“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
Pope John XXIII
A while ago, the Gallup organization conducted one of their most extensive … and I might add … one of their most important surveys ever. They wanted to check on the state of people’s self-confidence and discover what influence … if any … that had on a person’s life.
In essence, Gallup said most people could stand a bit more self-confidence. And those who have a great deal of it see enormous benefits in their lives. People with high levels of self-confidence are more successful in almost every way. They’re more satisfied with their lives, more willing to help others in need, and are less affected by stress.
But that’s not all. People with abundant confidence are physically healthier, have better relationships, and hold themselves accountable to a higher set of moral standards.
That’s a lot of benefit for having something as soft and touchy-feely as self-confidence in your life. But the bigger question is … how do you get it and how do you keep it? Try these strategies.
=> 1. Be yourself.
That should seem pretty obvious, but it’s still rare nonetheless. Many people, maybe most people, are trying to be something they’re not.
For example, young people are trying to look older, and old people are trying to look younger. And on the Marriage Enrichment Cruise I just led, one of the speakers asked the audience members to raise their hands if they like the way they look. No one raised their hands.
I suppose some of this self-doubt comes from TV where we are confronted by thousands of beautiful babes and handsome hunks. And then we look in the mirror and don’t see anything like the “preferred” images on TV.
Perhaps it’s time for a reality check. Just go to an airport and spend three hours people watching. Keep track of the number of people who look like the beautiful or handsome folks you see on TV. I would guess not very many.
After all, the people on TV don’t appear on TV until they’ve had three or four hours of make-up applied by three or four make-up artists. So what you’re seeing on TV isn’t real. It’s simply an image.
So quit trying to be like somebody else. Be yourself.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best or look your best. That’s good and healthy. But in it all, be yourself … because you simply cannot have any sense of self-confidence if you try to be anybody else.
=> 2. Do your best with what you have.
I absolutely believe that everyone … and I do mean everyone … has some gifts and talents. And if you’re going to be a self-confident individual, you’ve got to use those talents. You can’t sit on your talents, waste your time, accomplish little, and feel good about yourself. You’ve got to strive towards personal excellence.
In a 20-year period, Dr. Srully Blotnick conducted a study called “Getting Rich Your Own Way.” He studied 1500 people in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s and noticed that 83 of them became millionaires. Oddly enough, none of those 83 people set out to become wealthy … whereas most of the other research participants focused on how to get rich quick … but didn’t make it.
What accounted for the difference? The 83 millionaires had decided to specialize in an area they cared about, and in their specialization process, got so good at it that they became wealthy.
The lesson is simple. Find your gift, find your niche, find your passion, and then use it, getting better and better at what you do. You’ll probably end up healthier and wealthier.
Put another way, it’s all about DOING your best. It’s not about BEING the best … because that may never happen. No matter how much I practice, I’ll never be a better golfer than Tiger Woods, and I’ll never be a better singer than Justin Timberlake. But I can still DO my best at whatever I do and have the self-confidence and success that goes along with that.
=> 3. Refrain from comparisons.
It puts you on an emotional roller coaster, where you’re up one minute and down the next. And that’s no way to live.
For example, you may be a man who gets all dressed up for a special presentation to a prospective customer. You feel pretty good about the way you look, walk into the meeting with a strong sense of self-confidence, and then see the Vice President of Sales come in, looking strong, muscular, buff and worked out. If you’re a little flabby and overweight, if you’re playing the comparison game, your self-confidence takes a dip.
Or you may be a woman who goes to a business meeting, feeling as though you have the intelligence and experience to hold your own in any discussion. And then a Director at the meeting spouts off words you’ve never heard before and gives figures that make no sense. If you’re playing the comparison game, you might feel a bit stupid and start to doubt yourself.
Refrain from comparisons. They’re emotional suicide. You’ll end up vain or bitter. If you’re into comparison and do a better job than someone else, you’ll feel vain or prideful … which will hurt your relationships. And if you’re into comparisons and someone else does a better job than you, you’ll feel jealous or bitter … which further damages your relationships.
If you find yourself making comparisons, tell yourself to “Stop it!” Force yourself to think about something else … because there is nothing more detrimental to your self-esteem than playing the comparison game.
=> 4. Choose your company carefully.
The company you keep has a dramatic effect on your self-confidence. As the Bible notes, “Bad company corrupts good character.” Or as modern-day theology states, “If you want to soar with the eagles, you can’t run with the turkeys.”
Surround yourself with confident successful people. I’ve learned to do that and it’s made all the difference in the world to me. In fact, I’m writing this “Tuesday Tip” on an airplane as I fly to Mexico where I will spend three days with 8 other highly skilled, highly respected, and highly confident professionals in my industry. I take the time and spend the money to connect with such people several times a year because I know the difference it will make in my life, in my work, and even in my family.
Unfortunately, too many people have the confidence of a Charlie Brown. He never seems to do anything right … because he puts himself in the company of Lucy … who’s usually putting him down. She’s usually telling him what’s wrong with him and his ideas. At one point she says, “Charlie Brown, you are a foul ball in the line drive of life.”
With friends like Lucy, who needs enemies? And you may have some Lucys in your life … who are damaging your self-esteem, who are putting you down, criticizing you, and insulting you.
If that’s the case, what do you do with those Lucys? First, limit your exposure to them as much as possible. You may have to change jobs or drop that boyfriend who’s always telling you how stupid you are.
And second, surround yourself with nurturing people who build you up, who believe in you and encourage you. Oh sure, there may be times they challenge you, but you always know these nurturing people are in your corner.
=> 5. Invest your life in a worthwhile purpose.
The most confident people I know are people who know where they’re going. They have a purpose. They’re devoting themselves to a cause greater than themselves. That’s because … self-confidence is NOT self-centeredness. It always has an outreach towards others.
Golda Meir learned that early in life. As a young girl, she realized she was not beautiful or even mildly pretty in the physical sense of the word. And that deeply disturbed her … for a while.
Then she discovered what she wanted to do with her life, and that immediately took the focus off her appearance. Physical beauty no longer held any importance for her or got in the way of her self-confidence. She focused on her purpose, moved from Milwaukee, and ended up as the Prime Minister of Israel.
You see … there’s a big myth that says successful people don’t have any weaknesses. That’s not true. They just don’t let their weaknesses bother them or stop them.
In one study by Victor Goertzel called “Cradles of Eminence,” several hundred highly successful people of the 20th century were studied … people like Einstein, Churchill, Gandhi, Roosevelt, and others … people who reached the top in their fields. The study concluded that 75% of them, as children, were troubled by severe poverty, broken homes, or rejecting and domineering parents. The other 25% had major physical handicaps.
They had every “right” to feel sorry for themselves, to feel like a victim, and to give up. But the study concluded they became pre-eminent because they didn’t dwell on what they couldn’t do. They gave themselves to a purpose and focused on what they could do. And history teaches us that the world will stand aside for the person driven by a purpose.