Last week I talked to you about self-esteem, a fundamental internal navigational system that, when it is working well, allows you to love and accept yourself (Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence PART I – How to Improve Self-esteem). Healthy self-esteem is often present in self-confident people, but not always. You can be confident in certain arenas – for example in your profession or avocation, or performing a particular skill – without having true self-esteem.
The two are best when they go hand in hand, which is especially true in relationships. That inner navigational system will allow you to love yourself… and have the confidence to love another. But even if you are still working on your self-esteem, it is possible to boost your confidence – which I’ll talk about at the end of this blog.
First, what is self-confidence? It is your belief in your abilities.
This translates into:
- how well you trust yourself
- the way your project yourself in the world
Why is good self-confidence important?
- It allows you to live fully
- It gives you the courage to achieve your hopes and dreams
- It lets you have a life you love
Self-confidence can and often is situational (unlike self-esteem, which never is).
- Richard comes across as jaunty and self-assured at a party and charms a fascinating woman named Lara. Richard is a masterful lover and knows full well that he can please a woman. He is also courteous, gallant, and attentive. He has sexual self-confidence. A month into the relationship, Lara realizes that Richard can only communicate with her in bed. He is unsure of himself whenever the talk turns to feelings. He can tell a delightful story and make Lara laugh, but when the conversation veers towards commitment, the future, or love, he pulls away – afraid. Richard may need to work on his self-esteem to overcome some of his confidence issues in a relationship.
- Margaret is a different story. She has risen in a demanding field –theoretical physics – like a meteor. She got her PhD at the age of 26 and landed a prestigious position at a prominent university. When she teaches, delivers talks around the world, or interacts with her colleagues, Margaret exudes confidence. She is sure of her abilities and that sureness comes across. She is magnetic and brilliant in front of a huge audience – but shy and uncertain in any other arena. Her self-confidence does not carry over to relationships at all.
How do you know someone has self-confidence?
Behavior, body language, how they speak, what they say,,, If you saw Margaret speak, you’d see she stands straight with an open posture, head up. Her words come easily, she smiles readily, and she treats those around her with respect.
When she is out on a blind date, everything changes. She can’t make eye contact, makes snarky or sarcastic comments about others, or herself, or becomes tongue-tied. Uncertain in personal relationships, this powerhouse in world of the intellect needs to develop her self-confidence in other arenas so she can navigate the dating world without anxiety.
Below are some common characteristics of healthy self-confidence:
- Trust in your own abilities and skills. Whether in the work place, in the kitchen, in the classroom, or in the bedroom, you are assured of your abilities. These can translate into dating confidence too, if you learn to play to your strengths!
- The ability to speak your mind and heart without fear. In relationships, this is vital. Knowing how to ask for what you want and need is fundamental to a healthy love life.
- Positive relationships. If you are self-confident, you will automatically attract positive relationships that are neither co-dependent nor abusive. You know what you want; you know what you have to give.
- The ability to inspire confidence in others. ✓ Since you, an excellent chef or championship golfer, have nothing to prove, you can encourage, nurture, and support others and give them a taste of the self-confidence that you have mastered.
- Good self-care. You take care of you, because you are a valuable commodity. Someone who lacks basic self-confidence is too insecure to focus on him or herself long enough to do what needs to be done.
- Reasonable ability to take risks. You feel normal nervousness about that job interview, blind date, or marathon… but you do it anyway. You have faith in yourself, and you are also self-assured enough to be okay if you fail.
- Resilience. You get that you can’t always win, succeed, get every account, fall in love with every blind date, but that’s okay. You bounce back from setbacks and don’t take everything personally.
- Flexibility. Essentially, if things don’t go as you planned, or hoped, you are fine. You can adapt to changing circumstances – the ebb and flow of regular life and even the big, catastrophic upheavals that sometimes happen. Where others flounder and become paralyzed, a person with basic confidence will rise to the occasion – because he or she says, “I can handle this.”
- The ability to make decisions and accept the consequences. A person who rises to the top in any given field is likely to be someone confident enough to make the tough decisions and stick to them (but with the ability, as mentioned above, to be flexible when needed). This applies in any realm, including romance.
Can you build on what you’ve got? Yes. There are things you can do to enhance your confidence in yourself…
- Remind yourself what you are good at. Write down a list of accomplishments, skills, talents, and strengths. Practice feeling that sense of pride and accomplishment when you look at your list.
- Set a challenge and meet it. Stretch yourself – outside your comfort zone. Maybe you can learn something new and master it – like speaking Italian, cooking authentic Chinese food, horseback riding, or the piano!
- Recognize your insecurities and refuse to use negative talk or self-deprecating statements to reinforce them. Turn your insecurity around as when, “I’m a terrible dancer” becomes “I am going to learn to dance!’
- Talk positively about yourself. To others, and to yourself. Brag? No. Speak with assurance and a sense that you are happy to be you? You bet. Avoid: “I’m the best skier you’ll ever see.” Also avoid: “You probably won’t want to ski with me because I’m not that good.” Try this: “I love skiing! There’s nothing like it!”
- Become fluent in body language – your own! Be aware of how you present yourself. This includes smiling, standing straight, making eye contact – all of these validate you, not just to others but also to yourself.
- Take care of your appearance and practice self-care. Doing so will help you believe that you are worth caring about. Wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself, beef up your grooming routine, get good sleep, exercise, and eat healthily.
- Avoid perfectionism. If flexibility and being easy with outcomes is a sign of confidence, being a perfectionist or trying to control outcomes is often a sign of insecurity. So don’t do it. Force yourself to back away from the ledge of compulsivity!
- Accept mistakes and mishaps as learning opportunities. Every time something does not go as planned, or you make the wrong choice, or you simply screw up, ask yourself: what can I learn from this? This applies to things utterly outside your control as well. If something happens – from having your flight cancelled to being laid off – don’t be a victim … learn something about yourself in that moment.
- Practice gratitude. This overarching practice encompasses so much of the above. If you don’t try to control outcomes, if you learn from misfortune, if you meet the challenges you set for yourself… you will be able to feel gratitude for your life and that is a sure-fire sign of a self-confident person.
- Spend time with people who make you feel great. Who we choose to spend time with reflects how we feel about ourselves. If you are drawn to negative, critical, depressed, or clingy people – why? Why not find people who lift you up as you lift them? (Realize I am not criticizing people who have bad days or need our help. If you love someone who needs you, or is in a bad place, I am not advocating abandoning him or her. This bullet applies to people who simply pull you down… all the time.)
- Do things for others. Selflessness is, after all, the opposite of selfishness, and a confident people are the ones who can give of themselves. And anyway, helping others will make you feel great!
- Live in the present moment. By being here, now, you will worry less, regret less, and will create a sense of yourself and your life that is neither trapped by the past nor unreachable in the future.
True confidence is borne of acceptance, and it breeds more confidence. Accept yourself and others – “as is.” Only then can you grow and learn to become an ever-fuller version of you. You are worth valuing right now – and if you can do that, your self-assured manner will radiate positively into the universe and draw others to you.