“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is nothing more heartbreaking than when I witness people living and operating in daily life without confidence in themselves and their actions. I wish I could somehow gift some of my own supply of self-esteem to these people I see in need. I’ve often been accused of being “over-confident,” so I feel like I would have a lot to offer!
Unfortunately, this lack of confidence and self-esteem is an epidemic in our world today. These issues have never been so prevalent and pervasive. The burden is carried mainly by the female gender due to intangible body images presented to them in the form of magazines, movies, commercials, Barbie’s, etc. The focus is solely on the physical.
Although the statistics will argue for the above argument, I would reason the gender gap, in this case, is close to null and the symptoms far more widespread than the physical. The simple fact is men are superior liars and better at hiding their feelings of inadequacy. I believe men struggle equally with these issues due to a variety of factors that inundate our society including technology, ever-changing societal norms, and the convenience and comforts of modern day.
The societal effect of technology will not be fully understood for generations. It’s a depressing sight, when every public place I visit, a comfortable 80% of the population has their faces folded into their phones, numb to the real world and real people right around them. If I want to start a conversation at the coffee shop it’s as if I’ve inconvenienced them from their precious social media time. People do not know how to talk with one another anymore. Conversation is becoming a lost art.
Societal norms are ever changing. For instance, if you are interested in a girl you just met and want to really freak her out, go straight to the phone call.
Today, close to 50% of relationships start online. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the process, it starts with either a “swipe,” “like,” “flirt,” “match,” etc., showing your interest in the opposing party. Then once you’ve paired, you can begin to text, but only through the service. Once you have made her laugh enough, then you can ask for a number, for which you will use to only text further for a given period of time. More laughs hopefully ensue, and when the time presents itself you can talk on the phone and then cross your fingers to eventually meet up.
Sounds exhausting right? Granted we live in the golden age of over-caution and awareness, so girls are much more conscious of the “dangers of dating.”
In light of this process, it is no wonder 40% of American adults claim to be shy; this is because we no longer adhere to the practice of dating, courting, and actually getting to know someone face-to-face. We now rely on a swipe one way or the other, based solely on looks. Modern culture has changed the game due to the internet. It allows us to hide our true identities while portraying the polished image we want the world to see. This creates an internal struggle between who we project ourselves to be, versus our authentic personalities.
Lastly, the comforts of our world today allow for convenience, and therefore we are no longer as resilient of individuals. I never have to encounter cold weather if I don’t want. I never have to get my hands dirty and fix anything myself if I don’t want. I could live a full life never fixing a meal for myself if I don’t want. There is someone I can call, or even better just text, and a warm, hot pizza will show up at my door.
This lack of societal basics and norms that have existed for as long as we humans have, lends itself to a lack of assertiveness in multiple areas of life. This absence to speak boldly in everyday conversation is a symptom of a greater disease, low self-confidence. Combine this along with the falling rate of resiliency and we have a real problem. If we cannot perform these basic human behaviors, how can we expect to accomplish more complex tasks and further our human race?
I first thought I would lay out traits of a confident person, but soon realized that would be of no help to you. Instead, here are 5 applicable steps you can begin to incorporate today in order to build your confidence and forever leave low self-esteem your past.
1. Challenge Yourself
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent Van Gogh
The quickest, yet hardest way to build self-confidence is to overcome an obstacle that intimidates you at the mere thought of it. Now this does not have to entail summiting Mount Everest in boxer briefs or base jumping the St. Louis Arch.
I want you to outline 1-3 tasks that give you those little butterflies in your stomach and give yourself a deadline no more than 1 month to complete. This could be making that call to a girl you’re sweet on, finally visiting the local gym and seeking help in your health pursuit, or signing up for that half marathon you’ve had on your calendar since January 1st.. Maybe it’s joining the local Toastmasters, or updating the resume and leaving the job where you have become comfortable.
We were meant to be challenged. We were also made to overcome and triumph. Discomfort, anxiety, stress, and sometimes failure may even ensue. However, the saying “nothing worth having comes easy” has never been truer for you.
No matter the outcome, grand success or failure in flames, you will leave your experience with a newfound sense of accomplishment, poise, and yes, confidence.
And you know what? The next time it will only be easier.
2. There is Power in Numbers
“If you hang out with chickens, you’re going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you’re going to fly.” Steve Maraboli
I love riding motorcycles. The feeling of the being totally exposed to your environment, with the pavement zipping by at 75 mph just inches from your feet, the sights, the smells, it’s intoxicating and addicting. However, as much as I love riding on my own, it’s a completely different feeling in a group.
When you have a caravan of big boy bikes humming through the streets, a sense of pride and almost cockiness ensues. You feel, for lack of a better word…badass! The same is true in team sports, in business, in marriage; you are stronger when coupled with like-minded people.
They say you are the average of your five closest friends. If you surround yourself with certain, confident individuals, you will absorb their coolness. You will then, in turn, feed each other’s confidence, hold each other accountable, and pick one another up when one gets down.
Find better than just good friends; don’t you dare settle. This is your life we’re talking about. Start your own badass biker gang if needed.
3. Practice Gratefulness
“Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
When you approach life from a perspective of gratefulness, your outlook on the day will change instantly. The hard part is staying in this mode throughout the day as things come your way.
I advise to start and end your day with some sort of thankfulness practice. I personally subscribe to journaling, prayer, and meditation. Begin every day with 3 things for which you are grateful and when hardships come your way, remind yourself of these.
When you can tackle your day with the mindset of thankfulness instead of, “here are all my problems,” you will begin to see opportunities instead of difficulties. As you realize you have things to be grateful for, burdens will be lifted off your chest, you will live with optimism, and confidence in your abilities will be tangible to those around you.
4. Stand up for Your Beliefs
“Always be yourself and have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and try to duplicate it.” Bruce Lee
A sure sign of an emotionally intelligent, mature, and self-confident person is one who can speak their mind freely in all situations. Today we are so concerned with political correctness, that we often hold our tongue and forgo explaining our real thoughts and feelings.
By holding these in, we’re depleting our source of willpower because we are expending energy to keep these thoughts inside. It is a cathartic practice to actually let someone know how you feel about them or a given situation. Therefore, whenever you feel that urge to bite your tongue in order to not offend someone or you’re just scared of the outcome, go ahead and let these thoughts out. Think before you speak, of course, and let your words land softly.
As you begin to speak your honest feelings to others, you will see your true self begin to emerge, you will earn the respect of your peers because they crave the freedom of your expression. The confidence to stand up for what you believe creates a snowball effect that will only lead to greater and greater confidence levels.
5. Know Your Why
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Here lie the most important step and the precursor to all the confidence that will ever come your way. Why is by far the most important question to ask yourself. What is your purpose in this world? What are you working toward every day? What kind of impression do you want to leave on this world?
Humans are a dynamic species, and there are probably a handful of purposes to your life. Do not let this question of ‘why’ cause anxiety. Every college graduate thinks they need to have their whole life figured out by the time they walk across that stage. This is NEVER the case. NEVER.
“Just 14 percent of this year’s college seniors have steady, career-type jobs lined up for their lives after graduation.”¹
Just begin to ask yourself these questions and begin to formulate a rough outline of what you want your purpose in life to be. Consider this only practice. However, once the picture starts to come together, you can then approach life from a sense of security and with an identity.
No matter what comes your way at this point, you cannot be swayed from your purpose, your identity, your why. No matter how much defeat, failure, sadness, depression, anxiety may befall you, if you stand on a firm foundation of resolving and self-assuredness, your confidence will never be shaken.
I hope this helps you in some small way. If not, maybe some day technology, of all things, will actually allow me to partition out my own supply of self-confidence. Until then, follow steps 1-5 and you’ll be just fine.