We all stand to gain from greater self-confidence. Self-confidence affects our work, relationships, mental health and overall happiness. It’s one of the most important things parents can instill in children and adults can develop in themselves. The more self-confidence we have, the more confident we are about the knowledge and skills we possess and our ability to take on new challenges.
Improving self-confidence always involves changing beliefs. This is easier said than done. Current beliefs are based on a lifetime of experiences, and our brain keeps a record of everything. It keeps track of all our past reactions to every situation. It knows all our strengths, weaknesses, and dark secrets. They say this information is designed to give us the best chance of survival, but the fact is it makes it a lot harder to feel good about ourselves.
You can modify your environment to improve self-confidence. For example, you can cut off toxic relationships and start listening to uplifting music. Discipline is another time-tested method, perhaps the one most commonly prescribed. People who start fasting, fitness, and meditation regiments gain self-confidence by improving their health and willfully choosing hard things that in their best interests. You can either choose your suffering through discipline, or your suffering will choose you.
For the rest of this article, I want to focus on an insight that has changed the way I look at the self-confidence equation. I admit, it has taken a lot of life experience (and failure) to connect the dots on this one. It goes like this: The extent to which you live up to your values has a tremendous impact on how much self-respect, and ultimately self-confidence, you possess. Again, it’s your values that matter here, not mine, your parents, or any wise sage that ever lived. Let me give some concrete examples.
If you believe overeating, smoking, and spending 7 hours a day on your phone are bad for you, every time you do them you lose respect for yourself (regardless of the negative effect they may have independent of what you think). If you believe watching pornography has a toxic effect on your person and fuels an exploitative industry, then every time you do it you lose respect for yourself (regardless of the negative effect it may have independent of what you think). If you believe stealing is wrong, every time you cheat on your taxes because “nobody will find out,” you lose respect for yourself. The same is true of lying, gossip, oversleeping, and a host of other activities that are inconsistent with the values that many of us hold. In the same way, whenever we perform an activity that is consistent with our values–like working out, meditating, fasting, reading, being present with our loved ones, showing kindness to others, and exercising courage–we gain respect for ourselves.
If we want to improve our self-confidence, we may not have to look very far. How about doing the things we already know we should be doing and refraining from those we should not? There’s a word for all of this: it’s called integrity. We often think of integrity as something that benefits those around us–and it does. But the truth is that our welfare is primarily at stake. Remember, the brain is always taking notes. It’s on us to communicate the message we want it to hear.
If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit; if you mock, you alone will bear the consequences.Proverbs 9:12