How to Be Confident

Today’s bonus post celebrating the release of my upcoming sports novel, Ice Gladiators, which is going live on 02/15/20, is about confidence. I deemed this an appropriate topic for discussion because to be a professional hockey player, or any type of athlete for that matter, requires a certain degree of confidence. However, confidence is not a concept exclusive to athletes. It extends far beyond that. A little bit of confidence goes a long way and never has hurt anyone. In fact, it ups the stakes and increases the chance of success. Self-doubt or distrust is the root of most failures. If one lacks confidence in self, who else would expect it of him/her? But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s define confidence.

According to the definition, confidence is a belief, feeling, consciousness or faith that one can rely on something or someone and/or is the quality of or state of feeling certitude about the truth, or a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s abilities or qualities that one will act in a correct, suitable, or effective way. Confidence is different than arrogance, although, some people use the terms interchangeably.  Arrogance is an attitude of self-importance, self-worth, or superiority over others that manifested in an unpleasant or overbearing manner, assumptions, presumptuous claims or acting/behaving in a manner that one is more important or better than others. One can be confident without being arrogant. And believe it or not, one can be arrogant without being confident. In fact, some people with extremely low self-confidence may present themselves or come across as arrogant to foster a false perception of self and boost their ego. However, that is a discussion for another day.

Confidence is important because it allows a person to act more quickly and consistently. Think of an emergency room physician or surgeon. When on duty, the physician/surgeon doesn’t know what problem a patient may be brought in with; yet, as the physician, it is his/her duty and responsibility to tend to and treat whatever medical emergency is presented, and frequently, the decision of how to respond must occur in a matter of minutes (or seconds). Yes, the doctor may find that a patient has a condition that is beyond the expertise or capabilities of the physician to treat, but the physician holds the confidence to make an appropriate referral. See, confidence isn’t just about knowing strengths. It’s also acknowledging limitations and weaknesses and knowing when to defer to someone else without it affecting how one feels about self or ego. Stepping aside for someone better equipped is not a lack of confidence if the person stepping aside has no qualifications to perform the task. In the example of a physician, if he/she has never performed, assisted, witness, or extensively studied how to perform a resuscitative emergency department thoracotomy, it probably would not be wise independently to attempt to do so without direction and supervision. In fact, performing one in those circumstances may be the basis for a malpractice lawsuit. However, a physician with knowledge and training hesitant to act because fear of carrying out his trained abilities would be a confidence issue.

Some people seem to be born with self-confidence. You’ll hear a person comment that another person has been self-confident since childhood. Chances are that person was born into a nurturing environment that embraced and incited this character trait. Yet, confidence is something that also can be developed, even for a person not coming from favorable environments. That’s because confidence can come with time, experience, and wisdom. Take driving for example. For most people, getting behind the steering wheel for the first time may be a daunting experience. The more one drives, the more confident one becomes in his/her driving abilities and starts to do the task almost on autopilot. The same goes for starting a new job. One may be very unsure about reactions to situations and coworkers, how to perform certain tasks, or even what to wear. After a few weeks (or months), a person settles in and finds his/her groove. He/she performs tasks without overthinking.

People pay big bucks and spend millions of dollars on books and programs about learning how to build self-confidence. The truth is, much of that information is available for free. All one needs to do is ask. So, here are some ways one can build self-confidence with no costs attached.

  1. Be prepared and knowledgeable. Personally, I think this is the most important step in having confidence. When I go into a situation knowing the material that will be discussed or what task(s) I will be asked to perform, I already feel better about the situation. I’m not having to think on my feet or pull my thoughts together out of the blue come up with the best answer or solution. I’ve had time to consider and contemplate multiple scenarios and alternatives, weighing all the pros and cons to developing the best or most effective resolution. I have prepared answers so that I’m not generally stuck when questioned. I have a backup plan in the wings in case something goes wrong. Being prepared allows one to know that they have optimized their chances of success. Studying for a test improves one’s chances of passing than not studying. Learning about what is expected and diminishing the element of surprise boosts confidence because it empowers the person with answers.
  2. Positive self-talk. People, especially women, tend to tear themselves down more than others. If one feels like a loser and treats self like others, others will pick up on that energy and follow suit. If a person strolls into a room as if he/she is in command and speaks authoritatively, others will yield, unless the room is filled with alphas. Then, there’s bound to be a clash. Telling yourself you can reduce fear. Money isn’t the root of all evil. Fear is. Fear can paralysis a person. Telling oneself he/she is capable of doing something, is the first step in allowing a person to act.
  3. Go ahead and take charge. Not trying guarantees failure, and attempting will not make matters worse… most times. (As I said this to a friend, he came at me with, “unless you’re trying to defuse a bomb and blow yourself up.” So, the disclaimer here reverts to having some knowledge of what you’re doing before acting.)

Years ago, when I first began my job, inspectors made their annual visit to my facility. My supervisors and administrators had been on edge for months about the upcoming inspection and had stressed all employees. The place truly was a horrible miserable place to work. Each day, the supervisors were harping on insignificant details and blowing up over matters that could be resolved without issue in a few seconds once shown. One important aspect that inspects looked for was staff response to problems. So, seeing an issue for an inspector was not as big of an issue as what steps and how swifts staff intervened in a problematic situation. Very few problems were deemed an “imminent jeopardy” issue. But by supervisors and administrators overreacting to minor issues, staff became hesitant to react and doubted self which led to errors increasing. Myself being one of very little patience for drama was fed up by the time investigators arrived. So, when they appeared in my department and nervous staff made issues, my role was to swoop in with the correction.

As I was making one such correction, an inspector known for intimidation, approached and inquired (quite smugly) what I was doing. His questioning was inappropriate because I was literally in the middle of addressing an issue with an irate client on the verge of becoming violent, and the inspector’s interruption was making it worse. His question to me was, “What are you doing?” My reply was, “Working. What are you doing other than not helping me? Please step away.” And I said this while staring the inspector in the eye. Staff and supervisors gasped, but the investigator blinked and stepped away. His smug smile slid off his face, and he scribbled something on his pad. To this day, I can’t attest to what he wrote, but it didn’t matter. He backed away.

The irony about the situation is that I had no clue what I was doing or the outcome. The client, who had numerous occasions to see inspectors come, had learned it to be advantageous to create problems during this time because staff would give in to the client’s needs to look good in front of inspectors. Being new, I had no real desire for a favorable impression from inspectors. My focus was being consistent with how I did the job, and for me, inspection day was no different than any other. So, when I held firm, my response sent a shockwave. The client quickly realized that I intended to be in charge and interpreted my brass as having more authority than the inspector. With the one sentence, the situation de-escalated and the client resumed regular activities willingly and without incident.

Now, the situation could have gone south, and I was a little scared. However, I was more annoyed than afraid. Plus, I can’t stand bullies. It turned out to be a defining moment for me, as I gained the reputation of holding my ground. The joke in the building became that it was “my house.” I was Missy Elliot in that “I run this.” However, it was the perception that I was confident in handling the situation that caused others to believe that I could and would handle it. Disclaimer, I don’t suggest everyone take this approach. And now that I’m older, honestly, I don’t know that I would have said it because it was risky, 50/50 at best. Then again, as aggravated as I was, yes, I probably would have.

  1. Create win-win situations. Now, this may sound like cheating, and maybe it is, but it works. One of the fastest ways to build or boost confidence is to place self in situations where success is guaranteed. This allows one to hone his/her skills in a safe and/or protected environment. For example, a person who wants to sing professionally may begin by singing in a small church choir. It is a bonus if they know the parishioners. The feedback is usually kind and honest. Mistakes can be fixed or acts/selections changed to ones that receive more positive responses or have improved outcomes. This is the same principle behind practicing. Taking the smaller steps or easier tasks with a known winning outcome builds the courage to attempt more difficult feats. This is because winning or doing well makes one feel good about self. A person begins to think that if he/she is able to be successful in the smaller tasks, he/she can achieve success at more challenging ones.
  2. The flip side of this is to not set self up for failure. If a person knows he/she can’t swim, jumping into the middle of the ocean without a lifejacket is not the wisest decision. Sometimes, people engage in a task based on a dare or expectations of others. However, if the person is not mentally ready to perform the task, then stepping away may ensure confidence more than hindering it. In the previous example, if a person who does not know how to swim jumps in the middle of the ocean to impress a boss on a company scuba diving trip but almost drowns, the boss will not be impressed. Self-sabotaging opens the door to inadequate feelings.
  3. Have a partner. Sometimes having someone else to share a task with helps to ease the pressure of performance. Working together can boost confidence because it can both lead to a learning situation and provide assistance or help when or as needed. Think of the old adage, two heads are better than one.
  4. Give self credit for past achievements. One of the best examples I can think of here is a relative who struggled with trying out for a music scholarship for college. She compared herself with some musical greats, high school classes, and feared she would not be good enough for a university band. For months, she refused to audition. What she overlooked was the numerous musical achievements she’d already obtained, which were different than her high school friends and musical greats. In her own lane, she had been very successful musically. Finally, her mother intervened with a threat that if she continued to refuse to audition for a scholarship (and try her best during the audition), her mother would not pay any of her college tuition. The relative, knowing her mother is a person to be true to her word, conceded auditioned. And wouldn’t you know, she was awarded a musical scholarship on the spot? It wasn’t a full scholarship because most of the scholarship money had been awarded to others. In other words, she’d self-sabotaged herself from a full music scholarship because she lacked confidence in herself. Had she recognized all of her previous achievements, auditioned sooner, and defined what “success” meant to her; the outcome likely would have been different. Her goal
  5. Define the goal. Sometimes confidence waiver because a person does not know what he/she wants. If the goal is to be successful, what constitutes “success.” One cannot obtain what one does not know. Consider a long-distance runner. If the runner does not know the course or where the finish line is located, winning will be difficult. Running the winner may start doubting where to turn or when to increase speed. Performance may diminish due to the runner not knowing where the end goal lies. When a person has a map and direction, they are more assured of what needs to be done to achieve the goal. Again, knowledge and understanding increase a person’s level of confidence.

What are some tips you have for building confidence? Has being confident ever been a struggle for you? What obstacles have gotten in the way of your feeling confident? Leave a comment below and tell me your opinions. Also, if I omitted anything from this list, let me know. And if you would like to see me write more posts like this please let me know.

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Enjoy sports romance and athletic bad boys? Check out my adult romance, Defending the Net. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It is sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. DTN is the second in my gay sports romance novel series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

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