Confidence is the holy grail of self-improvement. Everyone wants it. Yet, no one really knows what it is exactly, or how to get it.
Confidence isn’t this mysterious thing you were born with. It is a common-sense life principle that can be substantially improved by anyone at any age. You just have to know how. So, here is everything you need to know about confidence and how to develop it. All in one XXL post!
Confidence through competence
Confidence isn’t just this general inner security it’s made out to be. Your level of confidence differs depending on the activity and the venue you are in, as well as the people you are with. It’s situational.
You could, for example, feel secure and powerful while talking in front of a crowd of tech enthusiasts, yet believe you are incapable of talking to a single attractive woman.
This leads us to the first important principle of building confidence:
Confidence comes with competence. And competence comes with preparation, repetition, and experience.
Let’s find out how these can help you become more competent and therefore, confident.
Why do airline pilots train on flight simulators before they control real planes? Of course, because they aren’t competent yet and it’s a safe way to simulate reality.
The flight simulator training helps the pilots build competence in a safe environment until they are ready to increase the difficulty and train in a real airplane.
This ‘preparing until you are ready for the real thing’ method is applicable to almost any field.
Let’s say you want to become competent at starting conversations with beautiful women. How could you prepare for that?
- You could do visualization exercises
- You could acquire knowledge from books and videos about how to successfully start conversations with new people in bars, clubs, on the street,…
- You could talk to people who are masters at approaching women and try to adopt their mindset.
The better prepared you are, the more competent you will feel. And the more competent you feel, the more confident you will act.
Confidence through preparation has a nasty catch, however: the minute you feel unprepared, your confidence will plummet and you are going to feel worse than if you hadn’t prepared in the first place.
You see this drop in confidence often with guys who study pickup and run out of material.
The more repetitions, the more competence, the more confidence.
Of course, just amassing repetitions isn’t the best way to go – anyone who does a lot of sports knows that. The repetition I am talking about is an iterative process:
Try, fail, adapt, try again.
Let’s assume you just walked up to the hottest girl in the club and said, “hi”. She replies, “hi”. Awkward silence…
So you try “hi” with the next girl. Same result. One more try: awkward again.
Principle: If the results you are getting aren’t satisfying, take a single thing you suspect is screwing your results up and change it. Leave everything else as is until you know what caused the negative results.
It’s basically an A/B test.
Back to our women example: So your first iteration is changing your opening line. Instead of “hi” you could try, “Hey! How do you enjoy your night so far?”
Try the new line for a while. If it works better, go with it! If not, keep iterating.
Important tip: When I was younger, I used to skate a lot. Whenever I crashed – which happened quite often– more experienced skaters would immediately come up to me and push me to ride my skateboard again. They’d say to me: “If you don’t get on the board again, you will become afraid!”
Whenever you fail at something, you have to try it again, immediately! Otherwise, you will develop a belief of being incompetent. Hence, your confidence will take a fatal blow.
So if you approach a girl at a bar and get rejected (which can happen to anyone) you should immediately approach the next cute girl or risk developing (more intense) approach anxiety.
You will love what experience can do for your confidence!
Experience is awesome because all you have to do is collect positive experience and you will become more and more confident.
When I first went to a club I felt terrible. A dark, loud place filled with dancing people, all older than me. Drinking, drugs, lights, a heated sexual atmosphere. I was shocked.
But the more I went out, the less I was thrown off my feet. I knew where the restrooms were. I knew the names of the barkeepers, DJs, and owners. I knew what to expect from the venue. I knew what nights would be good. I knew who the “cool” people were and how they behaved at the bar.
The more I went out, the more experience I gathered. And the more experience I had, the more confident I became.
And all I had to do was show up.
In the beginning, I wrote “positive experience”. There’s a reason for that.
If you see a hundred different guys successfully approach women at clubs, you will start to believe it’s easy. That’s positive experience.
But what happens if you see a hundred guys fail? You would start to think approaching women at clubs is impossible. That’s negative experience.
So, when you gather experience, make sure it’s positive experience.
Core Confidence – Confidence through believing in yourself
Our second major form of confidence is what I like to call core confidence.
Core confidence is this inner strength that doesn’t rely on external success or validation. It’s the most powerful form of confidence because no one can ever take it away from you.
- You can fail a test, yet still feel and act confident. “No problem. I’ll pass it next time.”
- You can wear dirty clothes in which you look ridiculous, yet still feel and act confident. “Haha, I can’t wait to tell that story to my friends. They’ll have a good laugh.”
- You can get rejected, yet still feel and act confident. “I dodged a bullet there. We weren’t a good fit at all.”
- You can get fired, yet still feel and act confident: “This sucks, but now I finally have the time to pursue my bagpipe business.”
Core confidence is a fundamental trust that you can handle whatever life throws at you.
That doesn’t mean confident people always believe they will win at everything they do. Truly confident people are just sure they’ll be able to overcome the negative consequences and succeed the next time.
How to develop core confidence
In the following, I want to acquaint you with 6 techniques to develop core confidence. Be warned, though. None of them are quick fixes. Core confidence has to be developed over a prolonged period of time. It’s fucking hard. But that’s a good thing, because if it wasn’t hard everyone would be confident.
The first knob we can use to turn our core confidence up is acceptance.
Certain things in life can’t be changed, no matter how much money you have, or who you know, or how hard you try. All that’s left for us is accepting it.
When I say acceptance, I mean self-acceptance, as well as acceptance of others, and acceptance of randomness.
I’ll give you an example for each category:
- Self-acceptance: I was born with scoliosis and a slight hunchback. All I can do about it is strengthening exercises so it doesn’t get worse. But I’ll always have a hunchback. Either I accept it, or I let it break me. Change and improve what you can and accept what you can’t.
- Acceptance of others: Many of us have problems with our parents. We want them to support our ideas and our way of living. But ultimately, there is nothing we can do if they hate what we do. They are who they are. Either we accept it, love them anyway, and make the best of it, or we’ll fight with them all their lives.
- Acceptance of randomness: When it rains, it rains. Either you accept it or you complain and ruin your mood (and possibly the mood of others around you).
Acceptance is so critical to confidence because it gives you this chilled inner feeling of, “Whatever happens, happens. I’ll make the best of it.”
A great way to cultivate acceptance is by consciously saying, “It’s ok” when something undesirable happens.
You can read all about it in my article 3 Words To Instantly Get Rid Of Anxiety.
Self-esteem is defined as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities”.
But who defines how much you are worth? Well, you do. And based on what do you evaluate yourself? If you are like most people, you do it based on net worth, status symbols, and appraisal of strangers.
But if you want to develop strong self-esteem you need a point of reference that is completely under your control and not subject to outside opinion or external success.
My point of reference is me being a good person. For me, personally, this means (the rough version):
- Don’t harm others
- Be a good friend
- Treat others with respect
- Don’t judge
- Always speak the truth
As long as I am certain that I’m a good person, the rest of the world can blow me.
If I approached a girl at a bar and she gave me crap, it wouldn’t concern me because I know that I am a good human being who deserves to be treated with respect and kindness.
I know I didn’t behave in a disrespectful way, so if she gives me crap for no reason, she obviously has bigger issues and I don’t want to get involved anyway.
Strong self-esteem is the foundation on which you can develop self-respect. And self-respect is the key to never being a pushover again.
I could ramble on about self-esteem, but I know a poem that does a much better job than I ever could:
As long as you try
to impress others,
you are not convinced
of your own strength.
As long as you strive
to be better than others,
you are doubting your
As long as you try
to elevate yourself
by lowering others,
you are doubting your
Who is in peace with oneself
doesn’t have to prove anything
Who knows one’s own worth
doesn’t need validation.
Who knows about one’s own greatness
lets others keep theirs.
3. Overcoming Fears
The fastest way to build true confidence is, by far, overcoming your irrational fears.
An irrational fear is something that limits your quality of life but isn’t dangerous in any way.
Here are some common examples:
- Fear of talking to new people
- Fear of doing stuff alone (especially going out)
- Fear of showing weakness
- Fear of abandonment (your partner or friends leaving you)
- Fear of embarrassing yourself
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of your partner cheating on you (jealousy)
These bs fears cripple most people’s lives. It is your duty to overcome or at least reduce them.
Now the bad news: the best way to do it is systematic desensitization.
Here is a short explanation:
“You are gradually going to expose yourself to the thing you’re afraid of, first in small doses and controlled environments, increasing the potency of both over time until the thing you’re afraid of no longer bothers you.”
Tip: The best way to overcome bs fears, that I know, is traveling alone. It is an unforgettable experience and forces you to face many of your fears.
I once heard a great quote by Tony Robbins. I am usually not his biggest fan, but this one stuck with me:
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
Try it yourself. Whatever petty problems you think you have, they all disappear in the light of gratitude.
- When you are feeling grateful for the roof over your head, you can’t worry about the girl who isn’t texting you back.
- When you are feeling lucky to have loving and supportive parents, it’s impossible to complain about the shitty night you are having.
- When you are being thankful for your health and intelligence, it’s impossible to whine about still being a virgin.
Gratitude is important for developing confidence because it magnifies the good things in your life and shrinks the problems you think you have.
5. Irrational positivity
Optimists are, as a byproduct, also confident. They are confident that the future looks bright. Sometimes this belief is irrational. But does it matter?
When you believe your future is going to be awesome, you act and feel differently than a person who worries all the time.
The best way, I have found, to practice positivity, is talk about uncomfortable stuff as if it was the most awesome thing on the face of the earth. It sounds crazy but it works. Some examples:
- “I love clubs. They are the best. The music, the people, the dancing, the drinking – I can’t wait to go there again.”
- “Starting conversations with new people is easy. People love me and I love them.”
- “I enjoy challenging my fears. It’s so much fun to overcome one after another of these fuckers.”
- “The aspect of dating that I like most is the time before meeting a date. I thrive on this mild nervousness that makes dates so exciting.”
Reality isn’t objective! You can never know how life looks through the eyes of other people. And if reality is subjective, then you can form it to your own will.
You can decide to complain or concentrate on the positive. The one will make you a cynic who surrounds himself with other cynics who also hate the world and everything it contains. The other will make you a positive, likable person who is surrounded by other optimists and a ton of women. (Most women like fun and positivity.)
The choice is yours.
Confidence through external success
Last but not least, I want to quickly touch upon confidence through external stuff like money, beauty, or fame.
Confidence that’s based on externalities is not really confidence. It’s more like a drug high – short lived and addictive.
The more external success you have, the more you believe you are the shit. “I am a millionaire. That must mean I am incredibly awesome.”
Here is the problem, though: you become dependent on these external things to maintain your confidence.
What happens to your confidence if your money is gone? What happens to your confidence when your beauty has faded? What happens to your confidence when no one knows who you are? What happens to your confidence when you haven’t spent two hours in the bathroom to look your absolute best?
Confidence through external success can only work in addition to core confidence and competence. In that mix, it gives you this extra bit of charisma that you know from the most attractive of men. Think George Clooney, Adam Levine, Aaron Rodgers, and many other big names.
- Confidence is an acquired skill and needs learning and practice. It’s not something that you were born with. Anyone can develop high amounts of it!
- Confidence can come through competence, believing in your own worth and strength, and through external success.
- Competence comes with preparation, repetition, and experience.
- Try, fail, adapt, try again.
- Whenever you fail at something, you have to try it again, immediately! Otherwise, you’ll develop anxiety.
- To gather experience all you have to do is show up. Make sure it’s positive experience.
- Core confidence is a fundamental trust that you can handle whatever life throws at you.
- You can develop core confidence through acceptance, self-esteem, overcoming irrational fears, gratitude, and positivity.
- Confidence based on externalities is like a drug high – short lived and addictive.
- Confidence based on externalities can make you charismatic if paired with core confidence and competence.