How do you develop self-confidence? What are the benefits of being more confident in yourself?
People who have self-confidence are more invested in improving their skills and abilities. According to How Champions Think by Bob Rotella, confidence is a skill that can be learned and developed.
Continue reading to learn how to develop self-confidence.
Develop Your Confidence
Champions have a lot of confidence in their abilities. According to Rotella, learning how to develop self-confidence is the key to exceptional success because it empowers you to work hard and perform at your highest level.
(Shortform note: While Rotella says confidence is the key to success, other experts argue the opposite—that having lower levels of confidence can actually lead to greater success, as long as you’re serious about your goals. They give three reasons for this: First, people with lower self-confidence are more prepared because they pay more attention to negative feedback and are more aware of their weaknesses. Second, they work harder because they’re motivated by the gap between their current skill level and their goal. Third, they tend to be less arrogant, which helps them work better with others. In light of this, perhaps it may be better to cultivate a moderate instead of a high level of confidence.)
While optimism is a broad faith in your eventual success, confidence is more specifically the faith you have in your particular skills—for example, you might be optimistic that you can win a cooking contest, but your confidence comes from your knowledge that you can cook a perfect steak.
(Shortform note: Another way to understand the difference between optimism and confidence is to consider how they relate to time. Confidence is the trust you have in your abilities in the present moment while optimism is the expectation of good outcomes in the future. Because of this, it’s possible to have one without the other. For example, you might currently lack confidence in your art skills but be optimistic that you’ll one day become a professional artist.)
Rotella explains that when you have confidence in your skills, you’re more likely to put more effort and time into improving them. However, when you lack confidence in your skills, you may feel easily discouraged and give up when you face difficulties rather than work harder to overcome them.
(Shortform note: While Rotella writes that confidence leads to better skills, psychologist Meg Jay argues the opposite: Better skills lead to confidence. In The Defining Decade, she cautions against people telling you to “feel confident” before you’ve practiced, studied, and worked through challenges as you build your skills, as confidence that’s built only on people telling you that you’re great is fragile and will shatter when you run into obstacles. She doesn’t dispute Rotella’s advice that confidence can give you a positive outlook, but she advises that you focus on skill-building first as it will lead to a more meaningful confidence.)
Fortunately, like optimism, confidence is a skill you can develop. Rotella provides two tips to help you develop your confidence:
1) Avoid perfectionism. Rotella notes that perfection is unattainable in any field and even the most successful people make mistakes. Instead of obsessing over perfecting your skills, he recommends you simply improve them enough to feel confident in them.
(Shortform note: In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown agrees with Rotella and points out a misconception about perfectionism: People often treat perfectionism as a good thing—a desire to be the best version of themselves—but more often than not, they’re more concerned with how others view them. Brown argues that perfectionism only sets impossible standards to meet and leads to self-loathing and shame. To overcome this way of thinking, she suggests you practice self-compassion and change how you respond to shame and judgment.)
2) Practice visualization. Spend 15 to 30 minutes each day visualizing yourself performing the skill you want to feel more confident about. Make your visualization vivid by imagining all five senses—how things look, feel, smell, sound, or taste. According to Rotella, if you imagine something in detail, your subconscious mind believes that it’s true. Visualize not only your successes but also the potential obstacles you may encounter and how you can overcome them. By doing so, you’ll be less fazed if setbacks occur in reality because you’ve practiced how to handle them through visualization.
(Shortform note: In The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod provides a slightly more structured three-step visualization exercise: First, set the stage: Put on some low music, sit up straight, and take deep breaths. Next, visualize yourself achieving your goals with all your senses (like Rotella advises) and imagine how good it’ll feel. Finally, picture yourself acting in ways that move you toward your goals—studying, writing, making calls, and so on (this is similar to Rotella’s advice to visualize obstacles, although Elrod frames them more as challenges). This exercise will not only increase your confidence as Rotella suggests, but will also motivate you to take action.