A Thoughtful Guide to Gaining Self-Confidence

Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” —Malcolm S. Forbes

The importance of self-confidence in our lives can not be overstated.

It is, after all, a lack of self-confidence that causes our lives to be tossed to and fro by the sway of culture. From the very beginning, we see the harmful affects of low self-confidence on our decision-making process while the fear of rejection becomes an all too common presence in our lives. It causes many to adopt the values of the group and engage in otherwise undesired behavior.

Simply put, the need for love, belonging, and acceptance becomes stronger than the internal compass within us. And many unhealthy life choices begin to emerge.

In adolescence, this need for acceptance begins to show itself in substance-abuse, underage-drinking, dangerous sexual practices, or mischievous behavior. As we get older, some of these habits remain… but new ones begin to emerge. The desire to find acceptance by impressing those around me with my possessions begins to motivate aspects of my life. And whether it be a certain home-size, vehicle-model, fashion-trend, or latest-technology, many of our purchases are made with a simple desire to keep up with the neighbors and not be regarded as “falling behind.” Our need to impress and be accepted becomes more important than wise spending habits.

But self-confidence redirects our life. It begins to realign our desires with the unique heart inside us. It allows us to reject the trends of a culture built on consumption. When it is present in our lives, we begin to believe that we exist for a greater purpose than shopping on Black Friday. The need to impress others with our belongings is replaced by an internal desire to follow our heart and soul… and to embrace the desires deep in our soul is to reject the notion of shopping for acceptance.

To recenter our lives and embrace a healthy view of self-confidence, consider some of these practical tips:

Stop comparing yourself. Reject the desire to compare yourself to others. When we compare ourselves to others, we always contrast the worst things we know about ourselves to the best things we know about others. The inevitable outcome always leaves us with feelings of inadequacy and despair. Become wiser. Tell yourself that you can’t possibly be making a fair comparison. And reject the idea altogether.

Celebrate your uniqueness. Your life was never meant to be lived like everyone else. You don’t look the same, you don’t sound the same, your talents aren’t the same… and your deep-held values are unique. Throwing that away just for the sake of being accepted by others is one of the cruelest things that you can ever do. And it will always prevent you from fully living our life. Instead, champion the things that make you unique and find confidence in them.

Focus on the positives. Change your thinking. Focus less on the negatives and more on the positives. Stop dwelling on the negative messages of the past and begin centering yourself on the positive traits in your life today.

See past failures as learning opportunities. We’ve all tried and failed at some point in our lives. Confident people look back at failures and view them as learning experiences. In that way, failures can actually provide greater self-confidence moving forward. Learn from your mistakes and try again. Remember that it’s not over when you lose, it’s over when you quit.

Help someone. One of the most important steps to finding self-confidence in your life is to give yourself to others. Serving another person almost always results in the healthy realization that you are important in this world, that you have something to offer, and that the world is more beautiful because of your presence. See a need around you? Whether it be a need for time, finances, or a listening ear, meet it today. And the life you change just may be your own.

Begin realizing a life goal. Intentionally and specifically, begin working towards a life goal. Know that taking the first step is a momentum builder and can generate confidence in your life. There is a powerful difference between “I want to…” and “I’m beginning to…” So write the first page, run the first mile, or meet the first person. You know what you want to accomplish and you know what the first step is. Stop telling yourself it’s out of reach and take the first step.

Accept your weaknesses. While dwelling on our weaknesses leads to a lack of self-confidence, accepting them is an important step in developing it. First, it keeps us from unhealthy delusions of grandeur. It embraces that we are not perfect and forces us to live our lives in a healthy need for others. Secondly, it provides us with the foundation to accept failures when they arise. We are not caught off-guard when we fail. Instead, we are simply again reminded of our need for others to compliment our weaknesses.

Be known and loved. There is no greater key to self-confidence that being intimately known and genuinely loved by another. Allowing another human being into the deepest depths of our heart is one of the single most difficult acts in the world today. But doing it (and being loved despite of it) breathes life into our soul and builds confidence in our inner-most being… and this confidence continues to grow as the commitment to each other deepens. (On a related note, take a moment this week to better know and love your child… it’s one of the greatest gifts you can ever give them).

To be clear, the importance of self-confidence in our lives can not be overstated. It provides the motivation to pursue our passions. It provides the foundation to reject the claims of a consumerist culture. And it provides the incentive to live the life you’ve always wanted to live.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Perfect post. Absolutely correct and very well written.

    I like to think of myself as a person beyond compare and beyond comparison. If anything, I hope I lean toward delusions of grandeur. It’s better than the opposite.

    I’ve been feeling a renewed commitment to blogging recently, and posts like this one remind me that blog posts can be useful and moving.


  2. says

    This is a brilliant post, I love the bit about ‘beginning to’ rather than ‘I want’, also ‘celebrating your uniqueness’. Thanks for sharing this with us all x

    • says

      I have seen too many never start projects because of a lack of self-confidence. And I think that’s a shame. Nobody has all the answers before they start. But just beginning creates the momentum and subsequent self-confidence to discover the questions and find the answers.

  3. says

    I enjoyed reading this because it has given me much more to think about than the simple Oscar Wilde quote, “Be yourself, the others are already taken,” I have scribbled in a notebook. You have added an extra dimension… thank you.

  4. says

    Very well said. Thanks for such great words of inspiration. I think too many times we are our own worst enemies. This post puts so much in perspective and is very enlightening! I sure needed a dose of this today!
    I so enjoy your bog! Keep up the great work!

  5. says

    I love how timely it is in my life, especially when “Stop comparing yourself” and “Accept your weaknesses” will help to me come to terms with my own unique gifts and value! Thanks for a FANTASTIC post.

  6. says

    I also like to give myself tiny goals throughout the day – ones I know I will accomplish – that way I can build up to larger ones without the pressure of completing them. Productiveness is a great self-confidence booster.

    Also, never look in the mirror between the hours of 11pm and 6am. ;)

  7. says

    Wow, Joshua, so many great things to think about. Joining the world of minimalism is helping me to become more confident every day. Thanks so much for helping me get there :)

  8. says

    Begin to realize a life goal… What you say here is more powerful than at first glance. The difference between Im begining too… and I want to… is pretty significant. If we all used Im begining to when we start telling people of our ambitions and goals. We would be well on our way to realizing them.

  9. says

    Finding a purpose, committing full faith and effort, acknowledging the accomplishment,and learning from all that we do, I feel, is a great approach to building one’s self confidence.

    One of my major struggles with my own self confidence is appreciating that of which I have done when I have accomplished it before moving on to the next goal.Often I continue to strive without appreciating be now.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic Joshua.

    David Damron

  10. says

    You’re brought up to believe the American Dream is working your way up the ladder, getting the big house and fancy car. When you decide to break away from the norm, the resistance you get from family and friends can shake your confidence. Thanks for the tips on gaining self-confidence, we all need a boost sometimes.

  11. says

    Great post, Joshua, and great timing–a lot of people need the self-confidence to buck the pressures of consumerism and ridiculously high expectations during the holidays. It’s a hard thing to do without the courage of your convictions, belief in the validity of your beliefs.

  12. Jeff says

    “Helping someone” is the most important point from my observations and my experience. It’s not only good for confidence, it is the key to happyness. When you look at people with depressions, in most cases there is a lack of really “helping others”. When you look at people who are helping others, you often have someone happy and self confident in front of you. Take for example my little sister (24). She’s a firefighter, a paramedic and a successful med student. She helped to save the life of uncounted people until now. And while she has her own little problems for sure, she is an energetic, powerful, self-confident and cheerful person. And since I decided to become a teacher (also helping others in some way), I’ve felt much happier than when I was a sales person.

      • Nancy Sager says

        Great example. I agree that being a teacher is one of the most important means of helping untold hundreds of our children. And, remember, they are our future. How will they become the happy, self confident leaders of tomorrow if they do not have a chance to feel the love and encouragement of our teachers.

  13. says

    Great post! It’s amazing what a difference we can make in our lives if we have a little faith in ourselves. It’s like a confidence/success snowball. You feel more confident and you take a risk. Because you took a risk, you gain more success which leads to more confidence, and so on and so on.

  14. says

    I agree! It appears that dysfunctional and negative emotion drives consumerism…I’m tired of living in this wheel myself. Everywhere one turns he or she is being told that he or she is not good enough and that buying/changing/daring to do X will enhance the quality of one’s life. It’s time to turn away from those voices, but if they’ve already invaded a person’s mind it’s a long road to exorcise them.

  15. says

    My first reaction was to think, “Wow. I wish I could write something so impactful and meaningful on my blog” then realized what I was doing and rejected it.

    Instead, I’ll honor myself and your writing by saying I appreciate and value it and will in turn utilize it for inspiration.

    Thanks for an absolutely inspiring post.

  16. Dawn says

    Thank you so much for this article!!! I have very low self esteem and self confidence. I live in an Army community w/younger wives who all have photography businesses, like myself. They like to make others feel bad about themselves and their work. I will no longer allow them to make me feel that I’m worthless or crazy or whatever else they say about me, bother me from this day forward.

    • Cynthia says

      Yes, we should be ourselves & not worry about those other people putting us down b/c there are people out there who love our work!! I’m glad you are my friend Dawn!

  17. Cynthia says

    I wouldn’t have read this if it wasn’t for Dawn above! Thx Dawn! This is an awesome article! This really helps myself too, b/c I usually put myself down too & I shouldn’t. I am a photogrpaher myself & I recently had a lady whom I took pics of her family & she totally bashed me, said my work was crap, that hurt badly; however, I know my work isn’t crap b/c right after that happened several others have wanted me to take their pics & has loved my work! I guess you can’t please everyone, but I did take some of her critcism & ran w/it to better myself!
    Thank you for posting this b/c I too get caught up in the “Jones” always trying to have better or like another person when I should be myself & not care what others think! I can tell 2011 is going to be a better year b/c I plan on being myself!
    This quote is on my FB page for my photography & I should pay more attention to it:
    “Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.”
    Les Brown

  18. Karen Bas says

    This goes in the category of “things I wish I had known when I was a teen”. Since I can’t go back for myself, I’m going to share this right now with my own kids and a group of teens I spend some time with. Thank you for putting into words (so succintly and thoughtfully) one of the greatest sources of angst for so many.

  19. Julie Cochrane says

    Thank you so much for this post.
    I just had a conversation with my husband about how after a “bad” moment, hour, whatever, i get such an inferiority complex. I was at my 5yr old son’s music Christmas concert and he was very nervous and froze at the piano and suddenly I was overcome with such negative feelings about myself as a mother, role model; it was crippling.
    Thank you again for opening my eyes and helping me see myself for the strong, supportive, encouraging, loving mother and person that I very often forget that I am.

  20. Summer Moore says

    Great article. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. However, it’s very possible that pictures of beautiful women posted with most things such as the one you have posted with this article, are a part of the problem. Why don’t you think about posting a picture of what’s much more available in the world……. say… an ugly man? Anyways, thanks for the words.

  21. Holly says

    I have a hard time doing any of these… You know how most people feel better about themselves when they’re complimented? Well, I feel worse because I truly believe that I’m not worth the compliment. So! I’m going to try to take your advice, but it’s going to take a VERY LONG TIME before I finally built any self-confidence.

  22. Jacqui says

    Hi Joshua,

    I am launching my life coaching business. In that regard, I am doing a 4-hour seminar this Saturday entitlted, “Gaining The Confidence You Need To Get What You Want.” I am excited about this. I have used some of your information. I will cite you in my material.

    Thanks for a great article.

  23. Roo says

    That was really helpful and trues. But its really difficult to stop comparing yourself. Everyone seems to be better than you. You start to believe you’re invisible and lonely. I’m bullimic and it feels impossible to reach the stage where I’m satisfied. But, I’ve to take the first step..

  24. Chris Foley says

    Thank you for your daily postings. Every single line echos my every thought and helps clarify them. This page is changing my life.

  25. Viv says

    The first thing I did, before I started reading, was compare myself to the blonde woman in the photo with her awesome teeth, hair and fresh complexion and groan!!!! Sigh…..

  26. Pandora says

    Please repost on Facebook. I tried to share and could not find it. A wonderful post.

    Thank you.


  27. Sam says

    Y heart is telling me to sell my large home but I don’t know where I would love so I am frozen and not moving forward.

  28. adi says

    Hi joshua
    I have been struggling recently with my inclination of comparing myself with other people in my workplace and as you said its not a fair comparison. I focus on my bad points and on best quality of other person. I know I shouldn’t do this but I feel trapped in my thoughts ..how to stop doing that ? Its making my life miserable

  29. Jenny Esdaille says

    Thank you so much for this post! I tend to allow myself to get overwhelmed when in pursuit of something because I’m fearful of rejection or doubtful of my abilities. This post reminded me that I have something to offer and I just need to take the first step and keep going. But I do well with accepting my failures as learning experiences and moving forward. Great blog!

  30. Terese says

    i found this blog just a few months ago. My mom passed away on Septmber 19th- she was so attached to her stuff. I never want to be that way – stuff doesn’t matter. Your blog has helped me through my grieving process and sent me on my own journey to become a minimalist. I’ve started by getting rid of (both giving and donating) a ton of stuff but I’ve only just begun – looking forward to 2015 and continuing my journey to become a minimalist.

    • Jeannie says

      Me too Terese… I have only found “Joshua” a few months ago also!! My Mom recently went into a home and I had to do a big clean out… it is always difficult know what to get rid of and when it belongs to someone else. This blog helped me incredibly as I would have never thrown away or donated what I did!! I have learned a lot here not just about de-cluttering but just life experiences and taking care of ourselves and others and learning more each day what is ‘really important” in our lives of Family & Friends. All the Best of you Adventure!! :)

  31. Hambik says

    I loved your post. I’m going to change everything. I’m not talking about not being who I am, I just want to get rid of my bad habits, and make a purposeful life for my self and being happy with the people around me. Again thank you…

  32. Jerry G. Hoover says

    There’s a room for everything.. God relieves us from our everyday heartaches and mental stress so box-out all your frustrations! We can learn how to make choices thru life coaching. It creates life balances for a better living.

  33. Conal says

    We are always concerned about the self esteem of our children, especially when they are teenagers, but we rarely concern ourselves, with our own self esteem. Perhaps, if we ensure ours stays in tact, it will naturally rub off on our kids.

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