Earlier this week I made a post about the real secret of what confidence is – and if you want to build your confidence you should check that out first. But the kind of confidence that I was describing in that post is really the endpoint of a long process. So to help you along that journey, here are ten steps you can start taking today, no matter how poor your self confidence is or how much doubt you feel. I present to you, Ten Steps to Real Self Confidence.
1 – Take care of yourself.
When we like something, we want to take care of it. And when we take care of something, we tend to value it more. Taking care of yourself is an important and crucial element of having true self confidence and self-esteem. This doesn’t mean being narcissistic or always putting yourself first, but rather treating yourself with dignity and care. Eating well, dressing well, working out, learning all create a strong foundation for true self confidence. Eating poorly, being sedentary, and allowing ourselves to stagnate undermine our ability to create the foundations for confidence.
2 – Challenge yourself
Going out and pushing your limits is a powerful way to improve your sense of self-reliance, and self confidence. It is only by being challenged by reality, either in the form of a struggle against nature, or struggle against other human beings, that we truly test our abilities and skills. Playing video games, watching movies, debating on the Internet, even studying at school don’t provide us with the real, reality tested experience that is required to achieve excellence and self confidence in the real world. That experience, can only be attained by going out and challenging yourself.
3 – Compete
Most of us have grown-up in a world where all the kids receive a medal just for showing up. Competition is now seen as a negative thing to be avoided. And competition has its negative elements. The focus on winning, on defeating or humiliating your enemy, or avoiding the humiliation of defeat yourself is counter-productive. The virtue of competition is is that a real, competitive, match teaches you more about yourself, your abilities and what you are capable of than any kind of practice. The value of competition is in the way it teaches us about ourselves, victory and defeat are secondary.
4 – Control what you can control, and Accept the Rest
One thing I’ve noticed about people with low self confidence is that they tend to be unnecessarily harsh on others. The habit of judging, of ascribing “good” and “bad” to people is often a very counterproductive habit. When we criticize others, we implicitly open ourselves up to the same criticism. When we suspend judgment, and accept others, make it easier to accept ourselves.
I sometimes wonder if the world would work better if we just eliminated the words good and bad from our vocabulary. Instead of saying, “Bob Smith is a bad president”, we would have to think a little deeper and say something else, like “President Smith has increased the deficit, and that’s going to make things hard in the future” or simply “I don’t like President Smith”. We would have to make falsifiable statements instead of broad judgments about people, or admit that we are simply stating an opinion. In the end, I can’t think of a single situation where the use of the word good, or bad, is necessary, or superior to making a more nuanced statement. Labeling things as “good” or “bad” is often just lazy thinking, especially when applied to oneself.
5 – Meditation Cultivates Self Confidence
My father taught me to meditate when I was 14 years old, and while I have always been inconsistent in practicing meditation, it has helped me through many of my most difficult periods. Learning how to quiet the mind enables you to listen more closely to your feelings, deep-seated beliefs, anxieties and doubts, and once you are aware of them, meditation is very helpful in confronting these inner obstacles, and overcoming them. The habit of non-judgment, particularly, benefits from the practice of insight and meditation. Meditation helps you sort the wheat from the chaff, to identify the real problems in her life and to let that which doesn’t matter truly slide.
6 – Be aware of your self-image
Everyone has, in the back of their minds, an image of themselves. This image is not the real you, it is a model, an idea of your self that has been built up over time and often controls your behaviour. This image is usually shaped more by our experiences in childhood than a rational assessment of who we really are. Things like changing your style up and dressing a bit better can improve your confidence by improving your self image. But simply being aware of your self-image, how you let it affect you, is an important step towards changing that self image.
7 – Focus on your strengths.
Ultimately, I believe self confidence comes from not judging yourself. But it can be helpful to bring to mind the things which you believe you are good at, your strengths. Write them down, and when you find yourself thinking poorly of yourself, you can use these things to distract yourself, and break the habit of negative self judgment. However, remember that fundamentally, self confidence does not require any kind of special qualities on your behalf.
8 – Deny yourself
Oftentimes a sense of insecurity is caused by an over attachment to objects or people, or other transient things that come or go. A man whose confidence depends on his job will always fear losing his job. A man whose confidence relies on his skill with women will fear rejection, old age, and loneliness. A man who has learned how to live without these things can still appreciate the enjoyment that comes from money, success, admiration, without fearing their loss.
Going without something we love or care about can make us more independent and self-sufficient, and makes our confidence more durable and sustainable. Simply spending a week without spending money or a week alone in contemplation can help us realize that happiness does not in the end come from money, or even other people, but truly comes from inside.
9 – Cultivate your own values, and live by them.
Values are relative. If there’s anything that philosophy has taught us in over 2000 years, it’s that good, insightful people often disagree completely on simple issues of right and wrong. Given the state of moral confusion that we live in, it is literally impossible to live up to other people’s values, because everyone disagrees. Conservatives, christians, liberals, and atheists all have value systems that contradict one another, and even contradict themselves. But the one thing that people respect, from any value standpoint, is integrity.
This doesn’t mean being a total anarchist or rejecting social norms. It also doesn’t mean you should take up a narcissistic, and self-serving set of values. But it does mean that your values should come from an internal process of reason, rather than any desire to please or to be seen as good by others. Once you have established these values, hold yourself consistent to them, and you will be acting with integrity.
10 – Don’t Judge Yourself
The final step to real self confidence is, having established a strong foundation and base for our belief, simply stopping worrying about whether we are good or bad or worthy and accepting ourselves for who we are. As I explained in my previous post on the real secret to confidence, confidence is not about judging yourself to be good: real confidence is simply not judging yourself at all.