Don’t Fall Into the Confidence Gap

Far too many people of every description feel far less confident in their skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities than actually, objectively warranted.

This is a problem. Why? A shortfall in your level of confidence tends to create a serious drag on your level of productivity and success because it:

  • Holds you back from attempting bigger and better challenges,
  • Discourages you from accepting worthwhile opportunities offered you,
  • Prevents you from bringing to the table everything you conceivably could,
  • Reflects an intrinsic lack of trust in yourself that others may sense, and which can trigger various unwanted consequences as well as an inappropriate susceptibility to undeserved criticism, and
  • Allows you to meekly knuckle under when others take credit for your contributions.

While insufficient confidence is often a long-term, bedrock character trait, you can fight against it and steadily upgrade your level of confidence until it more accurately aligns with your actual level of skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities.

Here are some ways to get started:

Change Your Comparison Model

A common way to lose self-confidence (or never gain it in the first place) is to compare yourself to others. Inherently, this is a guaranteed losing strategy because you are comparing everything you know about yourself – including all your inner thoughts, feelings, doubts, failures, weaknesses, and foibles – to the external presentations of others – which tend to carefully hide all their inner thoughts, feelings, doubts, failures, weaknesses, and foibles.

No one feels good about themselves in these comparisons.

Instead of comparing yourself to what little you can accurately perceive about others, compare yourself only to earlier versions of yourself. The right question to ask is: Are you more skillful, knowledgeable, experienced, and/or capable than you were yesterday? Last week? Last month? Last year? Ten years ago? And perhaps even farther back.

These are comparisons you can win, and that inherently help you boost your level of self-confidence up to where it fairly and reasonably can be.

Change Your Social Environment

Humans are inherently social. To a surprising degree, we develop and maintain our self-image and self-confidence in direct relation to the people with whom we spend time. Hang around with world-class athletes and you may feel like a klutz. Spend time with polymath experts and you may feel stupid. But you aren’t.

In simple terms, if the people around you are positive, supportive, and encouraging, you tend to develop toward the best person you can be. On the other hand, if you spend time with negative, critical, and discouraging companions, you’ll find it much harder to like yourself and develop toward your full human potential.

Understanding this simple phenomenon leads to the obvious conclusion that upgrading your social environment will help you feel more confident and become a better “you.”

Such a social upgrade helps in many ways:

  • It reduces the criticism and negativity you encounter as you go through your work and your life,
  • It weakens and possibly eliminates any “negative self-talk” you may be generating internally,
  • It gives you more positive role-models from whom to learn, and
  • It puts you in a better position to gain insight and direct support from those around you.

Change Your Approach

The way you approach the world, with all its challenges and opportunities, can both reflect and affect your level of confidence. Here’s how:

  1. Confidence comes from strong, self-determined boundaries. When you let other people define who you are, where you go, and what you do, you unwittingly give them opportunities to drain your level of self-confidence. Strong boundaries won’t immediately build or restore your confidence, but asserting your rights will set the stage for personal growth on many fronts, including self-confidence.
  2. A powerful way to increase your self-confidence is to discover and honor your personal values, such as: family, loyalty, fairness, kindness, responsibility, gratitude, patience, tolerance, and so forth. Identifying your values and behaving in accordance with them will help you feel better about yourself, which is a firm foundation on which self-confidence naturally grows.
  3. Making your own choices – on anything and everything from what to have for lunch to whom you love and what you do for a living – both reflects and extends your level of confidence. From any level, you can begin making more choices for yourself. As time goes by, simply making these choices – regardless of how well or poorly some of them turn out – will help you feel more confident. Along the way, you will compile a list of successes that will gradually, steadily do the same.

None of these self-confidence boosters will work overnight, of course. But over the long term they will help you feel far more confident about your skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities. This, in turn, will help you reach and maintain your maximum level of productivity and success.

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