"What you think of yourself is much more important than what people think of you." -Seneca


Your brain is programmed to be afraid of all new things, because new things could potentially be dangerous. Above all what it’s designed to do is to keep you alive.

Confidence comes from an external source, based on previous successes, based on your past. I feel confident riding my bike, as I’ve ridden it a million times and have succeeded on most occasions. You build confidence by succeeding at something over and over again. It’s a fairly straight-forward path.

Self-confidence, however, is internal. It’s based on my opinion and my ability to believe in myself, without any evidence. (I’ve never ridden a bike before, but I feel confident in my ability to learn it.) So self-confidence is the emotion of growth that propels us in our lives, when that terrain might be new and uncomfortable and scary at first.

However, our brain, that just wants to keep us alive, is desperately afraid of new things. And self-confidence is mostly needed when learning these new things. So ultimately self-confidence comes down to the battle in our minds.

What is our brain afraid of?

Ultimately, that we might die.

The brain is so dramatic that we can have a panic attack from stretching our comfort zone and sign up for a new art class.

Don’t do it, the brain says. It’s too scary! What if the teacher and the whole class think that you are a terrible artist?!

Since humans have evolved in groups, certain feelings, such as humiliation, come from being on the outside, which back in our cave-dwelling days being separated from our group meant imminent death.

But obviously, not anymore.

So what this ultimately comes down to is that our ancient brains are outdated for our modern lives.

Good to know, since we can work with that.

So what does self-confidence require then?

If you think about it, what we are all ultimately afraid of…. is a feeling. Why wouldn’t we do something that we desire to do? Because we then might end up feeling frustration, doubt, anxiety, boredom, loss, terror, failure, fear, humiliation. And we are not sure we can handle that.

Uncomfortable feelings scare us, and we haven’t learned how to be willing to feel certain emotions.

Just think, if I’m willing to start a new business, sit with the new girl at lunch, raise my hand even if I don’t have the right answer, and not worry about how a potential failure might make me feel, I’m much more likely to do what I want to do in my life.

So self-confidence requires these things:

1. Learn to be willing to feel my own emotions, whatever they may be.

2. Forgive myself.

What if I was learning to ride my bike and I fell? And what if I didn’t forgive myself for falling? Learning requires failing, over and over again. People with self-confidence don’t make failing mean terrible things about themselves. They just know it’s part of the journey. Dust off, learn from it, and carry on.

 3. Manage my thoughts about myself.

If I’m going on stage, and my self-talk is about how incompetent I am and how awful I look, my self-confidence will then be completely blocked. But when I’m willing to feel that nervousness and say that this nervousness is a part of this experience, I can embrace it and tune in to a more positive self-talk.

What self-confidence ultimately offers is that you can learn to be good at being you. And it’s an art that can be mastered.


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