One week, at the bottom of my weekly newsletter, I asked readers to email me with anything they might need right now—something I could help with as a small act of sending love out into the world.
Well, about 40 of those responses had one recurring word that stuck out to me and that word was confidence. So, I wanted to offer up some advice about how I’ve learned to gain confidence in my own life.
The problem with this, though, is that confidence is not a simple problem with a simple solution.
How does one encourage another to have confidence? How can I give someone something that so clearly has to come from within?
But that’s when I thought to myself: I may not be able to GIVE someone confidence, but maybe I can help someone see their own confidence in a new light. Maybe I can uncover a new way of looking at confidence, a new angle that might allow some of you out there to finally have that light bulb moment that could make all the difference.
So I asked myself: What exactly is confidence? Where does it come from? How do we relate to it?
I thought about all the times I have to call upon my confidence:
- When I stand on a stage and deliver a speech.
- When I speak up and share my opinion at a dinner party.
- Every time I share a piece of my art on social media or hit send on an email to you guys.
- When I walk into a room full of strangers and have to introduce myself.
Each one of these moments requires confidence. And when I broke each of these situations down further, I realized that in each of those moments, the thing that allows me to walk confidently or speak confidently or share confidently is that I have built up trust with myself.
- Do I trust that I’ll be able to deliver the speech without blanking?
- Do I trust that my opinions are well thought-out and sincere when I speak up?
- Do I trust that I believe in my artistic talents enough that even if no one likes my photo or shares my email, I won’t stop creating?
- Do I trust that even if I introduce myself to a stranger and they have no interest in what I do or say that it won’t affect my self-image?
The trust you have with yourself is what your confidence rests on.
And so that’s when I started wondering, well if confidence rests on trust, how do we build trust with ourselves? Because if we can understand how to build trust, then maybe we can better understand how to boost our confidence too.
Thankfully I remembered this fascinating talk by Brené Brown called “The Anatomy of Trust” that I might have shared with you guys a few weeks back.
In it, Brené talks about the fact that the research shows that “trust is built in very small moments” — these tiny opportunities in which people choose to show us they’re worthy of our trust.
She compares trust to a marble jar, where others can do small things to demonstrate they’re trust-worthy and each time they do we add a mental marble to their jar. Only when the marble jar is full do we feel we can trust someone.
In other words, trust is earned.
People have to show us that they’re deserving of our trust because that’s how we feel safe and protected from betrayal.
Brené goes on to break down the “anatomy of trust” into its parts, which can be remembered using the acronym BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgment, and Generosity. (I recommend giving the talk a watch now if you want to better understand what each of the elements of trust pertains to. It’s a great talk!)
But the reason I want to share all of this with you is that while Brené’s talk is in the context of trusting other people, I was struck by how transferable all her points were to the practice of learning to trust ourselves.
Just like trust, confidence is built through a series of small moments.
We have to demonstrate to ourselves that we are deserving of trust, and thus, that our confidence is not misplaced.
How do we do that? The same way we would show others we’re trustworthy. Through BRAVING…
- By protecting the boundaries we create for ourselves. (Saying NO when we need to, protecting the time we set aside for ourselves, etc.)
- By proving to ourselves we’re reliable. (Keeping the promises we make to ourselves, not just once but over and over.)
- By showing accountability when we’ve come up short. (Acknowledging our short-comings, apologizing and moving on.)
- By being a vault for ourselves. (Not disseminating hurtful words and thoughts to others about ourselves, keeping what’s sacred to us sacred.)
- By showing integrity. (Practicing our values in tough situations rather than just professing them.)
- By showing compassion for ourselves and non-judgment in our moments of needing help. (Eliminating negative self-talk when we feel at our weakest.)
- By assuming the most generous thing about our own intentions and behavior, (Choosing to see the best in ourselves.)
That last one in particular really stuck with me as the crux of this trust/confidence business: generosity.
Are you generous in your assumptions with yourself?
In other words, do you see the best in yourself? Do you give yourself the benefit of the doubt? If not, I’m betting you find it hard to trust yourself, and if that’s the case, you probably also find it hard to muster confidence at times.
So often we think of confidence as something that is dependent upon the behavior of other people. That our ability to approach a situation confidently relies on whether or not other people will accept us or reject us. But if we continue to think of it that way, we’re giving up our power to build our confidence and improve it over time.
Instead, we have to think about confidence as an inside job. We have to think of our actions as marbles in the jar of trust we have with ourselves. If we can build up enough trust to KNOW that the actions or responses of other people won’t prevent us from continuing to go after our dreams, then our inner selves will feel safe enough to create confidently. To share confidently. To speak confidently.
So, this week, I challenge you to take a hard look at where your confidence is right now.
Do you have trouble trusting yourself? If so, try to pinpoint why that is using Brené’s BRAVING model above. Is it because you break your promises to yourself? Because you’re afraid you’ll judge yourself if you put yourself out there? Is it because you have trouble living your values in moments that are challenging?
Whatever it is, I want you to identify it and decide one way you can start building more trust within yourself. Maybe it’s a commitment to talk more kindly to yourself or to make it your mission to follow through on your next promise no matter what.
Whatever you choose, remember ultimately that confidence has to come from within you.
You have to fill up your own marble jar with enough tiny moments to know that when you encounter a situation that requires you to be confident, that you have your own back.