Two decades ago, when the bullies at our high school called her a nerd for being a virgin and a straight-A student, my best friend Sara smiled and confidently said, “Thank you. I’m really proud of it.” She honestly was. What those bullies said never bothered her one bit. And this is just one tiny example of Sara’s incredible self-confidence.
I was reminded of Sara this morning when I received an email from a blog subscriber named Lane who is struggling with a similar bullying issue at a small community college where he’s taking classes. After describing his predicament in detail, he ended his email with this:
“I love your book and blog. Both have helped me get through a very low point in my life. But even though I’ve made progress, I often struggle with my self-confidence. These bullies really get the best of me. And I know my shattered confidence is really taking a toll on me. Therefore, what I need now more than ever is to learn how to walk in a more confident person’s footsteps, by changing the behaviors that kill my confidence.”
So, pulling from a decade of experience as a life coach, in an effort to help Lane walk more closely Sara’s footsteps, here are some toxic, confidence-killing behaviors to avoid:
- Getting caught up in lots of needless drama.– Some people love to stir up controversy and drama for no apparent reason. Don’t buy in to their propaganda. Stay out of other people’s drama and don’t needlessly create your own. Instead, imagine what would happen if you spent this entire day, and every day hereafter, with all your energy directed toward your most positive possibilities. Rather than being annoyed, be amused. Instead of getting angry, become curious. In place of envy, feel admiration. Life is too short to argue, fight or be negative in any way. Count your blessings, value the people who matter and move on from the drama with your head held high.
- Seeking approval from everyone around you.– Confident people have no interest in pleasing everyone they meet. They are aware that not all people agree on things, and that’s just how life works. They focus on the quality of their relationships, instead of the quantity of them. So never let the opinions of the masses define who you are or what you can or can’t do. When you let go of the need to impress everyone, that’s when you begin to be truly impressive to the few people who actually matter. And when you earn the trust and respect of these select few people, no matter where you go or what you try, you will do it with confidence – because you know the people who matter are behind you.
- Making excuse after excuse after excuse.– Have a plan that’s bigger than your excuses. There is so very much to touch, to do, to create, and to experience. Confident people take ownership of their thoughts and actions. They don’t blame the traffic for being tardy at work – they know THEY were late. They don’t excuse their shortcomings with excuses like “I don’t have time” or “I’m just not good enough” – they make the time and they keep on improving until they see results. Even a tiny effort is infinitely more productive than a big, impressive excuse. So stop seeing every obstacle as an excuse and start seeing those obstacles as forming a pathway to your goals.
- Ignoring or second-guessing your intuition.– Intuition is very real and something that is never wise to ignore, because it comes from deep within your subconscious and is derived from your previous life experiences. If everyone else is telling you “yes” but your gut is telling you otherwise, it’s usually for a good reason. When faced with difficult decisions, seek out all the information you can find, become as knowledgeable as you possibly can, and then listen to your God-given instincts. Believe in yourself. Know that trusting your intuition is equivalent to trusting your true self; and the more you trust your true self, the more control you have of making your goals and dreams come true.
- Disempowering yourself with weak language.– Confident people use words with intention. Consider the difference between these two aspiring bloggers: One says, “Yes, I am a blogger. You like meditation and yoga too? Excellent! We need to connect – check out my new mindfulness guide I just posted at…” vs. “Well, I am trying to blog but am not sure I am doing it right (nervous giggle). I wish I had started sooner… blah, blah.” Who do you think gets the most views, comments and social shares? Bottom line: If you’re trying to build something or become something, own it and speak like you mean it.
- Thinking, “Why me? Why me?”– On the contrary, confident people think, “Why not me?” Sadly though, many people feel they have to wait: to be hired, to be good enough, to be chosen – like the old Hollywood cliché, to somehow be “discovered.” But confident people know that access is basically universal these days (especially if you’re online reading this article). They can connect with almost anyone through social media. (Everyone you know knows someone you should know.) They know they can attract their own funding, create their own products and services, build their own networks of clients and partners, choose their own path – they can choose to follow their dreams. And very quietly, without calling too much attention to themselves, they go out and do it.
- Needing to always be right.– Confident people take a stand not because they think they’re always right, but because they’re not scared to be wrong. Cocky, conceited people tend to take a position and then preach, argue, and totally disregard differing opinions or points of view. They “know” they’re right (even when they’re wrong) and they want (actually, they need) you to know it too. Their behavior isn’t a sign of confidence, though; it’s the trademark of a bully. Truly confident people don’t mind being proven wrong. They know that finding out what is right is a lot more important than being right. And when they’re wrong, they’re secure enough to back down graciously and appreciate the lesson learned.
- Talking just to hear yourself talk.– Begging for attention by talking constantly is just another mask for insecurity. Thus, confident people are often quiet and unassuming, and they listen as much if not more than they speak. They already know what they think, so they want to know what you think. Follow in their footsteps by asking open-ended questions on the topic of discussion, and give others the freedom to be thoughtful, introspective and resourceful. Ask questions like: What do you do? How do you do it? What have you learned from it? What would you do differently if you were starting over? And so forth. Ask these questions to learn, because you know a lot, but not everything, and the only way to learn more is to listen more.
- Letting success get to your head or failure get to your heart.– If success makes you arrogant, you haven’t really succeeded. If failure makes you determined, you haven’t really failed. Period. Think about success and failure differently. Don’t take everything that goes wrong personally, and don’t get a big head when everything goes right either. Be a humble, life-long learner. Create, enjoy, learn, love, experience, succeed, fail, persevere, make mistakes, make progress, take risks, and find the treasure in each day.
- Hiding from new life experiences.– Get out there. Let life touch you. Yes, it will hurt sometimes. But the painwill be much deeper if you build an impenetrable wall around yourself – your own 100-foot tall wall of comfort – your own self-inflicted prison sentence. Life is too short for that. Don’t let the fear of making the wrong decision prevent you from making any decision at all. You have too many beautiful places to go. Today is full of possibility. Now, do something about it.