I remember being nineteen years old in my first week of University when I first heard the advice to “just be confident” when talking to women. Before I started figuring things out for myself, “just be confident” and “just be yourself” were the only two pieces of dating advice that I had ever really gotten, and it was frustrating because it didn’t give me any sort of real guidance on what I should actually do.
After all, how do you really be confident? As a 19-year-old, I hadn’t really achieved anything except getting into a good university, which only made me equal to every single person on campus. I was skinny, awkward, untested, unsure of who I was and what my talents were. I had no real foundations on which to base any sense of accomplishment. I saw other, more confident guys on campus, and wondered: “what do they have to be so confident about?” It took me many years to realize this secret, that I’m going to share with you now. Hopefully this will save you a lot of the trouble that I went through. Before I tell you the secret though, you have to realize the error that most people make. Most people with low-confidence and low-self esteem, think that confidence is about thinking you’re good at something, and self-esteem is about thinking you’re a good or worthy person in general. They think it’s about having “high value” or whatever. These people have it all wrong.
The girl who looks in the mirror and says “I’m pretty” and feels good about her self has the same problem as the girl who looks in the mirror and says “I’m ugly” and feels bad. Their real problem is the compulsive need to look in the mirror to reassure themselves. The only difference between the two is that one gets her fix, and the other doesn’t.
It is the habit of self-judgment, more than the judgment itself, that characterizes people with low self-confidence and low self-esteem. It’s that habit of going into your mind and demanding reassurance that you are good or worthy that is the root of low self-esteem, and its mirror image, arrogance.
So what is REAL confidence, and REAL self-esteem?
True confidence and self esteem are about not judging yourself at all.
Confidence is a state of non-worry, of being present and occupied with the world as it is, and not as it ought to be, or as we judge it to be. True self-esteem is the state of accepting oneself, for good and for bad. You can only do that if you change the habit of judging yourself.
I’m not saying that you should be oblivious to yourself, or whether you’re a good person or a bad person. There is a role for non-judgementally evaluating yourself. But a confident person doesn’t think about these things compulsively. The confident man does what he believes is right, and is not overly concerned with how others judge him. He seeks to control that which he can control: his own actions, emotions and motivations, and then accepts the things that he cannot control, such as the inevitable judgments of other people.
After all, if we allow our self-esteem to be reliant on the judgments of other people, we are really making ourselves the victims of the meanest, most judgmental people in society.
Let me provide an example. I am a confident singer and guitar player. This is despite the fact that my talent at those two things is rather middling. I’m not confident because I think I’m great; I’m confident because I know I’m not horrible and I’m not really worried much beyond that. So I can get up in front of people, and sing my little heart out without worry or anxiety.
But in order to be confident, in order for me to truly enjoy and put my heart into the act of singing, it’s not simply enough that I consider myself good – I must stop even asking the question.
Today, instead of worrying whether you’re good or bad, worthy or unworthy, direct your attention and focus outwards, towards the world in front of you, and watch your confidence increase.