Where Does Self-Confidence Come
We have all heard
that the greatest fear most people have is the fear of public speaking. Why is that? What
is it that makes even the thought of having to get up before a crowd to speak send tremors of fear shooting thought many a
person’s body? It’s doesn’t seem logical that it is because people who are not regular
speakers or presenters have no idea of what they would say or how they would say it if they were called on to speak extemporaneously.
People speak with other people every day with comfort and ease about things in which they are well-versed.
What then, causes such panic when many such people are called on to speak before a group? The discomfort and apprehension some people associate with public speaking or other stressful situations spring
from either a perception of lack of ability or a lack of belief in themselves.
Ability and belief are the two sources for personal self-confidence.
One of the key contributors to self-confidence comes from the knowledge
of possessing the ability to execute a given task. In the example dealing with public speaking above, if a person had concerns
about how he or she might look, sound or act before an audience, he or she could develop greater confidence in public speaking
by studying how to become an effective speaker such as by reading a book, getting training and practicing until he or she
becomes proficient. Practicing something over and over until one becomes good at it instills the knowledge
that the person will not fail at the task, and this awareness leads to the confidence for effectively carrying it out.
A lack of ability is usually the cause of situational lack
of confidence in which a person isn’t confident in a particular environment or with a specific task simply because he
or she has not previously had experience with it and therefore, isn't sure how to proceed. A person who generally displays a high level
of self-confidence may feel completely unconfident dancing the tango because he or she has never had any experience whatsoever
with it. In some situations a lack of confidence in public speaking
or any other activity may be all in a person’s mind. Regardless of whether a person has or hasn’t
the ability, the fact that he or she doesn’t feel confident about the situation will rule the day.
A person might actually possess the ability to do a decent job in some endeavor, but nonetheless, not be
confident in performing it.
In some situations a lack of confidence in public
speaking or any other activity may be all in a person’s mind. Regardless of whether a person has
or hasn’t the ability, the fact that he or she doesn’t feel confident about the situation will
rule the day. A person might actually possess the ability to do a decent job in some endeavor, but nonetheless,
not be confident in performing it
This brings us to
the second and more important driver of self-confidence, belief. People who really know themselves—their inner strengths and weaknesses, exude
self-confidence in virtually all situations. This stems from a powerful intrinsic belief that they are capable, resourceful
and worthy. They feel very good about themselves and their potential to handle anything that may come along.
They instinctively believe that they can assess any situation and then apply the best response regarding
it. Because such people have such a positive attitude about themselves and their abilities, they are not afraid of meeting and talking with new people, trying new experiences or facing challenging or ambiguous
situations. Such people, for example
rarely panic in an emergency. Even though they may not have experienced a certain situation before, they know they can function
to maximum capability and take charge. They never doubt for a minute that the best possible outcome will happen providing
they do their part. When someone comments on their effective performance in such situations, they are typically
surprised that anyone thinks they did anything unusual.
The confidence to perform effectively in any situation then,
requires both the ability to act and a sincere belief in one’s self. Possessing ability but not the belief of successfully
being able to demonstrate that ability, generally results in failure. Similarly if one has a powerful belief
in his or her capabilities but not the ability itself, failure will also likely be the result. One must
have both the ability and the belief in being able to display that ability to be consistently self-confidence in
a particular undertaking. When people
knowingly lack the ability or belief to perform successfully in a circumstance, they become very fearful because they know
they are susceptible to failure, and they imagine themselves displaying extreme discomfort and awkwardness when placed in
such a position. This self-consciousness causes them to become overly focused on themselves rather than
the task at hand, which further increases the potential for mistakes and failure.
Causes of Low Self-Confidence
Most lack of self-confidence comes from negative conditioning,
either from the deliberate words and actions of others or from our own life experiences. A person who is
repeatedly told he or she does not exhibit the ability for a certain activity will soon come to believe it and act accordingly.
Similarly, someone who fails at a task over and over will likely come to the conclusion that he or she just can’t
do it, and will tend to avoid not only that particular task, but others like it as well. The good news is that the opposite
condition is also true. A person who routinely experiences success at a certain task or is led to believe
by others that this is the case, will tend to develop a continually increasing sense of self-confidence in performing the
task. As the adage goes, “success breeds success.”
The Role of
the Subconscious Mind.
Our subconscious mind
caries memories of our past successes and past failures, and these memories directly influence our conscious behavior in the
present. Positive past experiences unconsciously motivate us to repeat the behaviors corresponding to those
experiences because we subconsciously desire to once again experience the pleasurable feelings associated with these previous
successes. Negative past experiences on the other hand, unconsciously inhibit or undermine future behaviors associated with
past negative results because we subconsciously desire to avoid the pain that is linked to them. It’s really all about mindset.
Up until 1954, no runner in the recorded history of sports had ever run a mile
in less than four minutes, and it was generally accepted that such a feat was out of the realm of possibility for human beings.
That year Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in less than for minutes, and this accomplishment was
widely applauded as an incredible achievement. Within weeks however, another runner broke the four minute
barrier and in the following months many others did as well. These were the same runners who had previously run in the same
races as Roger Bannister and were unable to break the four minute mark. Before Roger Banister did it, they
all thought it was impossible. As a result, they didn’t have the self-confidence that they could
do it and their bodies responded accordingly. But after he did it they knew it was possible and developed
the confidence that if Roger Banister could do it, so could they.
break the spell of negative inertia and frustration associated with negative past experiences (real or imagined), it is necessary
to condition our minds to erase negative, subconscious memories of past failures which act as roadblocks to success and replace
them with positive images of future accomplishments. In other words, we need to create a state of mind that will drive us
to ACT AS IF IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO FAIL. This is the essence of self-confidence,
and it can be systematically developed. But first the root
cause of a person’s lack of self-confidence must be identified and raised to the conscious level. Then
one should answer the question; “I would be more confident in this situation if I were better at _________?” The
next step is to work to fulfill the identified need.
Visualization is the technique of using mental imagery to
see yourself as already having what you want to have, be or accomplish. It involves changing your thoughts
by imagining something to be true over and over until you actually change the mental images residing in your sub-conscious
mind. Thoughts, if powerful
enough, are accepted as truth by our subconscious mind. This changes our mindset accordingly.
We develop new, positive expectations about our abilities which then influence our habits and actions to actually bring
about what our mind believes to be real.
Affirmations are positive statements
that describe a desired outcome such as “I will lose 20 pounds during the next year.” They work in the same manner
as creative visualization by programming our minds
much as commands and scripts program a computer. When repeated over
and over, affirmations build mental images in the conscious mind corresponding to the focus of the affirmation, and these
mental images eventually become embedded in our subconscious mind which then influences our behavior
to automatically strive to attain that which we desire.
Creative visualization and affirmations are effective because their application
helps to displace the impact of whatever negative conditioning we have experienced up to the current point in our lives.
It is impossible for the human mind to hold opposing beliefs at the same time. One cannot believe
he or she is an effective leader and an ineffective leader at the same time any more than it is possible for someone to simultaneously
like and dislike bananas. By using positive visualization and affirmation to force the impact of negative
conditioning from our subconscious minds, we eliminate much of the source of low self-confidence and replace it with thoughts
and feelings that drive success and happiness instead.
Controlling Your Thoughts
the words of the great author and motivator Earl Nightingale, “We are what we think about.” James Allen said it
a little bit differently; “As a man thinketh, so is he.” Both men were essentially
saying that to develop overall self-confidence
we must continually reflect on out thoughts. We should consistently examine
why we think the way we do and if we don’t like what we see, change it. We need to overcome negative
programming by reflecting on our past positive accomplishments. We should work to develop new positive programming by telling
ourselves that we can achieve our desired goal.