Self-confidence isn't a quality you just wake up with one day. It isn't necessarily something you're born with either. It is built over time. The key word here is built. For most of my life, I have felt crippled by feelings of unworthiness; it seeped through every ounce of my being and rendered the world a big, scary place.
I had to build my self-confidence over the years, stone by stone. Many days, my self-doubts were like ghosts tormenting me, whispering "you will end up the laughingstock." Ironically, it is at the bottom of the pit, surrounded by the echoes of my fears, that I grew my wings.
Sometimes I wonder if my life would have been different, if I would be the same person I am today, had I followed a perfectly straight life path—where all the thorny bushes had been cut clean, and dirt had been swept off the way for me. Perhaps I would have dared to ask myself:
True success isn't seen with the naked eye. It cannot be destroyed when storms ravage your life and possessions. It's your essence that separates you from the crowd, an inner glow that radiates through you, a brightness that doesn't depend on other people's approval. It is the courageous acceptance of your permanent flaws and shortcomings, a courage that grows each time you rise after a fall.
There are certain things you must know about yourself, certain things you must go through to gain that unwavering self-confidence that will carry you for a lifetime. Because, you see, everyone has it in them already—but self-doubts and comparing ourselves with other people slowly erode your confidence over time. Here are seven tips that will set you on the path to self-assuredness and a stronger, more beautiful connection with yourself.
1. Believe that you are an original.
No one in this big wide world is like you. Every creature on earth was given at birth the adequate abilities and gifts to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. A bird has wings to fly, a fish can breathe underwater, a chameleon is born with the special talent to change colors, etc. You may not have discovered yet what makes you unique, but the first step is to believe that you are.
Take a few minutes to think about it: What are your qualities and strengths that make you stand out from the people you know? What can you accomplish with ease that other people can't?
Remember who you are, what you've been through, and what makes you special.
2. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and move on from your painful past.
You can only thank your difficult past; it made you into the person you are today. Be proud of your scars, for they are your strength. Sometimes the burden of past memories and betrayals weighs heavily on us. Choose to forget them by fully experiencing the present moment and focusing on where you're going.
Everything that happened to you was meant to be a lesson—even and especially your mistakes. They are the foundation for your growth, to create a new level of thinking and a stronger and more mature you.
Let me tell you something you may not know. I don't care if they're the most enlightened Buddhist monk that ever was, everyone has a skeleton in their closet or things they are ashamed of. Similarly, a lot of people who have made it to the top have a long trail of embarrassing blunders behind them.
3. Step out of your comfort zone even if you are afraid. When you have the courage to face your fears, those same fears die.
If your whole life is a routine, there is nothing wrong with that. However, make it a habit to go on new adventures. It will expand your horizons, and the world will reveal to you its secrets. Taking the first step into this whole new world will bring courage and confidence that will drive out your fears. Only then can you discover hidden strengths and capabilities you didn't know you had.
For instance, if you are afraid to speak in public, start small. Speak in front of a small group, then dare to take it further by making a toast at a large family gathering. If you are afraid of talking to strangers, start a conversation with a stranger. Go to a foreign country where you can learn a new language and customs. You will realize that your previous fears were magnified in your mind. They were, in fact, not real.
4. Don't be afraid of failure or of embarrassment.
Interestingly, it is during my most embarrassing moments that I am overcome by a wave of tremendous courage. It's like I stop caring about other people's opinions. I become free. It's a wonderful feeling. The more embarrassing moments you encounter, the less seriously you take yourself.
When you are humble, you are serene—a quality closely intertwined with self-confidence. You don't need to prove anything to anyone any longer. You have accepted your imperfect self as you are. You may have failed, but you learned and kept going. You may have endured mortifying episodes, but you shook them off. Failures and embarrassing moments will strengthen your humility and self-confidence.
Be willing to make a fool of yourself to become great.
5. Reacquaint yourself with yourself. You are not your past or the diplomas on your wall.
The problem with relying on external applause means your happiness is in other people's hands. Deep down we know our accomplishments don't define who we truly are. By getting to know your true self, the person you are beneath the facade, you will be reborn.
I traveled the world, went off the beaten path, faced my fears, endured obstacles, and got to know people with different stories and experiences. I gained valuable insight from all these experiences. They transformed me into a new person and allowed me to discover who I am, who I am not, and who I wanted to be. You can only get to know your true self when you choose to walk alone once in a while—when you let go of who you think you're supposed to be.
Expose your vulnerabilities, the dreams you can't get out of your head, the whispers of your soul's desire to yourself. They are meant to show you the way.
6. Focus outside of yourself.
I find this is one of the easiest ways to build self-confidence. Have you noticed that when you live inside your head and are self-centered, you become more timid? That's because you overthink things and assume people are going to judge you. Try to make it a daily habit to focus on other people.
Look them in the eye when they speak to you; listen to them with an open heart with the intent of helping them rather than thinking about how you're going to reply. Next time you go outside, observe other people; you will see that everyone is unique and has their own stories waiting to be revealed. Your assumptions and fears will instantly dissolve.
7. Live life in alignment with your values; follow your dreams and never quit.
You kill your soul slowly when you live a life that goes against your personal values. Even if you're in a job that doesn't satisfy you, resist the urge to turn on the TV when you're not at work. Instead, read a book or undertake creative activities that will nourish your soul.
Follow through on your goals, as small as they may be. Write them down and take incremental steps toward them over a certain amount of time. Slow and steady progress can yield better results. Avoiding pressure results in more consistency and enjoyment. That's essential to the successful completion of a goal, no matter how big or small.
If you're in a situation or relationship you don't like, remember that those situations are almost definitely the result of your choices. You can choose a better path for yourself, even if it may seem impossible to break the pattern. Change direction by taking it one day at a time. Your future self will thank you; your confidence will blossom as a result of your tenacity and mental strength.
Self-confidence grows when we direct our own lives; we are the drivers instead of the passengers. As you make decisions based on what is right for you and persist in the face of inevitable difficulties, your self-assuredness will grow. You will find that saying no to people or situations that don't serve you will become a more natural reflex.
Do the things that matter to you. Prove to yourself that you are in control—that your fears don't control you. Walk with boldness knowing you are an original—unique and beautiful. As you reveal yourself to yourself, you won't need others to validate who you are. No one will be able to take away pieces of you because you will be whole already. The gradual process of knowing who you are is what self-confidence is all about.