Confidence starts with baby steps, and then the only way is up. Image courtesy of stockfreeimages.com
According to the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, confidence has been defined as 1. firm trust or 2. reliance and certainty. Essentially then, confidence is the belief that we can place assurance in an outcome which we desire.
Achievement, having realistic goals as well as an awareness of what we can control, and on what we can’t are the keys to developing confidence in ourselves.
Once we have achieved success in a particular area, we automatically take a step up in confidence. After all we did it, and if we’ve done it once, we can do it again. If we do it twice, our self-confidence grows even more. Each time we realise a goal we set out to conquer, we have increasing faith in our own capabilities. Gaining self-confidence cannot be achieved by theorising - we need to generally achieve in a real situation what we were hoping to. Of course, we can hypothesise that we can do something successfully based on knowing ourselves and the nature of the goal; but for those of us who falter in self-belief; self-assurance or self-confidence is best based upon actual achievement. It is not that people with a lack of confidence need to prove themselves more to anyone, but they may need to prove it to themselves.
The second important factor in gaining confidence in situations we doubt our abilities in is to make sure your goals in that area are realistic.
For example, I have to do statistics this year in Psychology. It is not something I am naturally good at. If I set my sights on achieving a high distinction as an acceptable level of achievement, then I will end up feeling inadequate. For me, just passing statistics - especially in third year would be phenomenal. I know I can do it. It’s a realistic goal this time, because even though it will be difficult, I know I can pass. Lowering the bar of expectation has made confidence in my ability to do statistics easier to achieve, because I have set myself a realistic goal.
However, the great thing about achieving confidence in realistic steps is that success builds upon success.
Once you have achieved a realistic aim for you, you can then, depending on whether it is important for you to go further - to try to stretch yourself just a little bit more, knowing that you have reached first base. However, be careful of perfectionism and placing your self-esteem in a vulnerable situation where you have to achieve, or where you start comparing yourself with others.
Thirdly, it is important when trying to improve self-confidence in a particular situation or area to know how much is within your control.
For example, socially I am rather shy and unsure of myself. I cannot control what other people think of me, or whether they will like me. Nobody can. However, I can control how I feel about myself during my interactions with others. I can control, and therefore develop confidence in my ability to be a good listener, and efforts to have empathy when talking with others.
Confidence then is indeed a feeling that you can rely on yourself, or be certain that you have what it takes to achieve a certain outcome. It also means you trust yourself - knowing and being sure of what you can do, and what you might not be ready for yet. The self-awareness that is needed for trust will grow, as you compare what you did with what you wanted to do.
It is very important that you don’t bring ‘fail’ into the confidence equation.
If, for whatever reason you didn’t quite reach your goal; remember that this could be because you set your heights too high - just for the present, or you were comparing yourself to someone else’s standard. Or for many other reasons. None of these, provided the situation you wished to become confident with is in your control reflects upon your capabilities in any way. It may have just been because you were not feeling well. It is important to keep trying, because if you don’t, you only reinforce an “I can’t” mentality.
So, just like Thomas the Tank Engine, it’s important to turn that “I think I can” into “I know I can” by facing your fears in realistic ways, and doing what you deep down know you can.