Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4 Ways to Improve Your Confidence

[Ed.’s Note: No mailbag this week, as nobody sent in questions.  SEND ME SOME QUESTIONS!  You can e-mail me at djssuperblog@gmail.com.  Maybe some of you are afraid of what my response will be if you send me something; if so, then this article is for you.  Enjoy! –D.J.]

Confidence is obviously crucial in today’s world, especially if you want to try to do something “off the beaten path.”  You’re going to face a lot of adversity and people that assume that you’re going to fail.  Consequently, having confidence in your own abilities is of the utmost importance.

Unfortunately, many people in our society are so fear-driven that they allow their confidence to be beaten right out of them.  They’re so afraid of losing their job or what others might think of them that they allow themselves to be used as doormats.  This isn’t healthy.  The doormats aren’t the ones that get ahead in life—the ones that are confident enough in themselves to sometimes say “fuck it,” are.

I had struggled with this issue for a while in my old job.  So many attorneys put on a sense of bravado, even though they have no idea what they’re talking about.  It’s very easy to get caught up in that game, then compensate for it by being somewhat unconfident in other aspects of your life.  I was one such person.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to reestablish my former, confident self over the past few months.  I figured that some of the methods that I used would be helpful to others.

1. Do Something You Dread Daily

“Gee, asshole, that doesn’t sound so awesome.”  Well, it is, actually.  Basically, do whatever is giving you anxiety daily.  Go a step beyond if you have to.  This will allow you to see that whatever you’re afraid of isn’t really all that bad.  If you’re scared of talking to people, make it a point to go up to one person today and start a conversation.  Then up it to two people, then three, then four, etc.  Pretty soon, starting up conversations with strangers will seem like second nature.  Same with anything else—writing a blog, taking a class, public speaking, asking for girls’ phone numbers.  Until you start doing these things that may be out of your comfort zone, you’ll never realize that confidence-killing fear is usually bullshit, and nothing to be afraid of.

2. Pick One Thing in Your Life and Get Really Good at it

I’ve chosen to do this with writing.  Though you all may dispute that I’m at a high level (yet), I have seen some improvement as I’ve pretty much forced myself to write at least 600-1000 words daily for this blog alone, in addition to all of the writing for my novel, other blogs, and other projects that I usually fill my day with.  As you continue to get better, you start to take more and more incremental steps into that world, and make connections with like-minded people.  New opportunities open up, and you start to see recognition for your efforts.  All of this is good for your confidence.  You’ll be feeling better in no time.

3. Do Something Where Failure Becomes Routine

A lot of writers are fairly thin-skinned, and hate any form of criticism, the worst of which is outright rejection.  I’ve tried to turn that on its head, inviting criticism from my “inner circle,” a group of friends whose English skills and sensibilities I trust implicitly.  But it hasn’t always been so easy for me.  I know some of you probably found this site off of Above the Law, but it took me a while to work up the courage to start sending my stuff into other sites, as I was constantly dogged by the looming fear of rejection if they didn’t link to my articles.  Somehow, that was implying that my work wasn’t “good enough” in my mind.  You have to work through this initial fear of failure.  Sure, not all of my stuff is exactly Pulitzer-caliber, but since I’ve started submitting relevant articles to others online, I get more excited for successes and the failures seem like less of a big deal.  Once you defeat this fear of failure, you’ll feel more confident taking more risks, and you’ll be far more confident because of it.

4. Take a Break From Your Circle of Friends for a While (or Add New Ones)

I think that my extended trip to Australia was good for this.  Don’t get me wrong, I like my friends.  Otherwise…well…they wouldn’t be friends, now would they?  But it’s easy to fall into a “groupthink” mentality when you’re around or otherwise associate with the same people constantly.  You settle into your comfortable little role in the group, and might change your life to fit this new conception of who you “are” and what you “should be” doing.  Every once in a while, it’s good to get away from this persona to rediscover who you really are, and what you’d really do if left to your own devices.  There were days down in Australia where I didn’t talk to anyone, opting instead to just go out, surf, come back, read, write, and think.  It really helped me get back in touch with what I wanted to be doing with my life.  It also allows you to take inventory of who your “good friends” are, and which ones are detrimental to what you really want to be doing.  If you can’t take a break from your friends for whatever reason, consider making some new ones so that you can see what you’d be like in a social circle where there aren’t any preconceived notions of who you are, or how you should be behaving.  Use this time to reflect on who you want to be, and which friends help you be like that.  With regard to everyone else, all I can say is, “fuck ‘em.”  I don’t mean to be callous, but if you’re hanging around with a bunch of people that don’t let you be yourself or want you to change who you are, you have some pretty fucked-up priorities.  Life is too short to waste being someone you’re not around people that aren’t true friends.

So that’s it.  Any other ways that you’ve increased your own confidence in the past?  Leave them in the comments.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and former attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at djssuperblog@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

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