Building Real Self-Confidence

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

I have been studying, writing about, teaching and applying the principles of successful living for close to forty years now. These principles are timeless, changeless and there for everyone to apply and benefit from. I have also discovered that the principles of success are often misunderstood, feared, misrepresented and lied about. None more than the principle of self-confidence.

The principle of self-confidence has been twisted and redefined into many things, none that truly represent what real confidence is. It has been called “Self-Centeredness” and often turned into a narcissistic search for self satisfaction. It is seen as an over inflated ego and people who are confident are the ones who step on others in order to get ahead. Self-confidence is presented as a lack of real ability replaced by a pushy and arrogant attitude that forces others to take notice.

Success-minded people need to understand that these negative descriptions of self-confidence are untrue. Real self-confidence is in reality not only a good quality but necessary for all success. Without it we lack courage to move forward, try new things and test our limits. It is a lack of self-confidence that leads to the mediocrity of many of today’s leaders.

Have you lost your battle in trying to achieve your dream? Have you found that you know you can do better, have more and be successful in your dreams, but just cannot get yourself to do it? Few things will rob you of your ability to succeed, in any area of life, more than a lack of self-confidence. But to have that confidence, you must first understand what it is and how do you achieve it.

What Is Confidence

“Every achiever that I have ever met says, ‘My life turned around when I began to believe in me.'” – Dr. Robert Schuller

Self-confidence is the knowledge and understanding that you have particular talents and strengths. It is the awareness of what you can do and the desire to do it with excellence to the best of your ability. Real self-confidence is not thinking you are better than everyone else but knowing that there are some things that you can do better than everyone else.

Where some may think that to have confidence you must have a big ego, the truth is that real self-confidence is humble and focused. The man or woman who possesses real self-confidence will do their job with excellence and not feel they have to let everyone else know that they did. Excellence is always recognized by those who see it. It is the person who lacks confidence in themselves who feels they have to point out what they do to everyone around them.

To be confident is to know that you have the abilities to succeed in certain areas of life. It is also recognizing that other have strengths as well and are better than you in some areas. This realization is not threatening to the confident person but celebrated. Just as they want to do their best, they rejoice in seeing others do their best as well. It is a lack of confidence that causes a man or woman to feel threatened but the success of others. Lack of self-confidence causes people to feel they are always competing with the next guy to be the best. If they are not seen as the best in everything; they become angry, depressed and nasty. We have all seen it before and it is never a pretty site.

Publisher, Marcus Garvey once said, “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” To believe in yourself and your abilities is not prideful or egocentric. It is understanding that you must work hard to be the best at what you do. Why do you want to be the best? Not to show off or make others feel less, but you owe it to others to give them the best you have. To give any less is selfish and lazy on your part.

Why Do We Need Confidence

“No one can defeat us unless we first defeat ourselves.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Helen Keller, a woman who faced more challenges and difficulties in her life than most people could even imagine, once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Why do we need to build confidence in our lives? Simply put, without it we can achieve nothing.

When you feel confident you have the courage to strike out and face the challenges before you. Self-confidence is the knowledge that you have the ability to achieve your goals. It is knowing that even if you fail at this attempt, you will learn from the mistakes, move forward and win in the end. People with confidence are those who develop the determination to keep keeping on, even in the face of great difficulties.

U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln was a man of great self-confidence. He failed in politics more than he succeeded, however, when he did succeed it really mattered. Starting with great disadvantages and many heart breaks, he was confident that he had something to give to his country. He was one of the more humble of all Presidents. Knowing full well that he could not do it alone, he build his Cabinet with the very best of the leaders of his day. Some were his enemies, yet he recognized their abilities more than their disagreements. He went on to become one of the most respected and cherished leaders in world history.

Lincoln’s confidence was not a big ego that made him think he was better than everyone else. He knew he had to work hard for the things he wanted and he needed the determination to keep going, even when things did not go his way. He once commented, “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Success in anything does not come because you think you are better. It will not come because you feel that you deserve it. It will not come because you believe it is your turn. It will only come when you prepare for it.

The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is, “Be Prepared”. It is not wait your turn, go get it or you deserve this, it is “Be Prepared”. Prepared for what? Here is how Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts put it, “Be Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a Scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.” I believe that we also have to be prepared to succeed. When opportunity comes our way we must be ready and able to go after it. For the unprepared, opportunity always seems to happen to the other guy.

Self-confidence gives us courage and helps us to think clearly and correctly. There is no spending countless hours worrying about what we will do or if we can do it. With self-confidence it is not a question of “if” but of “when”. If a person is thinking in terms of “when” they get their chance or “when” they face the opportunity, they will be prepared and ready for it. They will think of it every day and always be mindful of what is happening in their life so they do not miss a thing. Self-confidence makes us prepare and when we feel prepared we feel confident. You can see how this all build on itself and makes you stronger and stronger.

Building Confidence

Now that we have a bit of an understanding of what self-confidence is and is not; as well as why we need to build confidence, let’s talk about how to develop self-confidence in our lives. I believe that some people have a greater ability to build confidence than others. There are those who’s behavioral style leans to a more self-confident attitude and their nature is to build their confidence without a lot of focus or effort. I also believe that there are those who find it very difficult to develop self-confidence in any area of life. They are by nature shy, withdrawn and lack a real belief in their abilities. Yet, it is possible, and necessary, for every person to work on their confidence level so they can achieve the focus of their desires.

Self-confidence is an emotional force and therefore must be controlled and used. It is the same with anger, love, hate, passion, worry and other emotions that, if not controlled, can cause us great damage. At the same time, we cannot live without these emotions in our lives. They are like fire, when used and controlled, fire brings heat, cooks food, develops energy and more. Out of control and misused, fire is one of the most destructive forces on the planet. Fire has destroyed cities, taken countless lives and left total destruction in its path. Self-confidence that is not controlled and misused will lead to egotism, pride and emotional destruction. Self-confidence controlled and rightly used will lead to success, service and the fulfillment of life.

There are two distinct areas where we can deliberately and properly develop self-confidence. These areas are Physical, and Mental.

Building Confidence: Physical

“The more we do, the more we can do.” – William Hazlitt

One of the best lessons I have learned from Tony Robbins is this: “Motion creates emotion”. How we move and act has a great deal to do with the way we feel and present ourselves. This is a powerful truth for those who grasp it and use it. It will affect your health, your appearance and your attitudes.

Of the things I love to do, one of the best is to watch people in public places. I think that God must have hours and hours of entertainment just watching His creation. One of the things that can be quickly noticed is how people feel by how they hold themselves. People who are depressed, angry or burdened down with life tend to be slumped over, they walk slow and look down. Many will have a scowl on their face and avoid any contact with their fellow human beings.

On the other hand, people who are more positive and feeling good, tend to walk straight up with a bit of a swagger in their step. They move quicker and have a smile for everyone they come across. These people give the impression that they are happy to be wherever they find themselves.

Here is a test for you. Sit in a chair all by yourself. Let your shoulders fall and slump over a bit. Allow your breathing to be slow and shallow and look down toward the floor. Let the muscles in your face relax and frown. After a few moments take note of these things: 1) how do you feel? 2) what are you thinking about, positive or negative things? 3) are you happy or sad?

Part two: Now sit up straight and tall. Keep your eyes forward, breath deep and at a steady pace. Shake your arms and put them on your hips as if you were Peter pan and put a big smile on your face. Ask the same questions: 1) how do you feel? 2) what are you thinking about, positive or negative things? 3) are you happy or sad?

Most people will find that they feel their best, think their best and act their best when they have good posture and act in a pleasant fashion.

Look at successful people you may know. How do they move? When they are talking, what do they do? Remember that success leaves clues. You can learn a lot about success and self-confidence by watching successful and self-confident people and doing what they do.

Using movement and gestures will not just happen to you. It is a very deliberate action that will require you to pay close attention to what you do and a determination to act. Ask yourself this question: “If I were the successful person I desire to be, how would I move? How would I breath, talk, look at people and present myself?” Now, start to do that. Is this a fake it till you make it thing? Yes it is. Before you knock it try it. Dale Carnegie built his whole philosophy of public speaking on the this principle. He taught his students that they needed to act the part before they lived the part. You will find it works. If you do not want to act that way till you feel it you will stay just as you are. Decision is always yours.

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” – Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

We know that you can build the feelings of self-confidence by how you hold yourself, look and act. But the real battleground for self-confidence is in the mind. Self-confidence is all about what you think, your attitudes and what you believe to be true. If you do not get your thinking right, nothing else will last for long. The two areas all work together; the physical, and the mental, however, your thinking is the key to real self-confidence.

Have you ever thought about what you think about? Seems like a funny question, however, the vast majority of people never really think about what they are thinking about. They carry around negative and angry thoughts and wonder why they are not happy. They spend their time thinking about all that could go wrong in life and wonder why they are fearful and anxious. They think about how much work and effort it will take to succeed and wonder why they cannot get going on their goals. Ask yourself, “What do I think about most of the time?” Most likely, you will be surprised by the answer.

One of the differences between those who are success-minded and those who struggle to get their dreams focused and started, is how they think, not what they do. It has often been the case that some have read books or received some learning about success and yet never seem to achieve. They do all the “right” stuff but it does not seem to work as well for them as it does for others. That is because they are looking for what they do to be the key and what really matters is what they think about.

I have seen this in coaching people who wish to venture out into something they never have done before. Some will discover their dream, make a plan and approach it with the thought that they cannot fail and they will achieve this. No doubts and no questions. These people always, yes I said always, succeed in what they do.

There are also those who discover their dream and become excited about it. However their approach is, “I hope this works. Nothing ever really turns out for me the way I want it to.” These people will always fail. Why? Because they have decided that they will fail before they even start. They have nothing to lose because they have invested nothing to win. When they fail they simply say, “I knew this would happen.” Not only did they know it would happen, they planned for it to happen and they made sure it did happen.

Self-confidence is knowing that you will achieve that which you set out to do. It is not saying, “Oh, this is a piece of cake” or being arrogant and prideful. You know that there is a lot of work involved; it will not be easy or quick. However, you know that you will succeed and you will stay with it till you do. It all comes down to what Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

Any study of success will find that the first and most important thing to get in order is your thinking. You cannot achieve all that needs to be achieved if you are thinking about failure. Success comes from filling your thought with what you want to achieve, how you can achieve it and what you can learn to move you closer to the goal. As Earl Nightingale said, “Every one of us is the sum total of his own thoughts.”

Thinking is a deliberate act. You must chose what your thoughts will be and then work to keep them in line. The mind that is allowed to just run in any direction it wishes will always run down to the negative. It is our nature to think the worse and to allow fear to control our thoughts. Success-minded people work at keeping their thought positive and focused on the goal at hand. The human mind is a powerful force and only those who learn to use it for the good and to control their thoughts for the achievement of their goals will succeed.

We must always remember that out of all the things in the universe, the Creator gave us control over only one thing. He did not give us control over time, the weather, nature or other people. The only thing you have control of is you and your thoughts. Self-confidence give us the courage to take that control and become the master of our thoughts rather than our thoughts being the master of us.

“Confidence on the outside begins by living with integrity on the inside.” – Brian Tracy

Several year ago I had a young man come to me for coaching. He was having a struggle in his career and personal life and felt he was “stuck in a hole” as he put it. We sat down to talk and the first thing he said to me was, “The one thing I don’t want to hear is any of that positive thinking crap.” I told him that in that one sentence he told me why he is struggling so much, that he will keep struggling in life and that he has no intention of changing that. Believing that I should not waste his or my time when no change will happen, I asked him to find a different coach.

Nothing is a more perfect kiss of death to success than a negative attitude. Negativity robs us of self-confidence and gets us to believe that we cannot succeed. Anyone who holds on to a negative attitude knows all too well that they never seem to move forward or achieve the level of success they desire. You just can’t win with what Zig Ziglar called “stinkin-thinkin”.

A positive attitude builds and strengthens self-confidence on an explosive level. When you feel good about yourself, your life and the world you live in, you know that success is there to be had. You get along with others and that is a key to any success. When people like you they want to help you and will present you with opportunities that others with a less pleasing attitude will miss.

If you have a position open and there are two people who have applied for it. One is very qualified and able to do the job. The other is talented but has not had the same amount of experience as the first. The first person however is negative and critical of others. The second person has a positive attitude and works well with everyone. Who will you pick? Of course the second – every time.

Success-minded people with positive attitudes believe in doing the impossible. They know that just because something has not been done before does not mean it cannot be done. In fact, they find the challenge fun and exciting. Because of that, they tend to find answers. I agree with American poet, Theodore Roethke when he said, “What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.”

A positive attitude does not only make others feel better and enjoy being around you, it will make you feel better and like being around yourself. It is just a fact that positive people are healthier, happier and get more done. When you see each day as a gift you tend to appreciate that gift and use it for the best. Positive people are grateful for all they have and for the ability to achieve their dreams. This builds the confidence needed to go after those dreams, no matter how impossible they may be.

“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.” – Andre Malraux

Success-minded people love a good quote. Reading any of my books, articles or blogs and you soon discover that I love a solid, meaningful quote. It is the wisdom of others passed down like fine treasures. English writer, Isaac D’Israeli put it this way, “The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotations.”

Quotations can be great self-confidence builders. It is like getting a pep talk from Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Hill or countless other greats of our world. Here is an exercise that will prove to help build self-confidence and excitement in your day. Each day collect three meaning quotes. Things that you read that speak to you and encourage you. This is not hard to find, social media is filled with them. Try this for a week and see if it does not make a difference in how you think and feel.

Here is the catch to it all. Yes, there is always a catch. Quotes, as with all truth, does not make a lot of difference if you do not really believe them. Let’s look at a few simple and common quotes. Each in its own way presents a simple but profound truth that when applied and believed can transform your life.

“What the mind can conceive and believe can be achieved.” – Napoleon Hill

“You were born to win and the seeds of greatness are inside you.” – Zig Ziglar

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion.” – St. Paul

I am sure you have heard all these many times before and may even have them written down so you can review them from time to time. But ask yourself this: “How would your life be different if you really believed these words?” You see, many of us know all the right sayings and have heard and given great advice, but not many really believe it for a fact.

Self-confidence is the belief that you can succeed in life. It is not that you hope to succeed. It is not that you will succeed if everything works out right. It is not that you will succeed if you get the help you need. It is the belief that you will, in fact, succeed. You may not know how or when right away, but you know you will.

I am sure that you have heard or been asked the powerful question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” That is more than something to stimulate your thinking or motivate your actions, it is a real and very important question. Your ability to answer this question will determine how you achieve your destiny.

If you knew you could not fail, how would you act? If you knew you could not fail, what would you attempt to achieve? If you knew you could not fail, what would you be thinking about all day? If you knew you could not fail, how would you communicate with others? What would your life be like if you KNEW you could not fail?

Here is why this is such an important question. If you believe that you could not fail to achieve your goal you would act and move with confidence. You would do what you may have thought impossible because you know now that it is not impossible. It is like the old U.S. Marine slogan: “The difficult we will do right now. The impossible may take a little while.”

Here is an important fact. Take a minute to prepare yourself for it. Deep breath and sit straight up. Now read this out loud. “I can believe that I cannot fail because it is the truth.” Get it? Read it again, this time with conviction. Believe it because it is a fact. For those who truly believe that they cannot fail, there is success every time. Why? Because if you believe you cannot fail you will never stop trying. If you believe you cannot fail you will always be learning and moving forward. If you believe you cannot fail you will be encouraged every day because you know if brings you closer to your goals in life. It is easier to stop a speeding train with your bear hands than to stop a person who believes that they will achieve their goals.

This where faith is a vital part of success-minded people’s thinking. As a person of faith, I believe that I was created for a purpose. God had no quota to fill and I am not just a biological happening. It was God’s intent that I be here at this time to fulfill a part of His great plan for all of creation. Now, if the Creator of the universe created me for a purpose, don’t you think He has every intention to see that I fulfill that purpose? I do believe that and I believe that if God is for me, nothing can stand against me.

Be a success-minded person and live to achieve. Know and believe that as a success-minded person you can be confident that you will achieve your dream. What are the characteristics of a success-minded person? Simply, they are these: They do their best, have good manners, love God, discover the unknown and change their world.

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