One thing that holds many people back from achieving their goals is a lack of self confidence. Lack of self confidence is a unique sort of fear – it’s the near certainty that one is going to fail and disappoint others. It tends to keep people from taking risks, and in playing it safe – avoiding that failure and disappointment – people who lack self confidence, ironically, ensure that that they will always disappoint themselves on some level.
But what is self confidence? Too often, self-confidence is confused with arrogance. Arrogance is usually a mask that overcompensates for a lack of confidence – and it does fool a lot of people. But it is not real self confidence. So what is?
Self confidence is inner peace. It is a deep-seated belief in yourself; it is contentment with who and what you are. It is not the misguided belief that you are perfect, or somehow better than others. It is not a delusional belief that there is no room for growth or improvement. It is not "attitude."
Self-confident people are able to take criticism with an open mind and a grain of salt. If I disagree with criticism, I can choose to modify my work or my behavior or not. But many people, rather than seeing constructive criticism as a gift – rather than remembering that it takes more of another person’s time and effort to give it than to say, “Nice job” – take it very personally and get defensive. Self-confident people recognize that constructive criticism may just save them from making a fool of themselves in public.
Self-confident people don’t have to belittle others to feel better about themselves. Underlying a certain sense of "There but by the Grace of God" is a mean-spirited delight or titillation in the misfortunes and stupidity of others. I think we enjoy watching others make fools of themselves more when we are suffering our own little "crises of confidence" than when we are content with ourselves. Schadenfreude is a wonderful word; it just rolls off the tip of the tongue – but taking joy in the misfortunes of others is not the hallmark of a self-confident human being.
Self-confident people don’t have to take the offense or the defense. Self-confident people don’t have to be pushy or rude to get their way. They are not consumed with self-doubt and worry, and are therefore more able to focus on others and make others feel better about themselves. They are often mentors, who are glad when their students outshine them. They are not threatened by this; they take credit where it’s due and are happy to share it freely. These people don’t get defensive or come out fighting when things don’t go their way, or when someone criticizes or insults them. They know that there are better things to come, and that one rotten apple doesn’t spoil the barrel.
Self-confident people can feel hurt like anyone else, but because they are their own best friends, these people cannot be crushed or have their spirits broken by an unkind word.
Self confidence is attractive; love is self-confident. Ever notice how people in a steady, dating relationship often have to beat back prospective suitors with a stick? And how people who are anxiously seeking someone with whom to have a meaningful relationship are stuck at home on Friday and Saturday nights, doing their laundry or washing their hair? Neediness and lack of self-confidence scare people away. Correction: Neediness and lack of self-confidence attract some people, but generally not the sort of people you’d want to attract. When you don’t need anyone’s company but your own, yet are open to accepting the company of others, you will have it before long.
Self-confident people are not easily intimidated. And being less fearful, they are apt to smile more. They are more likely to let go of all the little distractions presented by fear and stress, and focus on planning for and achieving their goals.