Confidence is a big, juicy, important topic. Wouldn’t you love to be confident all of the time? The truth is that everyone struggles with self-confidence. Yes, everyone, including the cocky NFL player, the gyrating rock musician, and the wealthy businessperson boarding a private jet. You see them in the spotlight in which they soar. What you don’t see is that the NFL player faces an addiction problem, the musician struggles with a reading disorder, or the businessperson feels lonely and isolated.
No one is confident in every situation. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Own and recognize your “weakness” as something to work on or accept. Don’t spend your life fighting or hiding it. In my experience, those who puff out their chests, swagger, and boast are usually the most insecure people in the room. They aren’t convinced of their greatness, so they’re trying to convince you of it.
Someone who is very academic may be strong in the classroom but inept at household tasks or fixing his car. Someone who has been told her whole life that she’s beautiful may feel comfortable in social situations but shrink in other arenas. Someone who is naturally athletic may be in his prime at the gym but overshadowed in a face-to-face debate.
I know these are generalities, but often we see people when they shine and then assume they shine in every area. This depletes our own confidence. No one shines or excels at everything.
This became very clear to me at a dinner several years ago. Ten of us were gathered around a table. We had worked together for years, so we knew each other very well. I was known as someone who brings up “topics” to spur conversation. This had become a fun ritual for us.
That night I asked everyone to think about what his or her greatest personal accomplishment was. Of what were they most proud?
The first person named her children. The next said that she was proud to be the first in her family to get a master’s degree. So on and so forth, around the table it went, until we came to a co-worker who we all knew was a great swimmer. He had won many awards, nearly qualifying for the Olympics. Of course, when it was his turn, he said that he was most proud of his accomplishments in swimming.
We then went around the table another time and I asked everyone to name a regret -nothing too dark or deep, just something light-hearted and funny. Someone answered that she regretted adopting her nutty, couch-chewing Labrador. Another person said that she regretted eating an entire pie the night before. When we got to the swimmer, he said that he regretted swimming.
The table fell silent. How much wine did he drink? Did he think we were still talking about our greatest accomplishments? I clarified that this question was about regrets, but he confirmed that his answer was swimming. “Swimming is a solitary sport,” he said. “I spent four to six hours a day in the pool with my head in the water while everyone else was socializing and building those skills. I struggle socially now.”
I had known him for years and had no idea. Even this great swimmer, who was likely idolized on the starting blocks, setting new speed records and accepting awards—yes, even he struggled. No one has it all. No one excels in everything.
Scroll through your mind and picture some people who you are convinced have the self-confidence thing down. You’re probably thinking, They don’t have any self-doubt! They walk into a room with their chest puffed out and head held high, their stride strong enough to push through a crowd. They are filled with confidence. They radiate it! Remember, though, that you don’t know their whole story. You can’t see the whole picture. Everyone is insecure to various degrees and in different ways. Let’s talk about what you can do about it.
Recognize when you feel insecure.
- What are your triggers? This can be difficult because you have to be very honest with yourself. Your triggers have something to teach you. Write down a few things that you think might trigger insecurity within you. Don’t hide from yourself.
React to the feeling.
Acknowledge the discomfort, but also learn to manage it. One helpful practice is to visualize tucking your insecurity into a far corner of your head. Now silently repeat, “I have no room for you in my head.”
Decide how to respond.
- Work on areas in need of improvement to master triggers that deplete your self-confidence. Or, simply decide to accept them, laugh them off, and move on. Make self-improvement a practice or simply live in your uniqueness. Don’t let insecurity consume you.
Make simple physical changes.
- Posture: The simple act of pulling your shoulders back makes you look and feel more confident.
- Smiling: A smile will not only make you feel better but also make you more approachable. People will smile back, and the domino effect will begin.
- Eye contact: Look at the person to whom you are speaking, not at your shoes. Maintaining eye contact shows confidence to others and over time builds confidence in yourself.
Being confident and positive isn’t always easy, but once you make it a practice and habit, it’s life changing. We often don’t know enough to make adequate judgments, so we should avoid negativity. Many times, we don’t see the full picture when we’re struggling. We don’t see the end result until weeks, months, or years down the road. For instance, my son Ethan dislocated his ankle while playing tennis with his brother Owen. The bone broke through the skin and ended up needing surgery. He also contracted a staph infection that required a lot of attention, doctor appointments, and round-the-clock medications for six weeks.
Throughout this experience, Ethan did not complain. He chose to embrace the time we spent going to appointments and enjoyed our lunches afterward. He hobbled around school on crutches with a PICC line, but he never felt sorry for himself. He took responsibility for the energy he brought into a room and excitedly shared his well-earned scars and interesting story with others. Laughing and crying may both give relief, but Ethan chose to laugh.
As a result of this experience, Ethan even developed a keen interest in the medical field. Had this injury not happened, he likely would never have been so intimately exposed to this career path. Through this accident, he might have found his calling.
As an animal lover, I’ve been told that many animals can sense our emotions. For instance, a dog you’ve never met will avoid you if you’re insecure or fearful. When I took horseback riding lessons, the trainer explained that horses can sense nervousness. She advised me to take deep breaths to eliminate any pent-up anxiety in their presence. Both people and animals can sense the type of energy you bring into their space before you even say a word.
It is hard for almost everyone to grasp that you can go from nowhere to somewhere without even moving. In an instant, your state of mind can propel you or stop you; it can make you seem repellent or appealing. Make a decision to live in a beautiful state. Don’t give up your happiness over little stuff or over what you can’t control. Focus on what you can control and what you can do.
Being critical is easy, but what if we tried to be positive for just two weeks? Be playful and sincere. Be warm and inviting. Wear a smile. Studies show that even the act of smiling when you don’t feel happy can lift your mood. People will gravitate toward you.
Those who are always complaining, blaming, or fearful are toxic to be around. When we practice gratitude, we appreciate life and radiate energy that pulls people toward us. Be grateful and focus on what you do have and everything will fall into place for you. If you focus primarily on what you don’t have, you will forever struggle and never feel you have enough.
It’s all in how you present it. You don’t “have to” go to work: you “get to.” After all, how many people are out there looking for a job right now? The simple act of replacing “have” with “get” is life altering.
You’ve got this:
No one is confident and positive 100 percent of the time. Small steps make mighty journeys.
Dina Mauro has worked in the technology industry for over twenty-five years, twenty with one of the largest IT companies in the world. Through her love for animals, Dina began rescuing dogs, volunteering, and, ultimately, writing.
Dina is the author of A Dose of Tia: How a Woman and Her Rescued Dog Embraced Life Through Volunteering – and How You Can, Too. Initially, as a personal, heartfelt gift to her sons, but later published for the public, Dina went on to pen You’ve Got This! The Grad’s Guide to the Big, Rich, Magnificent Life You Deserve.
About You've Got This!
As a parent, author Dina Mauro was so hyper-focused on competing and comparing her children to other children that she almost lost sight of what they required to thrive. She realized that when they thrive, everything in their lives falls abundantly into place.
“When traveling down life’s road, don’t simply step forward—leap toward your magnificent life. You’ve got this!
You’ve Got This! The Grad’s Guide to the Big, Rich, Magnificent Life You Deserve steers the reader through critical “markers” along life’s way: improving oneself, conquering obstacles, achieving goals, and cultivating relationships. Other stops on the journey include heading off to college, entering the work world, making decisions, managing technology, speaking in public, and many more.
You’ve Got This! is a long-overdue guidebook that illuminates forty-seven achievable strategies and real-world advice for not just living—but thriving! Now grads have the roadmap for facing challenges that left untouched can become big distractions to an exceptional life.