This is by no means a “complete guide”, but rather what I personally have experienced to be important in my own search for strong sense of self.
If for some reason you feel that you need expanding on the topic, check all the “Great resources” that I’ve put together at the end of the article.
What causes lack of confidence
First of all, forget the idea that it’s somehow your fault for having the kind of conditioning that you currently have.
The best guess is that there have been some elements in a persons childhood, that have directed the course of emotional progress, such as:
- Continuous abuse and punishment (bullying, shitty upbringing)
- Absence of encouragement to do something by yourself
- Growing overly dependant of others
- Destructive criticism
- + Other similar factors
If the environment didn’t make you into an individual with high self-esteem, your only choice at this stage of life is to do it by yourself.
It’s not going to be easy and it will require lots of effort, but it’s definitely worth it.
It is (and it isn’t) about “being yourself”
There’s a lot of rhetoric out there implying that “being yourself” is the ultimate answer to every kind of problem related to personality.
That is bullshit. You can act as “yourself”, but what if your conditioning is such that “yourself” is a wimpy, whiny little bitch?
It will do you no good.
Being confident both is and isn’t about being yourself, because before it does you any good to act as you are, you have to develop yourself into a person you feel proud to present to the world.
Outer vs inner circumstances
Money, nice cars, materia doesn’t make you confident, even though they may give you a temporary boost in your ego. If your sense of self is based on these things, it’s on a shaky foundation.
Lasting confidence comes from ones inner conditioning.
People with confidence are often successful in material terms because it’s part of their purpose and drive.
It’s the result of confidence, not what’s causing it.
You become what you think
Let’s take a classic example of “becoming wealthy”:
When your thoughts and focus is directed to the thought of “how to become wealthy”, interesting things start to happen:
You start to look for resources, books, articles and you start to build up your knowledge around that question.
When you look around long enough, you’ll start to understand how other people have done it, what you have to do in order to do it and finally you start to act on it.
This is how you become what you think. You don’t “magically” become just something, but rather your focus directs you to where you want to go and you can finally act in line with that accumulated knowledge.
Bottom line: You don’t get more self-confidence by using some “trick”, but directing your focus on changes that lead to confidence in the long-term.
Negative state of mind = low confidence
Your current emotional state directs strongly both your thoughts and your actions.
Also, your current thoughts and action are directing your emotional state, making all three into an interdependent entirety. Everything affects everything.
The problem is that you can’t decide what to feel at any given time, as your emotions are mainly directed by your current, habitual thought-processes. When your focus is on negative shit, you will feel like shit.
Changing your daily focus and thought-patterns is the key to changing your degree of negative feelings that you have.
In my case it took 6 months to get rid of most of it (1 year for all of it), but I saw great changes when I applied the methods used in my get rid of negative thinking manifesto.
When I’m feeling good, I find that acting with confidence comes naturally to me.
To find it humiliating to admit an error is a certain sign of flawed self-esteem
No one’s perfect, but confident people accept their own flaws and in some cases turn them into strengths that make them who they are.
Most often I notice that when someone has some kind of fault in them, what really gets my attention is their own shame about it.
Become ok with your flaws. Accept them as they are and others will follow your example.
Also, forgive yourself
Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to be confident – you body, mind and the whole entirety is doing exactly according to your conditioning.
Changing that conditioning won’t happen instantly.
Responsibility / Independency / self-reliance
A confident person has to be independent and self-reliant by definition because his sense of self isn’t based on opinions of other people, but on what he achieves in his life on daily basis.
Self-confidence arises when you’ve developed something to show for yourself.
You stop being a victim of outside conditions in your life. Meaningful power comes from persons inner world, because that’s ultimately the only thing we can affect.
Developing this sense of responsibility enables you to respond to whatever life throws at you without exclusively looking at the support of others.
This mental shift will make you act more confident because you stop depending on outside conditions to give you validation for your actions.
Proactive instead of reactive
A reactive persons life is out of his control because he doesn’t have it in him to become proactive and make things happen. He’s waiting for something on the outside to happen so that he can react to it.
A proactive person is in control, simply because he is focusing on making things happen rather than waiting for someone else to do something for him.
One is commanded by outside circumstances, another commands himself.
You can most likely agree, that all confident people who you know indeed are proactive in their lives.
Being proactive leads to confidence and becoming more confident leads to more proactivity.
Self-discipline is necessary because you’ll have to assume “command” of yourself.
Lifestyle that ultimately makes a person confident isn’t easy.
It’s fucking hard, to be honest. That is why you shouldn’t expect self-belief to “just come to you”.
The whole premise of this lifestyle is build on delayed gratification, which means that there’s a balance between work and play. Work hard, play hard.
It means that one has to develop the ability to push hard to grow as a person, progress in business, whatever floats your boat.
That really puts into contrast why people with such lifestyle are confident with their actions: they have conditioned themselves to go against the grain, they are fully aware what it takes to push through your fears and go outside ones comfort-zone.
Things that ‘require confidence’ don’t really seem that big of a deal when your whole lifestyle is designed to keep your momentum at high levels.
I personally experienced it so that the whole concept of “being confident” disappeared and transformed into straightforwardness in everything that I do simply because it’s intrinsic part of how I life daily.
Confidence isn’t about knowing that you win every time (that’s arrogance), but knowing that given enough time, you can learn how to win.
It’s about getting rid of self-belief of some ‘default inadequacy’.
I’m not talking about formal education. I’m talking about education that’s life-enhancing – education that you are experiencing right now.
You don’t read this stuff from the textbooks.
This kind of education is about constant growth as a human being – the lifestyle that requires self-discipline also requires this.
There’s always the next level to grow and that progress is what makes a person both fulfilled, ok with themselves and ultimately, confident.
Doesn’t matter whether growth happens in your abilities as an entrepreneur, or someone who likes to pick up women or even as a zen-buddhist.
You are educating yourself to increase your own competence, which in turn will make you more confident simply because you have the underlying feeling that you can actually do anything that you set your mind to.
Vulnerability / Integrity
I highly recommend on watching this talk by Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability.
Everyone is vulnerable, but it takes confidence and self-acceptance to actually be ok with it and show it.
It doesn’t mean that you start bitching about every little thing that bothers you, but it’s about choosing not to hide your emotions and being real.
It’s about being comfortable with yourself and your flaws.
Mark Manson has written an excellent article about vulnerability and he makes a great point:
The greatest demonstration of power and security is to actually make oneself defenseless, to become as comfortable with one’s weaknesses as possible.
And one more from another article Power in vulnerability
For instance, making yourself vulnerable doesn’t just mean being willing to share your fears or insecurities. It can mean putting yourself in a position where you can be rejected, saying a joke that may not be funny, asserting an opinion that may offend others, joining a table of people you don’t know, telling a woman that you like her and want to date her.
He’s talking about vulnerability, but ‘coincidentally’ he’s also describing confidence almost perfectly.
I highly recommend you to read his articles.
Fake it till you make it?
What’s the difference between “acting confidently” (“faking it”) and being confident?
As long as you are acting with integrity and decide to act confidently, I don’t really see any difference between the two.
I’d rather see it this way anyway: instead of thinking about “faking it” focus on just doing it with congruence.
In the end it’s the same thing so why think that you are faking anything?
Momentum / Comfort-zones
I’ve realized that the more busy and active I am, the less I feel resistance towards acting confidently. In addition to that, I also feel happier.
Momentum is one of the cornerstones of my own life philosophy and it’s really simple (but hard to upkeep):
The more active you are, the more you feel like being active and vice versa.
Stop for longer period of time (a week, a month) and you fuck yourself up, because you just killed all the momentum that you had.
I recently wrote an article about the best video on long-term motivation, which is closely related to this.
It’s similar to your comfort-zone: when you go outside your comfort-zone, it expands, but when you stay inside it for long, it shrinks.
An example from real life would be my own life when I used to spend months in my room, playing games, watching movies and series.
Soon after I found that a mental shift that had happened in me: it felt almost impossible to go outside or do anything that would require me to become physically active.
This also lead to a lot of social anxiety and massive lack of self-confidence.
Confidence has a lot to do with your current degree of both momentum and the size of your comfort-zone.
An example of high confidence would be Richard Branson, who has always had huge momentum working on all his business ventures and adventuring around the world.
Now, one could argue that he is active because he’s confident, but what I’m saying is that he’s confident because he’s constantly so active in his life.
You have to experience it to understand it perfectly.
Exercising, going outside, becoming more productive, working and being creative (drawing, writing) are prime examples of things that create momentum.
It also matters greatly that you diversify your activities too: when you do something in excess, you get bored with it easily.
The difference between low and high momentum activities is this: in low momentum you get something from the world (read, reddit, fun-sites) and in high momentum you put something out to the world (create, exercise, work)
You contract and you expand. Keep these two in balance, preferably so that you have less low-momentum activities in your life and you’ll see a surprising change in your mental state.
Purpose / Passion / Achieving
Purpose and passion play much bigger role in “confidence” than they are getting credit for.
If your comfort-zone has shrunk a lot due to stagnant lifestyle, conversation with a stranger can loop in your head for long periods of time and cause anxiety.
Lifestyle filled with action, purpose and passion is the perfect way to counter this as it’s a way to drive your momentum through action that is meaningful to you.
When you really focus on your daily activities, it will diminish the effect that outer circumstances have on you.
There’s a shift in your priorities.
You stress less, you don’t think as much about situation just because you have prioritized something else as more important.
In other words, you become mentally less reliant of outside circumstances.
Coincidentally, this is also the hardest part to come realize in life. It took me a year or so to finally feel at least some degree of certainty about my passion and purpose.
Later on I realized that they don’t have to be anything “grand” to be meaningful – in fact they can be seemingly unmeaningful, but what ultimately matters is your own feelings about it.
- 11 Actions You Can Take Today to Discover Your Life’s Purpose
- Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover Your Personal Mission
Clothing and grooming
Grooming and dressing yourself with style is a good way to increase ones sense of self-acceptance.
When you don’t have your style and your grooming down, they can and often will make you extremely self-conscious.
Style, therefore, isn’t purely for showing for everyone else, it’s also for showing yourself that you’ve got that shit down.
Just like with materia, styling and grooming is best used to complement yourself, but not in deriving your sense of self from it (shaky foundation).
Exercise / lift weights
I used to be skinny and I hated it. Whenever I was around some bigger guys, I would get self-conscious quickly.
About three years ago I got a solid foundation by lifting weights for over a year and then upkeeping it after that with good food and doing exercises with my own body (pull-ups, push-ups and abs).
Weight lifting affects confidence in the same way as grooming and styling does: you shouldn’t derive your sense of self from it, but being in good shape prevents you to become overly self-conscious about your body.
You might notice yourself feeling a bit more comfortable when you notice that you are in a good shape compared to the whole room you are in.
Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are – Highly recommended video – watch how our actions affects to how (confident) we feel.
Tips on body language:
- Solid eye contact – Here’s a great article about the importance of eye contact
- Good posture – Ultimate guide to good posture infographic
- Clear voice / Talk slower (if you talk fast, that is) and in shorter sentences
- Focus on being relaxed
- Spread out when sitting
- Look forward instead of looking down
- Ultimate Guide to Body Language For Men (Highly recommended)
Fear / anxiety
Some reassurance first: ANYONE would feel the same kind of fear and anxiety as you do if they’d life the same life as you have.
Everyone goes through different kind of environment during their lives and you simply can’t be blamed for the conditioning that you have.
How you deal with those fears from now on is entirely up to you.
When you are in a state of low momentum and shrinked comfort-zone, doing something that deviates from that ‘safe usual pace’ will cause huge amount of anxiety and fear.
I’ve experienced it a lot in the past and it’s hard to forget. It’s also hard to understand once you get out of it.
It’s the same as fearing something as a kid but realizing it’s not so bad when exposed to it enough.
Change of perspective: fear and anxiety are good things, because they tell what we should stop avoiding, mentally or otherwise.
Facing your fears is hard, but you should be aware that your thoughts will always feel worse than the reality.
Learn to embrace the fear and anxiety that you have. Stop avoiding them – that way they’ll only come back.
You will never get rid of anxiety entirely – only the degree of it lessens. You learn how to deal with it.
Negative thought processes and fear + anxiety go hand in hand, so I refer once again to my “Getting rid of negative thoughts” manifesto.
- 13 Tips to Face Your Fear and Enjoy the Ride
- 9 Essential Tips to Face Fear and Live a Bold Life
- Facing your fears pdf
People who put you down / Negative people
Stop hanging around with them.
They affect you on subconscious level, bringing you down to their level of consciousness, which is predominantly negative.
You don’t want that in your life.
Sometimes we hang around with them out of a habit (my mistake from years ago) or because of some situational reason.
In my experience, being (momentarily) alone is infinitely better than being around people who you don’t feel good around. It’s also good practice for self-reliancy and independency.
Everyone is cut from the same cloth
To understand this better, there’s really no intrinsic difference between you and a confident person – just different kind of conditioning and lifestyle habits.
Everyone questions themselves sometimes – feeling equal and being confident around people is one part of understanding this.
The majority of people are comparing themselves to others unfavorably. They focus on what others are and what they themselves aren’t – which is a self-defeating way to focus.
Become inspired by people who have their shit together and think of yourself as a work in progress.
You may not have much self-confidence now, but know that through the process you’ll be able to attain it.
You can start small
The problem isn’t that people aren’t making small, beneficial changes to their daily lifes on constant basis.
The problem is that they aren’t making any changes.
Start small with changing your habits towards more beneficial ones, ones that increase the degree of activity and ones that empower you.
A real-life example of starting small is my daily exercising habit: At first I focused only on doing 1 push-up, 1 pull-up and 1 ab crunch a day.
It wasn’t a big deal.
Interestingly enough, after doing that 1 rep, I didn’t feel like stopping. It was all the same to do just a couple more.
Eventually after a week or two, it built up into a habit of 3-4 sets of 10+ reps each – I instinctually just do them daily because it’s part of my daily routine.
To become confident, you’ll have to change how you life daily. I’ll refer to this excellent quote by Aristotle:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
You are what you repeatedly do.
A person who stays still from the day to day, perhaps playing games out of sheer boredom and watching movies has only unbeneficial, low-momentum habits in his life.
He’s also most likely lacking a lot of confidence.
You don’t have to be that guy.
Develop daily habits that keep you active and are continuously pushing you towards how you want to be.
I recommend exercising, creating something (drawing, writing, 3D-modeling for example), exercising (again), weight lifting, taking a walk outside, reading (educating yourself) and finding new stuff to do.
The no-no’s / misconceptions
These aren’t exactly tips for believing in yourself, but rather just observations how confident people don’t act.
If you recognize yourself from some of these, take a note and stop.
- Overly deprecating yourself – A situational joke once in a while is ok, but overdoing it is out of insecurity. How you deliver it also matters greatly – if you notice it doesn’t work to your advantage, stop.
- Putting others down – Blowing out other’s candle doesn’t make yours shine brighter. It’s insecure to put others down as it’s often done for the need to show your own imagined superiority.
- Overly agreeing – Have your own opinions.
- Being overly apologizing – Don’t apologize for things that you didn’t cause, also don’t say sorry for minor things that a mentally healthy person doesn’t care about anyways.
- Not saying sorry when appropriate – Say sorry when you’ve clearly done wrong and just be done with it.
- Intimidating others – A confident person makes others feel welcomed in his presence, because he knows that initimidating others does him or others no good.
A common misconception is that confident people never feel scared or uncertain – they definitely do, but they know that they’ll have to build up experience and expertise in that particular situation to become more sure of themselves.
- Meditate – one of the best ways to get out of your head.
- Ask yourself “What would I do if I couldn’t fail?”
- Different stuff will work for different people as everyone’s at different position in their lives
- Walk like you own the place
- Think like a caveman or a viking – “would a viking give a shit about this?“
- Watch Philosophy of the absurd
- Don’t complain – By complaining you are focusing on problems, when you should focus on solutions instead.
- No one can hurt you without your permission
- You are going to die soon
Summary / Conclusion
In case you didn’t create a plan for yourself, here’s one for you:
- Get rid of negative thinking
- Practice self-acceptance / forgive yourself for your flaws, including lack of confidence
- Look for ways to make yourself independent of other peoples validation (make yourself fulfilled instead of looking it from the outside)
- Become proactive in your life, get shit done
- Don’t expect things to happen to you, but take control of yourself through self-discipline
- Educate yourself and keep yourself competitive
- Re-read everything under the vulnerability -subhead and implement it in your life
- Keep you momentum high and exapand your comfort-zone
- Find a passion / purpose for yourself (a vehicle for all that momentum)
- Get stylish clothes, groom yourself well, exercise and lift weights
- Focus on good body language until you internalize it
- Embrace your fears instead of avoiding them
- Get rid of negative people
- Develop beneficial daily habits that keep your momentum up
- Just fucking do it.
Confidence comes indirectly from the effort of changing your lifestyle and conditioning.
These are all long-term projects, which means that people who are looking for “quick fixes” for confidence don’t find them lasting for long.
If you keep doing what you do daily, you keep staying as a person with low confidence.
- 6 Easy Ways to Develop the Confidence of Tony Stark
- The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida (book)
- The Power of Self-Confidence by Brian Tracy (book)
- Great story/analogy explaining how conditioning works
- 100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence by Barton Goldsmith (book)
- 8 Ways to Be More Confident
- 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence
- How to Be Confident: 31 Practical Steps
Reading this article won’t mean shit unless you act on what you just read
Thanks for reading – if you’ve got something to add or something to criticize, please share it in the comments.