If you lack confidence, the already stressful task of getting through life can be a lot more challenging. I say this with the authority of someone who was a very sensitive, gentle kid who got picked on a lot. I did not have anything resembling confidence unless I was with my friends. And that was because I knew what to expect from them.
When I was faced with someone more aggressive than I was–that was nearly everyone in school–I would do anything to get along with them. Confrontations terrified me. These days, I’m not at all scared of confrontations, but I don’t enjoy them.
Examples weren’t that helpful. My dad was my role model, and he was absolutely a wonderful model of what I would call quiet confidence. But when I would ask him for help or he would try to solve my problems with self-esteem, it was quickly apparent that it wasn’t as simple as saying “Just toughen up.”
Here is what changed
I was talented in music and sports. The more I developed my talents, the more comfortable I was in my own company. There was a direct correlation between feeling like I was good at something and the diminishing need I had for the approval of other’s.
It was a shift in identity that really changed things for me. It comes down to the idea of progress being the science of happiness. If you are constantly making progress on a goal (or goals), it is hard not to feel confident. It’s true. There is something edifying for both the brain and the spirit in the checking off of tasks and undeniable, measurable progress.
It is ultimately about feeling that you have control over your circumstances, or at least some of them. I’ve said it before about many different things, and I believe it is especially applicable for confidence:
If you can’t control the situation you are in, try to introduce something into it that you can control. For me, this was the cultivation of my talents–these were skills I could measure. As they improved, I felt better because I was making progress. That progress was independent of what anyone else thought about me or said to me.