There are a few different ways to build unshakeable confidence, and I’m going to list a few with a caveat*.
- Identifying Limiting Beliefs: Look at what internal barriers exist. Our beliefs and our unconscious view – usually the only thing interfering with full freedom and self-expression is our own fear. And fear usually arises from learned behavior or past experiences working with the evolutionary wiring of our brain. So for eg – if you had a scary experience as a 5-year-old trying to cross the road, you might develop a deep seated fear of traffic or roads. Or if 16-year-old you got your heart broken by your teenage crush at school – you might develop a resistance to deeper romantic entanglements. Both of which happened to me, of course –& I’m conscious of this now. And it can be easy to move beyond something that is now conscious, but usually, the problems arise when it’s stuck in our unconscious. What happens in our past influences our view of the future through our unconscious, and leaves us with a very limited view of people, situations and of course, ourselves. Our default method is not looking at events and learning, and moving forward to become better from failure – rather each failure can build on previous ones, and fence us in. (And we also have a very messed up relationship with failure – which is an entire post on its own). Another thing to remember is that our brain is wired for fear – we are much more sensitive to negative information and more likely to receive it. This is what kept us alive in the jungle over thousands of years, where a threat lurked behind every quivering blade of grass. Fear was useful, and it kept us alive. However the concrete jungle is much less threatening, and our life is not at risk every other minute. So our amygdala is a little less useful, and the fear – doesn’t really work at keeping us alive, more at keeping us in our little box. So to work past these fears, you could look at any formative experiences that may have left you with an overwhelming or irrational fear of specific events or circumstances. You could do that just by writing down the things you feel you fear the most, the beliefs you have about that event or events, and bringing your awareness to what may be at the root of that specific fear. Or you could do it in conversation with a supportive friend or a professional therapist.
- One fear I had was a complete fear of being in totally new groups of people (not very helpful when I left an entire country to move to a new one). It came from when I moved up a class in the middle of a term and had a teacher who punished me (for I don’t know what – I still plead innocence). A fear was fine for 6-year-old me, but it was something which I unconsciously transferred from one specific event to more general circumstances, and it was very limiting – until I was able to see it and move past it.
- Continuous Daily improvement: Another way to build confidence is consistent daily improvement or action: Look for different ways to take a step outside your comfort zone on a daily basis. It might be talking to a stranger in the lift, or smiling at your barista. Maybe putting up my hand to volunteer for the next presentation, or to speak up for someone when I would usually step back. Just one little act a day – even over just 30 days, and we will find ourself being more fearless, and courageous as a norm. Do this over a year, and we will become unshakeable. The brain is incredibly plastic, and we are using something called hedonic adaptation to our benefit. Small acts can bypass the fear trigger in our brain, and are less threatening – and the more often we do them the easier it is to increase our fear threshold and doing so builds confidence. If we hold ourself accountable to a 30 day or 90-day daily act of courage, we will be surprised by the progress we can make – we may have a few days when we don’t do anything, but if we ensure that we don’t let one day get in the way of other 30.
- The Big Leap Method: This can be incredibly powerful and works well in combination with the first step. However, the caveat is to remember one thing – the action is the most important part here, not necessarily the result. For Eg: I had an incredible fear of heights, so I signed up for a weekend para-gliding course and just going up and flying gave me a different perspective on heights. So now I created a new anchor memory which I can use to apply in the context of heights. Or another example: I was in Thailand, and went to see the tigers. The ones I saw were not drugged, or asleep but awake and running around the cage in the Buddhist tiger center – and while I didn’t think twice about going in to play with the cubs, I had to ask myself what I was doing before I got in the cage with the adults. However I was able to step through, and now I ask myself if I find myself flinching in situations especially before uncomfortable conversations – is this likely to be riskier than entering the tiger’s cage? Usually, the answer is no. And you can apply this big leap technique to anything you wish to deal with, as long as you are making a rational analysis of the situation and potential outcomes. (And of course, I disclaim any liability or responsibility – so do make sure you are not suddenly hanging of the 41st floor of your building because you read this post.)
- The Integrity Method: Works all the time, every time – as long as you are able to deal with this from a rational perspective, and not an emotional or moral (good/bad) perspective. This is training you and your brain to see that there is a very strong and maybe eventually, an unbreakable relationship between your speech and your actions. So every time you say to someone else, or yourself – you are going to do something, you make sure & you get it done. You may not be 100% successful in fulfilling everything you say, but if you always acknowledge the times you didn’t and ensure that the people impacted by the incompletion of your word are also acknowledged – then you will build a powerful relationship with your integrity. And doing so brings to your life an experience of power, and freedom – especially freedom from fear. And this is a game which never ends – you only build a powerful relationship with integrity by noticing the times when you are not in integrity. And if you can deal with it every time, without a feeling of guilt or shame – with no moral judgments, or defensiveness – you will have bullet proof confidence. And the ability to go from small promises to really massive ones.
Ultimately, we can integrate all of the above into our life – and move to a life without limits.
(* I am not claiming to be fearless, or limitless or to being a master of integrity – this is what I have learned, through my experiences and through training and development)
For more hacks on Confidence: see 1. ZenHabits ; 2. TinyBuddha ; 3. Success.com