment, so that’s why you need to start slow, take baby steps, and learn to accept that there will be mistakes.
For example, look at some of the activities or tasks you can do now with relative ease. Maybe it’s learning how to play the guitar, beating your favorite video game, or cooking. When you first started out doing those things, how did it go? I’m willing to bet you not only couldn’t do it, you were awful at it. But now you excel at it.
So, what happened? Over time and with practice, you learned that new skill. And why did you stick with it, taking the time to learn your craft? Because you had the right attitude — you believed in yourself and just knew you could do it. Building confidence is no different.
But now you’re thinking, “Yeah, but this new thing is hard. I’m probably going to fail — badly, at first. I don’t want to fail.” In that case, try not to look at it as failing. There is a famous quote attributed to Thomas Edison that states:
“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Maybe you don’t have to try something 10,000 times, but try looking at your “failures” as learning experiences. You can cultivate your belief in yourself by looking at each experience as taking you one step closer to getting better at something and as a result, helping to build confidence.
There are a few things to keep in mind to maintain that positive attitude. First, don’t pay too much attention to other people on social media<. One of social media's biggest negatives is that it can create unrealistic expectations. I promise you that the person with the "perfect" life on Facebook doesn't have it as good as you think they do. Second, keep things in perspective rather than rehashing what didn’t go so well. Imagine yourself ten years from now and look back at your most recent setback. Is your future self going to care about the fact that you didn’t pick up that girl that one time or you weren’t able to turn that job interview into a job offer? Trust me when I tell you that nine times out of ten, your future self won’t care.
Tip #2: Grow Your Knowledge
It’s almost automatic: When your knowledge increases, so does your confidence. So if you want more confidence in something, a great way to get it is to learn more about it. This is especially true when you are interested in something you know nothing about.
For example, let’s say you want to learn how to play golf, but barely know the difference between a ball and a tee. Before you take that first swing, you probably want to get an idea of how golf works, what the general rules are, and the different types of equipment that are used. And you’ll have to get this knowledge from somewhere, such as the Internet.
The Internet provides virtually all of the world’s information to anyone who has a data connection. Maybe it’s not all of the world’s information, but it’s at least four billion webpages’ worth. We really don’t grasp how much information we have at our fingertips. To put things in perspective, let me tell you a story about learning how to play the guitar.
When I was growing up, I didn’t have the Internet. When I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, I watched MTV (you know, back when they still played music). So any time a new song came on the air, I tried to play it. It didn’t matter what song it was or whether I liked it or not, I tried to mimic what I heard on television.
Today, someone who is trying to learn the guitar isn’t limited to what’s playing on MTV. They now have thousands of YouTube videos, websites, and tutorials ready to not only teach them how to play the guitar, but how to play the songs they want to learn — not what some producer at MTV has decided to air.
So, with the Internet so easily accessible, don’t be afraid to do that deep dive or fall down that rabbit hole on YouTube or Wikipedia and work toward earning your online PhD in any interest of your choice.
Tip #3: Get More Experience
Acquiring knowledge helps build confidence, but it can only take you so far. Eventually you’ve got to take that next step and actually do something to get more confidence.
You want the confidence to pick up someone from the party? You’re going to have to go to a few parties and talk to some people. Want a perfect golf swing? It will require you to actually pick up a club and swing at a golf ball (probably thousands of times). There’s a reason people with all the knowledge but none of the experience are sometimes called an armchair __________. (You can fill in the blank with anything you want, but quarterback comes to mind.) All the knowledge in the world doesn’t mean that much if you haven’t actually done it yourself.
A good analogy is some of the popular video games out there today. If you want to level up in the game, believe it or not, you’re going to have to actually play the game. To take it a bit deeper, you may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to be really, really good at something.
This is often attributed to author Malcolm Gladwell and his book, Outliers. He likely based this conclusion from a 1993 study looking at elite violinists. This study found it was deliberate practice that separated elite world class individuals from the average professional, not talent. So, what’s the primary difference from a first ballot baseball hall of famer and minor league journeyman who’s never been to the show? Might be as little as a few thousand hours of practice.
Yes, I know you’re not looking to become the next Nolan Ryan in your chosen field, but it shows that the importance of going out there and getting experience.
Another great thing about gaining experience, which also related to learning from our mistakes, is that it helps you create “war stories.” Many of your experiences won’t be the most pleasant, and your inner critic might start squawking at you. But they make for great stories later in life and will help you find a common bond with others who have similar “war stories.” My early band days are a perfect example.
When I started playing the guitar, I absolutely loved it and all I wanted to do was play music on stage. I spent most of my time trying to get a band together so we could play on stage. It didn’t matter how bad we were or how much more practice I needed on the guitar, I just wanted to go out there and do it.
I wish I could tell you that we killed every single time, but we didn’t. It got pretty bad at times, but those “failures” didn’t stop me from wanting to continue. In the process of all these experiences, I gained so many war stories that almost anyone can relate to. Now those stories help me connect with total strangers in the music industry. As an added bonus, all that experience actually made me a better musician.
Lastly, experience is great for helping build confidence because it allows you to learn more about yourself. Let’s take the golf swing example further. If you have a habit of consistently slicing the ball, you won’t know that until you try hitting a few golf balls. So, by gaining experience, you’re able to learn more about what you’re doing wrong, which can then help you adjust what you need to learn, which leads to better performance, which leads to more confidence. Building confidence can be a self-sustaining chain reaction, you just need to be willing to take that first step and jumpstart it.
Building confidence takes time and it takes effort; there are no shortcuts. To help you build confidence, you need three things: the right attitude (to believe in yourself), knowledge and experience. If you work on those three things, your confidence will grow.