Have you ever watched someone on stage and wished you had their confidence? Maybe you’re the one standing by the punch bowl while everyone else is on the dance floor. Possibly you’re sitting at home on a Friday night surrounded by cats. It may seem like confidence may be the most powerful element in the universe and just beyond your grasp. I can relate, because I was that person.

I’ve got good news – you don’t have to be some high-powered alpha human to get that promotion, the person on the dance floor or a date on Friday night. All you need is self-confidence.

What is Self-Confidence?

Before you can walk with self-confidence, you first have to understand what it is. Let’s start with a simple definition.

Self-confidence is a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.

Wow! Is that it? All I have to do is trust my skills, qualities and judgment? That sounds so easy, and yet, so few trust their abilities, qualities and decisions. Sometimes, when I’m talking to clients, it seems that they are over-complicating the signs of self-confidence.

  • Admitting when you’re wrong.

  • Being flexible when change is needed.

  • Talking about your accomplishments.

  • Describing negative events in positive terms.

  • Dressing to please yourself without worrying about what others think.

  • Using a firm handshake.

  • Using common language to keep from sounding too professional.

  • Smiling often.

  • Learning a new skill.

Sources of Self Confidence

1. It’s a learned skill

Self-confidence is a combination of skills, not just a single quality. People are not born with it or without it. It is learned. It comes from practice. It may appear to be spontaneous, but it isn’t.

2. Internal locus of control

Self-confidence results from what psychologist call an internal locus of control–meaning people who are self-directing and accept responsibility for their results, have greater confidence.

Ways to Build Self Confidence

1. Follow your strengths

Self-confidence comes from being the best you can be. It never comes from trying to be someone or something you’re not.

Self-Confidence comes from:

  • Doing what comes naturally.

  • Developing your talents.

  • Following your convictions.

  • Expressing your own style.

2. Plan

Most folks are shocked to discover that self-confidence comes from something as mundane and ordinary as planning. Believe it or not, it’s that simple. Whether you’re planning for a class presentation, a board meeting, or a job interview – planning is essential.

Planning activities to build self-confidence looks like:

  • Write it out: Know ahead of time what you plan to say. Memorize the important points.

  • Have a contingency plan: Expect Murphy to show up at the meeting. Anticipate what could go wrong and decide ahead of time how you’ll handle it.

  • Anticipate questions: Imagine yourself presenting and then make a list of questions you might be asked by your board members, co-workers or boss and then write out the answers.

  • Do your homework: Be prepared to back up your statements with facts.

3. Take action

Self-confidence comes from taking action. Tony Robbins said, “The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” A generation before Gandhi said, “The future depends on what you do today.”

Don’t fall into the trap of false action by perpetually planning. Get off your butt and do something. Stop waiting for something to happen and take steps to make something happen. In his book, Start Joh Acuff wrote, “Fear and Doubt’s calendar always start with yesterday or tomorrow. You’ve got today, and today is all you need to start.”

4. Study

The more you know about your subject, the more self-confidence you will feel. A lack of self-confidence almost always stems from a lack of information. I think we’ve had that feeling deep in our gut when we don’t know enough about a subject.

Fear is always close beside you hoping no one will find out how little we know by asking a few pointed questions. The best way to illuminate this fear and lack of self-confidence is to spend some time studying the subject.

  • Ask questions:

Interview a few of the experts you know. Find people that know what you want to know and ask them some questions. Make a list of questions and interview them over a cup of coffee or offer to buy them lunch.

Most everyone finds it flattering when perceived as an expert and you can quickly tap into their ego and get them talking about their favorite subject.

  • Listen:

Pay attention to people who know more than you do. A good rule of thumb is to listen twice as much as you talk. You’ll learn a tremendous amount from them, and you may end up making a good friend in the process.

  • Read

Read everything you can on the subject. Someone told me that if you read five books on a particular topic, you’ll be considered an expert in that field. I don’t know if that’s true, but you’ll be far more knowledgeable after that fifth book.

In the age of the internet, we can all be experts because a seemingly limitless amount of information is at the click of a mouse.

  • Observe:

Pay attention to what others say and do around you. What is working for them? What are they saying about the future? Where do you see the trends moving toward? Open your eyes, watch and learn. Be intentional and find a mentor who has more experience in the subject than you do. Who is your subject matter expert and role model?

  • Learn new skills:

The biggest problem I see in this area is the guy who keeps doing things “the way we used to do it.” As fast paced as our modern world is, that guy is obsolete. Don’t be that guy…. Stay current, invest in yourself, and take a course that keeps you up to speed with changing trends and mobile technologies.

5. Act the part

No one is born knowing how to be successful. It’s a learned behavior – a skill that you must initiate. The simple fact is that if you look and behave in a manner that suits your goal, you’ll naturally begin to feel more self-confident than if you don’t. Try these on for size and see if they don’t work for you.

  • Find a role model:

Look for someone who is already successful in your field and watch what behaviors they use and how those actions play into their self-confidence.

  • Look and act powerfully:

Identify people who present a powerful persona. They may be a successful news correspondent, a character in a movie, or a coworker you see every day. Imagine yourself behaving that way.

I found this to work in my own life during my awkward adolescence. I was a six foot, 110-pound walking target for bullies. I still cringe when I see those old photographs of myself. I had to do something to survive until graduation, so I started watching old John Wayne movies. The Duke had a 10-foot persona and the swagger to back it up.

As I began to act like the Duke, bullies began to think twice and overlook me for easier targets. The act worked so well I mastered it and turned it into a comedy routine that won me some popularity on campus and a talent show competition later in college!

  • Be aware of nonverbal behaviors:

Distracting body language can prevent you from presenting the self-confidence you desire. Ask a good friend to give you some feedback about how you carry yourself, your posture, your tone of voice, eye contact and body proximity.

Ask a family member to take a quick video of you with their phone and critique your body language. You may be surprised to see what you’re saying.

  • Eliminate junk words/sounds from your speech:

Junk words and sounds reduce your effectiveness as a speaker. For example, stop using junk words, sounds and phrases such as:

i. Like
ii. You know
iii. You know what I mean?
iv. Uhhh
v. Clearing your throat

An excellent way to get a sense of which ones you use, record yourself talking to someone. Find out how you might be reducing your effectiveness as you begin to hear what you sound like.

6. Rehearse for Success

One of the best ways to increase your Self-confidence is to rehearse important conversations before you have them. You can never be too prepared. There are some things you can do to practice this skill until you feel like you’ve mastered it.

7. Visualize Success

Close your eyes, relax and imagine yourself being more self-confident. See it happening in your mind’s eyes. Watch and direct the movie in your mind.

Visualizing success by:

  • Writing it out

Develop an outline of the information you want to master. Fill in all the details and practice in the mirror with flashcards.

  • Role play

Find a close friend or spouse and practice your topic or event in front of them. Go over what you’ve written down and watch it come out even better than you thought.

  • Videotape yourself

Pull out your iPhone and record your presentation, speech, or practice questions. When you’re done, play it back and see how you did. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses and focus your attention on improving your weak spots.

  • Quiz yourself

Do you remember how anxious you used to get in school when the teacher gave you a pop quiz? Use that anxiety to your advantage now. Make up your own quiz questions about your presentation. Ask your friend or spouse to quiz you so you’re ready for any question that might be asked by your audience.

8. Manage your anxiety:

Feeling anxious and worried is normal when you’re in a difficult situation. It’s very common to experience feelings of fear, worry, and even powerlessness in difficult circumstances.

I want you to put those feelings aside for a moment and remember that you are in charge of yourself and your ability to manage your emotions, especially anxiety. Here are some things that have helped me over the years.

  • Meet with people individually instead of in groups

I always feel more comfortable meeting with people one-to-one so I can get to know them and they can get to know me. There is less pressure to perform, and we can both focus on being ourselves and getting to know each other better.

  • Divide goals into manageable pieces

Break things down into smaller projects or tasks. You don’t have to take on the whole job at once. Break it down into smaller chunks, and you’ll feel less overwhelmed by it. Dividing projects into bite-sized pieces will give your more self-confidence as you finish each task.

  • Get organized

When you gather all the materials needed for the task, you’ll feel more self-confident in your ability to access those materials and resources.

When items are scattered all over your office or garage, it can be overwhelming as you wander from place to place looking for all the pieces. Organizing your information in one place can help you gain the self-confidence needed to pull it all together and create something amazing.

  • Tell someone you trust how you fee

There is something very powerful about expressing our feelings to someone who cares about us. Whether it’s your mother, a friend, or your spouse – there is something therapeutic about being heard. We all desire to be heard and understood by another. Don’t deprive yourself of this simple self-confidence building tool. Share your fears, hopes, dreams, and goals with another person and watch the anxiety melt away.

9. Persist:

Persistence is the refusal to quit. It’s looking into the face of adversity and spitting in its eye. It’s unwillingness to move aside. It’s believing in a cause and being distracted by nothing. Self-confidence is the result of a lot of hard work. The process takes time. Someone once said that success is 99% persistence and only 1% talent. Decide what you want to accomplish, commit all your energy to that goal, and work until you see it happen.

10. Enjoy your success:

When you finally reach your goal, remember to give yourself credit for all the hard work you have done. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Be proud of the scars you bear. Be proud of the person you’ve become. Some of the things that have helped me along my journey toward success are:

  • Looking in the mirror and telling myself, “Good job Jeff!”

  • Thinking of ways to reward myself.

  • Telling others about my success in the journey.

  • Writing about my small victories in a journal and then reading it out loud to myself.

Whatever you do to enjoy your success, do it frequently and with freedom of spirit. It’s important to encourage and reinforce yourself. Be your own cheerleader when no one else will. You deserve the encouragement. You need the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction of hearing your own voice of inspiration. Doing these things will build your self-confidence, empower you to visualize greater goals, and enable you to acknowledge your achievements in life.