With the recent passing of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, I have immersed myself in the deluge of media coverage from his life. It’s fascinating to watch clips from the 1960’s and 1970’s when Ali was in his prime as a fighter. He brought a self-confidence to the media never before seen, characterized by a commanding stage presence, a quick wit, and colorful use of rhythmic language. But not only was he charismatic in front of the cameras, he backed up that cocky and controversial persona with his skills in the ring as a boxer. In today’s world of social media and always on streaming video, it may not seem as big of a deal, but 50 years ago, Ali was unique.
Ali’s self-confidence was a defining trait that he exuded every time he spoke and in all of his actions. Although Ali may have taken it to the highest level, self-confidence has long been a characteristic admired and sought after both in work and in social settings. People equate self-confidence with success. And like it or not, appearances and perception are important. If you want to be successful, having strong self-confidence is a step in that direction.
At one time or another, most of us have wanted to be more self-confident. Maybe before a public speaking opportunity. Maybe in a social setting. Maybe presenting to our boss. No matter the situation, we tend to admire those that can command a room and appear to have everything under control. But while the outward appearance of being self-confident may seem completely natural to some, for most people, self-confidence doesn’t come easily. And like other skills and behaviors, self-confidence can be learned and developed.
What is Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence is the . Success starts with a strong belief in oneself. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should someone else? Most people are much too hard on themselves. They beat themselves up for every little thing. Isn’t life hard enough as it is? If you lack self-confidence, changing your attitude is a first step in the right direction. Start believing in yourself.
For most of us, familiarity is a big part of self-confidence. When you are comfortable, in your element, surrounded by people you know, it’s easier to be confident. Self-confidence is also knowing that you can handle uncomfortable situations, unknown environments, and new people.
Self-confidence isn’t the same as cockiness. Cocky people are annoying. Maybe they’re over-confident. Maybe they’re under-confident. But either way, don’t be cocky. Ali was one of the few people that could pull off being cocky. And he was the heavyweight champion of the world in a sport known for bragging. For the rest of us, confidence coupled with humility is the way to go. There is nothing like having a strong belief in yourself, knowing it, but not showing it off. You do not need to be the center of attention to be self-confident.
Learn to be Confident
When it comes down to it, self-confidence is really a state of mind. For some, it comes more naturally. But for many others, it takes time to develop. But either way, stop thinking that self-confidence is a characteristic that you are born with. It’s not an innate trait that only a select few possess. Instead, self-confidence is developed from within. It is a skill that can be learned. And like any other skill, sitting around wishing you had more won’t do much good. Instead, take the following steps to start building your self-confidence:
Preparation. I’ve always believed that I could work harder than the next guy and be successful. And while I cannot control every situation, I can be better prepared than everyone else. Nothing drains your confidence more than feeling unprepared. Imagine sitting in school, or in your boss’ office, or in front of a group of people. What if you not only knew the answer to every question that was asked, but you knew ahead of time which questions would be asked? There is no substitute for hard work and no excuse for not being prepared.
Practice. It’s an extension of preparation, but when you have an upcoming situation where you want to come across confident, it’s a good idea to spend some time practicing how you will act and what you will say. Visualize the entire process from start to finish. Whenever I have to speak publicly, I typically practice at least 10 times in front of a mirror beforehand. Practicing will improve your performance, but it will also give you more confidence about what you are saying and how you are saying it.
Pretend. And lastly, as the saying goes, “fake it until you make it.” Unlike emotions, behaviors can be controlled. Whether you “feel” confident or not isn’t as important as whether you act confident. Worrying about things won’t change them, so don’t bother. As long as you have prepared and have practiced, you will do fine. And over time, as you continue developing, the external display of confidence will help you start to feel more and more confident. And eventually, you won’t need to pretend anymore.
Readers, are you confident? Did it come naturally or did you need to work at it? Do you have any other suggestions about how to improve your confidence?