Confidence Requires Sustained Discipline
[Listen to an audio version of this blog HERE.]
Confidence is "the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust." The internet provided this fun example sentence, "We had every confidence in the staff." But wouldn't it be better to have confidence in yourself? I was not always a confident person, and in some situations, I'm still not. But I have learned a very important secret about confidence that has nothing to do with making eye contact, or standing up straight, or looking tough. The secret to being truly confident and at home in your skin is knowing yourself, inside and out. And knowing yourself-really knowing yourself-takes some difficulty, some extremity, and brutal honesty.
The inkling of this epiphany came years ago, though I didn't know it at the time. In high school, I purchased a used treadmill from a haggard Craigslist housewife. My mum and I brought it home in the back of my family's blue GMC pickup and I spent the evening dusting it off, excited to try my new toy. As cold, dark Wisconsin winter set in, I began waking up at 5:30 every morning to run on my treadmill before heading to school, then to basketball practice. On days when I failed to get up and run, I felt worse about myself, not because of anything anyone had done to me. Nobody would know if I woke up or not. I felt worse about myself because I hadn't followed through on a commitment I'd made to myself. That's a terrible feeling, trust me. Once you break one promise you've made to yourself, it's easy to break more, and it's easier to break promises you've made to others, too. Sustained discipline=confidence=trust=a happier you.
Below are five lessons I've learned about confidence. These are purely anecdotal, so grab the proverbial grain of salt.
1. You can't lie to yourself.
As I just illustrated, I knew when I didn't wake up and run. Nobody else would have known, and usually, nobody knew either way. But I knew, and that's all that mattered. Usually, the things we feel the most shame about are the things that need to be examined the hardest. Carl Whitaker said, "Shame occurs when you haven't been able to get away with the who you want people to think you are. " I felt shame when I didn't wake up because I knew how great it felt when I did get up and run. If I wanted to, I could have said I did but I wouldn't have been fooling myself, and at the end of the day, nobody else really matters.
2. Goals are promises you make to yourself.
And reaching any goal, no matter how small or arduous, requires discipline. Imagine how disappointed your best friend, or sister, or child would be if you didn't follow through on a promise you made to them. If you have half a conscious, you might feel bad. Now imagine how much worse it feels to break a promise to yourself. Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free said, "I feel keeping a promise to yourself is a direct reflection of the love you have for yourself. I used to make promises to myself and find them easy to break. Today, I love myself enough to not only make a promise to myself, but I love myself enough to keep that promise”
3. Through discipline, you learn to do hard things.
If you successfully complete one difficult task, especially a tangible one like finishing a marathon, losing weight, or acing a test, you prove to yourself that you can do other difficult things. But after the excitement of crossing the finish line, or after all the congratulatory comments reside, you're still left with you. Life is not, and should not be, relaxing, comfortable, or enjoyable all the time. Do the hard thing not for any accolade, but for yourself, and you'll unlock an important and potent tool: the knowledge of your own limitations. Once you figure out that any limitation you had was self-imposed, you'll be able to do anything.
4. Confidence isn't emotional.
Cockiness stems from insecurity. Confidence stems from knowledge of the true self. If who you are when nobody is around is the person you want to be, your confidence will come naturally. If you are not proud of who you are and what you do, you'll feel shame and when we feel shame, we want to cloak it. Often, we cloak it with false confidence (cockiness), which is highly detectable to those with real confidence. It also seems pertinent to point out that confidence is also not easily offended. People who find offense in everything are allowing their emotions to dictate their lives. If you have the discipline to pursue your goals and desires, nobody can take that from you, and you won't be easily offended because you have a solid understanding of who you are, what you are capable of, and your value.
5. You must continue to do hard things.
Most people have felt an extra boost of confidence after doing something hard, but many people make one goal, like running a marathon, and after accomplishing it, quit training altogether. David Goggins said, “The sole reason I work out like I do isn’t to prepare for and win ultra races. I don’t have an athletic motive at all. It’s to prepare my mind for life itself. Life will always be the most grueling endurance sport, and when you train hard, get uncomfortable, and callous your mind, you will become a more versatile competitor, trained to find a way forward no matter what." Continuing to challenge yourself in new and different ways will make you more resilient, more capable, happier, healthier, more dynamic, and absolutely, 100% without a doubt, more confident.