One of the first changes I wanted to make when I started this journey of self improvement, was to have more confidence. Everything I heard and read was something like “people are attracted to confidence” or “everything stems from confidence”, or when you have confidence “doors of opportunity will open.”
Google defines confidence as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.”
“So how do I get confidence?” I wondered.
How do I gain this “self-assurance” when I have none? It felt like every other chicken and egg scenario: getting a job without experience, spending money to make money, etc.
My first thought was practice. I’ll just practice being confident. I’ll fake it until I make it. While I believe that this can improve your mindset, there is one thing that can help even more.
According to Google, courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one”. You’re acknowledging that fear but moving past it. I feel this is the core of building confidence and have found that the better you are at facing your fears about one thing, the easier is it to transfer that courage to other areas.
For me, improv helped tremendously with building courage. Facing the fear of messing up a scene is something I had to work hard to overcome when I first started improv. I was fearful of the unknown in the middle of that stage. I would get stuck in my head worrying and stressing over doing the right thing.
The more I forced myself to step out on stage, the less fearful I became. I was building proof to myself that my fear was unfounded and made up in my head.
So how do I build courage
- Acknowledge that fear. It’s there, but it’s in your brain. Your brain is telling you “hey I don’t know about this.” “Something bad could happen”. It’s a defense mechanism to keep you safe. The fear of doing something is often harder than actually doing it.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
- Accept that you might fail, but refute failure. It’s going to be hard to pick yourself up after you fail. It might even sting a little. For me this was one of the toughest challenges. Be OK with failing.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
- Try a lot. This reinforces that failure is something you can overcome. Soon, you won’t be afraid of failure. The activity that once scared you will be common, like tying your shoes.
“The secret to happiness is freedom… And the secret to freedom is courage.” – Thucydides
- Shift your focus. Choose to dwell on something other than the thing that scares you. In improv, this could be deep listening or being ready to step out and support your team. In public speaking, this could be focusing on the content of your presentation and how your audience will benefit from it vs the fear of speaking.
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” – Aristotle
Building confidence will happen if you work hard enough. The real hurdle is getting started and taking that first step. It’s facing fear over and over with courage that builds confidence. Forget “how do I build confidence?” The real question is “how do I build courage?”