The level of success you see in your life is a direct result of your belief system.
I’m not talking about religion or philosophy here. What I mean is your belief in your ability to succeed.
When you’re drowning in fears, doubts, and self-sabotaging behaviors, success feels out of your grasp. All of the skills, training, and tools in the world won’t change your life.
That’s why I’m offering these powerful steps to overcome the obstacles in the way of your self-confidence.
Once you solidify your belief in yourself, success is 100% possible for you.
1. Work on your strengths (not weaknesses)
When you fail over and over at something that seems easy to others, it’s nearly impossible to believe in yourself.
Struggling with confidence, you tend to focus on things you can’t do. That’s because you feel weaknesses more keenly. They are painfully highlighted in your mind, symbols of shame, weakness, and failure.
“I’m bad at this,” quickly escalates to, “I’ll never be good at anything!”
The good news is that everyone has weaknesses — and strengths.
The solution to start building confidence right away:
Stop spinning your wheels at things you aren’t wired for.
Discover what you are already good at, and work at becoming great.
A common habit of successful people is to focus on the positive — what they excel at — and delegate weaknesses to others instead of worrying about not measuring up.
When you shift your focus to developing your strengths, you will effortlessly feel more competent and confident. And when you put effort into developing your natural abilities, you can become a badass.
Maybe you know some of your strengths. To get some ideas, think about how people might describe you:
- Always has a grand vision, big-picture thinking
- Notices the little things, detail-oriented
- Loves learning and research
- Good communicator
- Never gives up
- Hands on and action oriented
Talk to your family, close friends, and colleagues about what your strengths are. What are some things they come to you for help with? You’re not fishing for compliments, though sometimes this exercise can come with a confidence boost.
If you don’t know what your strengths are, use an assessment tool. I use StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath with my coaching clients to pinpoint their natural ways of thinking and behaving.
The exercise takes about an hour, walking through a series of questions. It’s designed to uncover your hidden sources of power — your strongest qualities. The assessment also reveals some of the best ways you can start using your inborn talents.
Knowing your strengths will allow you to put more of your effort into areas you’re already talented in. You can grow in the ways you’re naturally inclined.
Once you are working from a base of strength and belief in your abilities, you can find resources to tackle anything.
Recognizing your natural abilities (and inabilities) gives you permission to stop banging your head against a wall. You can do what you do best, and find workarounds for the rest.
For example, starting a business requires many skills, but you don’t have to own them all:
- You’re great at marketing but terrible with numbers. Outsource your bookkeeping, and hire a professional to manage the budget.
- You shine at creating content but dread interacting on social media. Use automation tools to share your work, or hire a strategist.
- You love big picture planning, but get stuck when it’s time to implement. Take on a partner who can get your idea off the ground.
Use your strengths to your advantage. This approach will bring out your confidence as you focus on using your best skills. Shifting everything else off of your plate gives you the power to be awesome at what you do best.
Your strengths are what make you unique. Develop these qualities and depend on them.
2. Be your own coach
If you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t believe someone who is cheering you on from the sidelines. That’s why a great small business coach leads their clients to success not by cheerleading, but by developing talent.
According to Gallup’s research, great performance is a result of managers who empower employees. Managers who focus on developing talent get outstanding results.
Great coaches, and managers, lead by empowering people to succeed with the right tools, education, and resources to become excellent. They interact with people using approaches like Conversational Intelligence to put people at ease and bring out the best in everyone.
The research shows that positive thinking, goal setting, and performance reviews don’t create results on their own. When you don’t believe you have what it takes, none of those things are a magic bullet.
So how can you take advantage of this knowledge, and coach yourself?
Seek out the tools and education to develop your talent. Take action.
Each step you take, moving closer to your goal, is evidence of your ability to succeed. Believing in yourself will become easier and easier, the more you see your success reflected back to you.
The secret is, you don’t need another person to work through this process. You don’t need to possess qualities of leadership to coach yourself through it.
The trick is to learn more about yourself without being judgmental.
Start by journaling on where you want to be in life. Write out all the things you want to have, and the kind of person you want to be. From this, you can come up with strategies to get to that point.
What does success look like for you?
Choosing ideas that suit you — and working with your strengths — can propel you towards your own vision of success.
You can also write out the parts of your life that you’re unhappy with. Create action steps, and find the resources, to improve any of these areas:
- Feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities
- Wanting more purpose in life
- Craving more free time for things you love (reading, gardening, hiking)
- Stress about finances
By identifying the parts of your life that you’re least satisfied with and keeping an eye on where you ultimately want to be, create long term goals that are manageable for you.
Set one big goal at a time, and break it down into smaller parts. Succeeding in taking each small action step, no matter how tiny, leads to visible progress.
Ultimately, these consistent small successes add up to self-belief and massive confidence.
Over time, you start to see that you can achieve anything you put your mind to — because you are already doing it.
3. Embrace who you are
How can you have faith in yourself when you don’t know who you really are? Or worse, you are trying hard to be someone you’re not.
Self-confidence comes from embracing who you are and what’s important to you. It does not come from being inauthentic or trying to impress people.
Easier said than done.
The pressure to fit in, to “be normal,” is strong, and it starts early. That’s fine if you want to live an unremarkable life. But you’re here, reading this article, because that’s not the life for you. You want something more.
To start believing you can have the life you want, you must dig deep to discover what that will look like for you. You must understand what makes you unique, and celebrate those things.
When you begin living true to your identity and core values, you will start believing in your worth, your abilities, and your human potential.
Embracing yourself is best done in baby steps:
Start by writing down what’s important to you.
You’ll want to do this several times over weeks, or even months. Each time you’ll get closer to uncovering your core values.
This will help you to see through the things you’ve been conditioned to believe in. When you’re finished, you’ll have a list of traits that represent your truest self.
Observe your patterns of thought and behavior.
Do you often cater to others at the expense of your own values? When you think you’re being nice or keeping the peace, ask yourself why. The end result is that you dull your own shine and live for other people’s approval.
When you feel this internal conflict happening, work on addressing it. You can kindly say no, assert a different opinion, or let someone know that what they’ve done has hurt you.
Some people might not like the “new you,” and that’s OK. They can play a more limited role in your life. Fortunately, when you’re authentically you, the right people will be drawn to you, and real friendships will grow even stronger.
Step out from the expectations of others.
Being authentic feels like a big risk, and you might be afraid of criticism. Remember that your experience of life is about you, and their experience of life is about them.
Doing things that scare you will solidify the confidence you need to be your truest self. It sounds counter-intuitive, but being vulnerable — accepting your fear and not hiding it — is the surest path to building strength.
Make time for adventures that are completely out of your normal routine. It could be jumping out of a plane, taking a fitness class, or picking up a paintbrush. Pick something that seems fun but scares you at least a little bit and jump in.
You can learn so much about yourself from these activities that you should engage in them regularly. Add variety and do new things often.
4. Believe you can and you will
Your belief is the single most powerful tool you have. You can completely change your life just by changing your beliefs.
It’s not wishful thinking — believing something changes the way you see the world and yourself.
You either see possibilities, or insurmountable obstacles.
Which will you choose?
To start believing in yourself, you have to stop believing you are stuck with the skills and abilities you have right now. This is called a fixed mindset, and it’s fatal to your success.
Instead, start believing you can change. This way of thinking is called a growth mindset. It means that you believe change is possible.
It may be true that you don’t have what it takes to accomplish your goals — right now. But if you believe you can improve, develop, and learn, then you will get there.
You will grow.
Deeply believing that you and your life can change for the better is the driving force behind all of your efforts. You will then be more willing, and even excited, to put in the work required to make those changes.
There is no greater confidence booster than seeing the results of your work. But you must believe it’s worthwhile or you will never put in the effort.
In her TED Talk, Meg Jay tells young people to forget about their identity crisis and start building identity capital. Don’t waste another second thinking:
- I’m not qualified for anything.
- I don’t know what direction to take.
- I’m not getting anywhere in my life.
- I thought I’d be someone by now.
Building identity capital means doing things that add value to who you are. Start investing time and effort in becoming that “someone” you want to be.
I think this advice applies to everyone, even if your 20’s are long gone. In fact, it’s entirely possible to start a new career at 40, and it’s never too late to refine your identity.
If you don’t have confidence in your skills or abilities, even your appearance, get to work improving:
- Explore new work or educational opportunities.
- Learn new skills, or improve the ones you already have.
- Make new connections to uncover new opportunities.
By believing that change is possible, you’ll be consciously choosing ways to grow.
There is nothing stopping you. Whatever your dream is, once you wholeheartedly believe that it’s possible for you, that’s when the adventure truly begins.
5. Be uncomfortable
If what you did today looks a lot like what you did yesterday, and last week, and three years ago — you’re too comfortable. You’re in a pattern and it’s getting you exactly nowhere.
To make real change in your life you have to get uncomfortable. You have to step out of your cozy box and do things differently.
This means making a greater effort and even feeling a bit weird doing things that are out of the ordinary.
Do the weird things anyway.
You have this whole life to experiment with who you are. It’s your life and you don’t need to live it to anyone’s expectations but your own. If you want a different life, make it yourself.
Through experimenting and acting on your ideas, your capabilities and potential are reflected back at you.
Experimenting with different skills, approaches, and tactics in your life is one of the best ways to build confidence. Sure, it’s uncomfortable! New things always are.
Fortunately, when you start to do more new things, the fear becomes fun. You get to learn so much from trying new things, whether or not you succeed in the attempt.
There are challenges. Part of the process means getting over negative self-talk, fear of failure, and imposter syndrome. You may have to face genuine anxiety and work on ways to manage it.
Every single person who has done any kind of self-improvement will tell you that these feelings are very real. They’ll tell you it’s scary, but the results are worth it.
Each time you step into something new there will be fear. Your power lies in walking through that fear and doing the thing anyway.
The power of believing you can improve
The magic happens by simply believing it’s possible. Your belief in possibility is necessary to the work, the experimentation, and the consistency needed to change your life.
This belief in possibility is what provided rock stars with the single-minded intensity to get on stage every night, in the face of ridiculous odds.
It’s what gave famous authors the tenacity to keep writing and editing after countless rejected manuscripts.
It’s what kept star athletes training, through pain, injury, and loss, until they made it to the top.
Now you have some tools to start believing in yourself. Work on these steps consistently, and you will begin to see amazing things happening in your life.