It was the eighth grade. I was elated. I didn’t want anyone to know I was elated, but-I was elated. I had just been nominated for class favorite. I know it’s silly, but it was eighth grade. At the time it meant a lot even if I did have to respond with an, “Aww shucks I’m so glad just to have been nominated.”
I remember walking into the lunch room that day and being greeted by Amy Cameron. She walks up to me with her very rare accent in the small East Texas town of Sulphur Springs northern accent and declared, “You’re not eeeeven gonna win. Clint Murray is going to be the class favorite.”
I just kind of smiled and nodded. It crushed me. My confidence had just been taken to the wood chipper.
“She’s right. I probably won’t win,” I thought to myself. Turns out, she was right and wrong. I didn’t win but neither did Clint. I think Brandon Brewer did. I really don’t remember that part.
Amy Cameron wasn’t a mean girl. She wasn’t a cheerleader. She wasn’t popular. I probably said 10 words to her throughout my entire primary school career which spanned almost 12 grades with Amy.
So why did this leave such an indelible mark on my confidence? Why was my confidence determined by someone who had little to no impact on my life?
Although this incident occurred in the 8th grade, I’m sure the same scenario has played out in your adult life. Someone you didn’t know, didn’t like, someone who didn’t even like themselves took a sledgehammer to your confidence. It’s dumb.
What I’ve learned is whomever we blame for feeling bad about ourselves is the person we have given power over us. This is a bad move.
We need to separate opinions from facts and even then decide how much value and power they will have on our lives. I adopted a credo of sorts some time ago that sounds terribly arrogant, but I assure you it’s not meant to be.
I don’t care about your opinion of me. I’m ok saying this because I care even less about you valuing my opinion. You see I don’t care if someone accepts my opinion as truth, fact, law, gospel or whatever you want to call it. I don’t need to be agreed with. Nor do I give weight to the opinions of others as it relates to how I judge myself.
This is not to say I won’t take constructive criticism. To the contrary. If you are someone I admire and whose opinion I value that’s another story entirely. But if Amy Cameron’s opinion of me is negative I don’t give two shi**s. Why should I?
So lesson one: Don’t grant others the power of your confidence.
The next thing we must understand is that confidence comes with an intimate knowledge of who we are and what we believe. When you find yourself getting angry, defensive and worked up because someone differs with you on a topic this is a sure sign that you are insecure with your position.
It’s critical to know what you know and have the ability to defend it to yourself not just to others. This doesn’t mean you can’t be wrong, but in order to have unwavering confidence you need to know your principles and beliefs better than anyone else.
Also, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. If you have a strength, spend more time honing and developing it. Become a master of something you are good at. If you know you have the potential to go from good to great be great.
When you identify something you do poorly, eliminate the behavior or at leas work to improve it if it’s critical to your life. This will ensure you go through life knowing that you know your strengths and weaknesses and instead of defending your weaknesses you will be able to say, “Yep. You’re right. I suck at plumbing, but I’m working on it.”
Here are some actions to take right now to develop confidence:
- Seek mastery in something important to you. Become exceptionally skilled at something you value. I recently sat with a guy who has excelled in business. We were once in similar industries, both entrepreneurs, and he stuck with it while I did not. The result is he has far surpassed me in net worth. However, he’s also overweight and unhealthy. He drinks a lot, smokes weed, and will most likely not live as long as I will. He doesn’t read good books, and he and his wife have a mediocre relationship at best. Frankly, save for his money, there is nothing I admire about him.
On the other hand, I have become a master of my health and wellness. I have accumulated vast amounts of knowledge and wisdom through my self-study, and these are things I am very proud of. I am very proficient at “being healthy.” This gives me something to call upon in the back of my mind when he starts sharing his financial statement with me for the 187th time. My mastery of the thing that matters most to me boosts my confidence when it could be shaken by his mastery of finance. Mastery is the key to confidence in anything you are endeavoring to do. Want to be a rockstar public speaker? Master it. Put in the reps. Want to be a good writer? Master it. Put in the reps. Mastering a topic or activity will do more to build your confidence than anything.
- Do hard things. Humans are far more capable of doing more than will ever be asked of them. We will all most likely go to our graves never knowing just what we could have done in some of the worst situations possible. Therefore, to build confidence, simulate them. Put yourself to the test physically, mentally, spiritually. When you start self inflicting resistance and then overcoming it you will by default gain confidence.
- Become flexible. Show yourself to be someone who is not confined to perfect order and predictability. One of the things that I’ve learned in my quest to optimize my life is that over optimization can lead to shaky ground if my routine is thrown off. I lose confidence in the work I’ve done and how I will handle a day with many unknowns. Find ways to do things differently and be ready for when life throws you a curveball.
- Become dangerous: One of the greatest confidence builders is know you can crush someone and not doing it. I remember when someone betrayed me in the most awful way possible. By every measure the guys deserved for me to kick his ass, and I could have. So wrong was he I doubt he would have even called the cops on me. I chose not to. Instead I offered the guy forgiveness. To this day, that one act has provided residual confidence in other matters of much less consequence. Learn Jiu Jitsu or another martial art. Learn to shoot a gun. Take a self defense course. Learn to make yourself a dangerous human being. Being a badass and not showing it off builds massive confidence.
- Be around people who inspire you. There is something about being around other people who are smart, ambitious and confident. It is contagious. Also, 50% of all people on earth are below average and of that 50% another 50% are even worse off. So pick and choose wisely who you share time with. The world is full of mediocre and below average people. Find the ones who are above average and keep company with them.
- Be ok saying, “I don’t know.” This is never the wrong answer unless you’re a heart surgeon and the nurse says, “Doctor, what do we do next?” If this isn’t the case, nothing shows more confidence than just admitting you don’t know something. If this is true, it’s never the wrong answer. Further, when you do it enough you will start to build confidence by seeing that people genuinely admire someone who is authentic enough to admit not knowing something.
- Become a question Ninja. Voltaire once said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Confident people ask great questions. They aren’t afraid of being seen as lacking knowledge instead they are seen as confident seekers of it.
Determine what is most valuable to you. We tend to get sucked into the Matrix where the only measure of success and accomplishment is monetary and status. However, if you are someone who has forgone the Matrix and decided for yourself what is of most value to you, then you can start to build upon that which you care most about.
For example: If you can’t be rich, what else can you pursue that you hold as valuable? Is it knowledge about great literature? If so, go read the Western Canon and savor it. The next time you’re with a millionaire blow his or her mind with your understanding of Faulkner.
I was recently in a conversation with a multi millionaire. He could buy and sell me 6 times over. There was a time when I would have tried to show him I was on equal footing with him in terms of business understanding. This was a sure sign of lacking confidence because I would be trying to impress the multi millionaire instead of just resting in who I am.
Eventually the conversation turned to books. In this area I’m wealthy-very wealthy. I’ve read a ton. It turns out that he and I shared an affinity for many of the same books. In this area not only was I as rich as him but more so. This gave me great confidence. It will help you, too. It’s not all about being wealthy from a financial standpoint.
Building confidence is an art. It takes time. It takes guts. There is a vast difference between confidence and being cocky. That’s a discussion for another day.
However, I can say with confidence (no pun intended) if you will start to put these principles into action you will find a confidence you never knew existed.
Improve your confidence always, in ALL ways!