“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.