The oxymoron of how to be more confident seems to be that it comes from when you finally don’t give a f*ck about what other people think. So if you are reading this, it probably means you give a f*ck.
That is a good thing because the only people truly capable of giving zero f*cks are sociopaths. And if this article began and ended with ‘Stop giving a f*ck’ it would be a terrible piece of writing.
The path to confidence can be complex because confidence is a mental construct. It is an intangible state of being that is the result of certain behaviors, thinking, and self-awareness. Some people are born ridiculously confident, but most of us have to learn it.
This is why simply telling someone to “be more confident” (or to stop giving a f*ck) isn’t very helpful.
So, how can you truly become more confident?
Keeping reading to understand the hero’s journey you must embark upon to be the most confident bad-ass you can be.
How to Be More Confident
We’re all going to die, so why not hit the pavement running towards what you want?
The feeling of not giving a f*ck begins when you decide you have nothing to lose. It is not the belief you are awesome, but comfort with being not awesome. If this sounds confusing, hear me out.
Extreme acceptance of your flaws and shortcomings in turn allows you to take risks that result in higher confidence.
I have a friend who started a profitable side business outside of his day job. After a lot of hard work, he grew the profits to pay better than his salary. No longer reliant on his day job, he stopped giving f*ck about the opinions of his colleagues and manager. He spoke up and said whatever was on his mind.
To his surprise, he starting getting his ideas pushed forward and gained more success, recognition, and promotions than he ever did before starting his side hustle.
As exciting as this sounds, not giving a f*ck is a subtle art, as Mark Manson will tell you. Sometimes it can backfire. There is a difference in asserting yourself in meetings and just not coming to work at all, or burning the whole building down. Piss caution into the wind, and it might blowback in your face.
Developing solid, true confidence is not an overnight journey for anyone. Read on to find out small steps you can take to feel the fear, and do it anyway.
The Alter Ego Effect
If your f*cks about your flaws or how others perceive you are getting in your way, why not try an alternate persona on for size? Hey, it works for superheroes.
You know who else it has worked for?
Beyonce. In 2003, Knowles-Carter felt shy about performing sultry lyrics and dance routines. To overcome stage fright, she created ‘Sasha Fierce‘ and adopted this persona whenever she needed to assert confidence or sex appeal on stage.
Even Hugh Hefner was a cripplingly shy, nerdy, borderline creepy teenager afraid to even speak to women. His first wife even cheated on him, creating a lasting scar.
Too afraid to talk to anyone, he spent hours lost in drawing cartoon stories of his confident and popular animated alter ego ‘Goo Heffer’. At around this time, he started calling himself ‘Heff’.
Years would go by before his altar ego fully took hold. Hugh didn’t even put his own name on the first issue of PlayBoy. But he did use the magazine as a ‘How To’ manual for the suave, charming character he longed to be.
Inevitably Hugh grew into the embodiment of his interior persona; successfully morphing his fantasy life into a powerful reality.
Hugh Heffner developed the blueprint for the person he was to become, and stepped into it. Instead of a form of hiding, could an altar ego lead to your own empowerment?
Outward In: Act As If
“With our thoughts, we make the world,” – Buddha
‘Fake it until you make it’ can be a misleading catchphrase that leads straight into a rough case of imposter syndrome.
Instead, consider behavior first and attitude second. To become more confident, influence your internal state with external body language, grooming, dress, and even digital tools.
Let’s start with Enclothed Cognition – the phenomena that clothing changes the way someone thinks, feels, and functions.
In an experiment, two groups of students were given a white lab coat and told to perform a mental test. Those wearing white lab coats performed better.
To further verify our clothing’s impact on self-perception, another two groups of students were given white jackets. This time, one was told they were wearing ‘art smocks’ and the other informed they were wearing ‘lab coats’. Again, the students who believed they were wearing lab coats performed better at science tasks.
Assumptions about our outward appearance can be either damaging or empowering. Take the following study about our tendency to live up to the expectations of others.
Societal stereotypes that exist include ‘Asians are good at math’ and ‘Woman are bad at math’.
To test these assumptions, a group of Asian women were tasked with a math exam. Right before the test, the women were verbally cued by a researcher about the ‘Asian Math’ and the women performed well. For a second test, the women were instead reminded of the ‘Female Math’ stereotype and performed worse.
Yes, this is f*cked up. And yes, this is why stereotypes are so dangerous. Unconsciously adhering to the perception of others can play out repeatedly for us throughout life, work, and at school.
In another study, teachers were informed by researchers that a completely ordinary student was a brilliant, high IQ rock star. Under the teacher’s bias, this student was performing at the top of the class by the end of the school year.
This also works in reverse. When the teacher was informed that an ordinary student wasn’t so bright, the normal student was struggling to pass by the year’s end. The teacher’s preconceived notions about the student impacted performance.
The person most likely telling the world about your performance is yourself. You are probably doing so with a million subtle clues from how you speak, dress, and carry yourself.
Our mental picture of ourselves can quietly scream volumes to others. That is why false bravado can be spotted a mile away. Before you can fool anyone into believing you are awesome (and you are) you need to believe it first.
Priming yourself to come off as confident might just be as simple as learning to project it, at least at first.
You can use the power of visualization to brush up your self-image in your mind. Or even better, use a real photo editing software to place yourself in situations of confidence, such as on the cover a Forbes magazine, giving a TED talk, vacationing in a bikini, or performing on stage.
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
A growth mindset is the belief you improve at anything, verses the disproved theory you are born with set innate talents.
About 50% of our brains are indicated by genetics, but we are well in control of changing at least half of our personality, intelligence, and skills, no matter our age. Yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks.
Knowing they can get better, people with a growth mindset tend to:
Volunteer answers in class even when unsure
Ask a question even if it might seem obvious “stupid”
Seek out problems that will push them instead of problems that keep them safely within their comfort zone
In contrast, people with a ‘Fixed’ mindset are worried about being defined as stupid or wrong. They tend to give up quickly, assuming if they aren’t good at first, they never will be.
Naturally gifted people are often most vulnerable to a ‘Fixed’ mindset because they are quickly praised for outward accomplishments, instead of hard work.
When someone says ‘I’m not good at that,’ they probably have adopted a fixed mindset around that talent or behavior.
To combat the Fixed Mindset, focus on the effort instead of the outcome. Praise the process instead of the person. Reward the hard work, instead of the final grade.
Whether overcoming depression or becoming a circus performer, knowing failure is not defeat will give you the confidence to step the f*ck up to the challenge.
Self Esteem vs. Confidence
Controlling the perception of others can be a solid first step to winning the confidence you seek. If you are perceived as self-assured, people will treat you as such. You will begin to define yourself as confident in a perpetuating upward spiral.
However, constant external validation can backfire into a deep sense of narcissism or imposter syndrome.
Social media ‘likes’, excessive trophies, high self-esteem, and narcissism imbues the millennial stereotype. Narcissism should not be mistaken for confidence, because it is probably the deepest insecurity there is.
If you have ever wondered why some of the most beautiful women are insecure, you can thank outward praise and approval. For attractive people, the world has dictated their self worth as external, fleeting, and mostly beyond their control.
The topsy-turvy confidence of external validation can take a harsh toll on your well being.
This study showed college students who based their self-worth on social validation, physical appearance, grades, or performance “reported more stress, anger, academic problems, relationship conflicts, and had higher levels of drug and alcohol use and symptoms of eating disorders.”
Students who instead based their worth on values or contributing to a greater purpose received higher grades and were less prone to self-destructive behavior like substance abuse and eating disorders.
Defining your worth based on the opinions of others is a losing game, and no amount of Instagram likes or compliments will ever fill the void of insecurity.
Positive Self Talk vs. Journaling
Are affirmations overrated? New evidence is showing that affirmations may only slightly work, and for those who already have solid self-esteem.
When asked to repeat affirmations, students with low self-esteem actually begin to feel worse. The gap between how they actually felt, and what they were reading, just reminded them of how far they were from that ideal.
In fact, when subjects showed a mood improvement only when reading accurate or pessimistic statements about themselves.
Saying you’re awesome aloud without believing it speaks only to your conscious mind, without deconstructing deep-rooted beliefs. If anything, saying something you don’t believe can create a frustrating case of ‘cognitive dissonance‘ in which your mind attempts to hold two conflicting things at once.
I experienced cognitive dissonance when I no longer enjoyed drinking alcohol and yet found myself unable to stop. I was only able to cure this dissonance by listening to The Naked Mind which listed and dismantled all of the positive cultural beliefs and marketing messages I had been fed about alcohol my entire life.
By surfacing and disproving my unconscious positive beliefs about ‘happy’ hour, wine for heart health, and drinking for relaxation, my unconscious thoughts were brought to light and aligned with my conscious mind. I woke up the next morning uninterested in drinking ever again. It no longer felt painful to quit, but instead a relief.
Whether some idiot on the playground called you fat or you internalized harsh feedback from a critical parent or teacher, we don’t often know where internal negative scripts begin.
Instead of empty promises or affirmations, an exercise like journaling can help you surface, reflect, understand, and deconstruct any negative scripts that no longer serve you. Ask questions and become curious. How did your early beliefs form? Are they currently serving you?
How to Be Truly Confident: The One Secret Truth
At the end of the day, the only person you need to impress is yourself. How can you be confident when you have nothing to feel confident about?
If your unconscious mind doesn’t believe you are awesome yet, prove it wrong with action.
The long-lasting secret to unlocking true confidence is to become a person of value.
Developing skills or serving a greater purpose is the best confidence cocktail you can find. The more you do, the more you will realize you can do.
The mastery of a skill will solidify your confidence into something rock-solid. But to achieve greatness, get ready to put your ego aside.
To master a skill, you need to be bad at it for a little while and be cool with being bad. No, not bad as in rebellious, but bad as in you might have to suck for a quick minute or even years.
Is it poetic irony that to feel great, you must first master being terrible? No wonder so many people Google ‘How to be confident’.
Your ego probably won’t allow you to be a wobbly beginner without presenting you with some resistance first. ‘Resistance’ is the uncomfortable feeling we bump up against when pushed outside our comfort zone to achieve great things.
On an outward level, resistance takes many forms. That annoying sound the fan is making when you are trying to focus. Your cat warmly curling up in your lap when just when you were about to go for a run. The bottle of wine that gave you an excuse to sleep in. The snooze button. The pile of dishes you need to attend to instead of making those sales calls.
All of these annoyances and chores are external symptoms of internal blocks. The only true path to overcome resistance is to face down your own demons.
Achieving a new level of success also means stepping outside of your comfort zone. It might not fall in line with our unconscious beliefs, so we self regulate back into the safety of a miserable day job or cozy cave of low self-esteem.
Any person who ever did something worth doing encountered resistance and had to break through ‘upper limiting beliefs’ by embracing the uncomfortable feeling of failure and success.
The path to overcoming resistance is recognizing it, defining it, feeling uncomfortable, and moving forward it anyway.
You may even need to wallow in it for a while. Adjust your desk chair ten times or cuddle with the cat, so long as you inevitably sit down to your daily practice.
Creating daily practices show your brain “I did this before, and I can do it again” and are the fastest way to obliterate resistance in its tracks.
Whether you want to become a jiu-jitsu master or learn to code, defy analysis paralysis, and perfectionism at every step by simply taking action.
Embrace Rock Bottom
In high school, I took a lot of theater classes. It was a daily practice of terror getting on stage in front of my judgemental, angst-ridden adolescent peers. My fear caused me to freeze up and bomb regularly. But as my theater career progressed, something interesting happened.
My theater teacher decided instead of performing Grease for our musical theater showcase, he would be self-authoring his own musical masterpiece titled ‘Spirit’.
Get ready for it: ghost aliens in space with aids – set to the soundtrack of Les Miserable.
I swear this is a real story and not a South Park episode.
At the tender age of 16, I had to get up on stage five nights a week for three weeks and belt out ‘Bring Him Home’ while dancing with aids in space.
Talks about the humiliation. Rock. F*cking. Bottom, my friends.
After you have reached rock bottom, you realize either, it’s not so bad, or it is really that bad and you survived.
You will even come out stronger for having been there.
Now, on that note please excuse me. I am going to hit ‘Publish’ on this article with full comfortability that not everyone will like it.