How to create self-confidence
I used to think that once I had developed my skill or expertise in a specific area, then I would have more self-confidence in general. But what I found is that even if I develop confidence in one area, that doesn’t necessarily give me self-confidence.
That’s because self-confidence comes from mindset – not achievement, mastery or skill.
If you aren’t feeling confident in yourself, if you aren’t trusting your own ability to learn and grow and face new challenges, then you may be operating from a “fixed mindset”. Dr. Carol Dweck, psychology researcher at Stanford, has done a ton of interesting work on the concept of “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”. A fixed mindset is the antithesis to self-confidence.
In a fixed mindset, you believe your abilities are carved in stone. You believe you only have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character. Because of this, with a fixed mindset, you don’t tend to approach things that are challenging or that don’t fall within your perceived wheelhouse. Why try something really hard or different if you’re just going to fail? Better to stick with the things you are “naturally” good at that to risk looking silly, is what the fixed mindset says.
As you can see, this “fixed mindset” is pretty much the opposite of self-confidence. (Remember, self-confidence is your trust in your capacity to learn and grow and get better and better at new things.)
On the flip-side, when you operate from a self-confident mindset (or what Carol Dweck refers to as the “growth mindset”), you believe that one's basic qualities are things one can cultivate through their efforts. You recognize that while people may differ in multiple ways (e.g. initial talents, aptitudes, interests, or temperaments), everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
In this way, you can see that self-confidence and the growth mindset embody the “beginner’s mind”. A self-confident person says, “I don’t know how to do everything, and I especially don’t know how to do something if it is a new thing for me. But I do know how to manage my mind and allow my emotions.” Thus, self-confidence enables a person to keep going even if something is hard, or if they make a mistake.
In fact, with a growth mindset and high self-confidence, you cultivate a passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well. You will keep challenging yourself, keep learning, stay interested and stimulated, and as a by-product, accomplish amazing things you would have never dreamed of.
So, how do you create self-confidence?
Here are more some of the important steps I lead my clients through in order to cultivate self-confidence and a growth mindset.
Practice growth mindset by engaging in the following thought exercise. Think of a challenging experience in the past or goal for the future. What did you, or can you, learn from the experience? How can you use it as a basis for growth?
Become more aware of and observe your mindset or “mind chatter”. In doing so, you can separate from it and make a conscious decision about what thoughts or mindset you want to identify with and operate from, as opposed to what mindset or thoughts aren’t serving you.
Note, though, that you can’t just change your thinking to something that makes you feel better in the moment. You have to take action in order to learn and improve and grow. Don't stop at just looking at your thinking and managing your mind. Take action. Consider the things you need to learn and strengthen in order to tackle a goal. Make a concrete plan with specific steps that are easy to visualize.
Practice allowing emotion. Expect fear and doubt to come up, and make room for them when they do. If you allow them to be there, they will dissipate faster, and you will be able to continue on with your action and growth and learning. You will also learn to tolerate these emotions and even use them as a guide – they can indicate that you are taking action that is helping you grow, develop, learn and transform!
Remember, you are capable simply because you are alive, because you are a human. Not because you are better than anybody else, but because, like everyone else, you are worthy – and you don’t need approval from anyone else to deem you worthy. All people can change and grow through application and experience.