One of the things I alluded to in my last post was confidence. I talk about “owning” something and having the courage to follow through. I realize, however, that this is not always easy. For some of us confidence comes harder than for others.

I was always envious of those folks who could just get up in front of people and “own it”, you know? The people who are totally comfortable in front of crowds? Those who always seem to speak with confidence and always know what they are talking about? I mean, I bet they never feel like they don’t know what they’re doing, right?


h3. Everyone Has Moments Of Uncertainty

Even some of the most successful and influential people in the world have had times when they felt like a sham. I’ve talked to quite a few people who I look up to and respect who’ve told me they’ve had days when they’ve felt like they were going to be “outted” for not knowing what they were talking about.

And here I was thinking it was just me!

Recently I was talking about this “phenomenon” with a colleague and I admitted to having this feeling quite often. He was shocked, “Not you?! Dude, you’re golden! But I totally feel that way too. All the time.” Funny thing is, I’d have never expected it out of him either.

Well, I thought this was all very interesting and asked around. I did some research. Seems like almost everyone struggles with this at some point or other. Just knowing that makes me feel much better and I think it’ll help me cope with those times I’m up speaking or giving a presentation and I feel like an impostor. I’m not alone, and neither are you!

How do you deal with your own lack of confidence in yourself? I’ve got all sorts of things I do. I mean, at my core I’m a pretty shy and modest person. It’s only been through forcing myself to do things and put myself out there have I developed any degree of self-confidence.

h3. What I Do

* Just Do It. Whenever I feel shy or unsure of myself, I pretty much force myself to just get on with it. Usually after a brief panic moment I’m usually fine. I got over my fear of flying the same way. The more you do something, the more you’ll feel comfortable with it and the more confident you’ll be.
* I recall past successes. For example, when I get up to speak in front of a crowd, I recall the last time I did it and remember that it went just fine.
* Positive thinking. I try to visualize success when I’m feeling less than confident as well I maintain a positive train of thought.
* Remind myself that what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I tell myself that if I screw up I can look back, probably laugh my ass off, and realize I learned something in the process.
* Take deep breaths. This has a calming effect on me.
* Prepare. I usually know what’s going to make me nervous or self-conscious. I find that the more prepared I am, the easier it is to get past.
* Go through my “kudos” file. I keep e-mails from people who’ve encouraged me or offered positive feedback. I read these when I’m feeling like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing or when I just need some validation.
* Focus on one thing and take it slow. It’s easy to let my mind wander in panic mode, and rushed thinking doesn’t help anything. Forcing myself to concentrate and keep my focus can help restore confidence.
* Listen, think, then speak. The times when I get into the most trouble usual stem from not listening. You can lose yourself and get into a place where you really don’t feel like you know what’s going on if you don’t listen well.
* Remember that I’m not the only one who feels this way. People who I really look up to have the same thing from time to time. This makes me feel much better.

6 Comments on Confidence

  1. tiger roholt says:

    (great post)

    I’ve heard musicians say, regarding performing, that there is a certain edge you get from being nervous which is in the interest of your performance. They don’t want to stop being nervous. If you lose your sense of nervousness, your performance dulls. The trick is to learn to make your nervousness serve you, to channel it, to transform your nervousness into a kind of enthusiasm.

    Regarding gaining confidence from past successes, I like to recall the times when I felt that I had absolutely no chance of succeeding at something. I remember one of my first philosophy classes on classical Greek philosophy. It was a class on one of the most ambiguous Greek philosophers (Parmenides), and it involved some seemingly impossible-to-understand commentary essays. I had to write a long paper on that material, and I thought I would never be able to do it. You can guess that it all worked out well; since then, I always remind myself that I could never be more confused about something than I was then, so it seems that I always have a fighting chance. This, I think, is why “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”


  2. Keith says:

    tiger — I think maybe “reducing” the nervousness is more accurate, now that you mention it. I agree that there is something to that nervous energy that keeps you sharp.

  3. Yannick L. says:

    Just Do It.

    I have been wondering to myself (and worrying) if I should make the jump and just buy a domain name and get hosting for a site that I have been thinking of doing and after reading your last post and now this, I decided you know what “Just do it”. It can’t hurt to try.

    I tell myself that if I screw up I can look back, probably laugh my ass off, and realize I learned something in the process.

    Very true. Even in failures we learn and it will help us the next time. Sometimes in order to move to that next level or gain confidence, we have to overcome those failures in our lives.

    Positive thinking. I try to visualize success when I’m feeling less than confident as well I maintain a positive train of thought.

    hehe this is a nice one. And it reminds me of something someone once said to me. “Say it is so, even when its not so, until it becomes so.” We need to keep being positive, and thinking confidently, so that we will be positive and confident.

    Keith, I just want to say that I have found this site of yours very useful and encouraging. Keep up the good work.

  4. says:

    Develop your Confidence

    Keith over To-Done has written a very nice article on confidence. He showed couple of tips on how to develop your self-confidence:

    Just Do It
    Recall past successes
    Positive thinking
    Remind what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger
    Take deep brea…

  5. Deepak says:

    Really helpful article. Thanks for that.

    As Tiger said, sometimes you need to be a little nervous to bring the best out of you. I remember I was attending a selection procedure for a software company, was very nervous about the whole thing. I went through test, got selected for Group Discussion and surprisingly I was the only one selected from GD. I was so happy and agreed to attend the interview right then[though they allowed me to take it a few days later as it was getting much late, around 8 pm]. I faced the interview with the least tensed mind and I lost it! I cudn’t answer the simplest question fully. I knew the answers but I answered in a vague and weird manner. Too much of confidence can kill often.

    Oe more, One of my friends had a prob with talking to high-end girls. He will never look at them, calls them names[not aloud] and was a kinda afraid to appraoch them. We suggested him a soln. One full week, we pressed and pressed him to talk, walk and do a lot of stuff only with those high-end girls. In the weekend he told us that they are all actually not high-end but simple girls, and he really overcame his complex. Its the only way, to take active effort, so that you can do something where you fear you are less confident.

  6. Paul says:

    Excelent points. I find that as i grow older i gain more experiences and so gain knowledge, and through that confidence. We shouldn’t be scared, we shouldn’t hold back. We are so blessed and fortunate in what we have been given… Use what u have, don’t let the fear of what others think hinder ur own life and success.

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