Self-confidence is really just a term used to describe an appropriate amount of assurance in yourself that you have the knowledge and ability necessary to successfully do what needs doing.

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Self-confidence is something that should be worked on throughout life, and learning how it works might prove too difficult for some people.

One thing that could be helpful is to learn how to gain self-confidence by maintaining an optimistic and realistic view of yourself. Doing so will help you gain the knowledge and ability you need to be successful.

Examples of self confidence

Consider two people…

One person is confident, but uneducated. He has confidence in himself, but because he is uneducated, he doesn’t know many things and doesn’t know how to apply his knowledge in new situations.

On the other hand, someone is confident but uneducated too… in comparison to him. This second person knows more things and has a better understanding of how to apply his knowledge in new situations because he’s been to college.

But… as we’ve discussed before, being confident doesn’t mean knowing all there is to know. It just means never doubting yourself on your ability to get the job done correctly, even if you don’t know what it is.

Another example…

A person may have a lot of confidence but not really be willing to learn new things — they’re overconfident.

Myths about self-confidence

This is just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo the self help gurus made up, right? Wrong… well, most of it, anyway. Truth be told, there are some fairly common myths about confidence that you may hear.

Myth 1: Self-confidence is something you’re born with or not. Maybe in some cases… but not usually. Most people can increase their levels of self-confidence simply by learning new skills and applying them to make something happen.

Myth 2: Self-confidence is static. This is wrong, too. Self confidence has a lot to do with the emotional state of the person experiencing it — it can be high or low at any time, though most people will fluctuate between being confident and not confident depending on circumstances.

Myth 3: It’s impossible to gain self-confidence. Actually, this one is kind of true… it’s difficult to change your basic personality without a lot of effort. But you can, if you learn new things, which we’ve already talked about.

Myth 4: It’s ok to be confident without the knowledge or ability to back it up. Nope. Being overconfident is one thing, but there’s a big difference between being confident and having too much confidence — it could be the difference between never failing at anything and constantly failing at everything you try.

Myth 5: Self-confidence is based on looks or popularity. Nope again! Looks and popularity are good indicators of self-esteem, not self-confidence. Confidence is a personal thing, not a group thing.

Myth 6: You need to feel confident before you can act confidently. This one is partially true — some people need to be in the right emotional state before they can act confidently. But it’s usually temporary and not permanent.

Myth 7: You should feel confident all the time. No, you shouldn’t! It’s not a good idea to be overly confident about your abilities — while it may give you a boost, overestimating your abilities could have detrimental effects on your performance.

How self confidence works

So how does self-confidence actually work? Generally speaking, there are two types of confidence — intrinsic and extrinsic. We’ll look at each in turn…

Intrinsic self-confidence is when you trust yourself to do something well based on your knowledge and abilities. It’s based on your understanding of yourself and applies only to things you know how to do.

Extrinsic Self-Confidence is when you have confidence in someone else, like a managing partner or HR person or a project manager. They don’t know everything either, so they have confidence in you because they’ve observed results from your work and can see that it’s worth having confidence in you.

How to get self-confidence

Getting self confidence is easier than you might think — it largely depends on how you approach it. The more knowledge and experience you have, the better a job you’ll be able to do of building your self confidence.

So, if you don’t have much experience yet, work on increasing that… it’s a good way to start. If you’re already on the other side of that, work on gathering as much experience as possible in new areas.

But always keep in mind that building self-confidence and knowledge is all about learning new things. If you don’t know anything new, you’ll never gain confidence or knowledge in new areas.

Why do people lack self-confidence?

Most people that lack self-confidence didn’t learn how to increase it while growing up — they never learned how to apply their knowledge in new situations and therefore never learned to build upon their knowledge. They also probably didn’t have much experience or exposure to new things — they knew a little, but not enough.

As such, when they try something new, they don’t have the experience or skills necessary to be successful and so their confidence plummets.

Conclusion

So on the one hand, we have overconfidence, which is when you take chances that are too big for your current abilities. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — sometimes it pays off and you can end up being highly successful.

But it’s best to avoid taking big risks until you have more experience, knowledge or ability to back up your confidence. It’s those people that risk too much who screw things up for everyone else.

On the other hand, there’s underconfidence. This is when you let your lack of knowledge or experience get in the way of your ability to do something new — it’s usually temporary because you’re not willing to take the time and effort to learn how to do it before trying. It can be quite detrimental if it happens too often — imagine moving from one job to another without ever learning anything new that would help you be successful in your next position. That can be a recipe for failure.

Underconfidence is almost certainly the result of overconfidence, so it’s best to address overconfidence before working on underconfidence.

Basically, you’ll want to take a look at what you’re doing right now and see if there are any problems or areas where you could improve. After that, you should try to figure out new things that will help you be successful in your future endeavors. Then, test them out and see how they work. Over time, that should build your confidence and knowledge enough for any problems.

As you gain more confidence, you’ll want to take the next step and start taking more risks. This is a good time to test out those big ideas that were in your head and were too big for your current abilities. Once again, as you build on that experience, test the things you learned through action and see what works well. This will lead to more professional success, which will get you further down the road of building self confidence.

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