In my previous post on how to improve your self-esteem, I noted that two things can get in the way of building self-confidence: doubting the validity of reason (one’s primary source of self-confidence); the other is accepting reason but doubting your ability to use it effectively, or what I call “doubting for the sake of doubting.”
Reason is our only means of understanding ourselves, other people, and the world around us. Our emotions can’t tell us anything directly, because they are the result of our thinking, ideas, and beliefs. If you blindly follow your emotions, sometimes they may be right, and other times they may be dead wrong and guide you into self-destructive acts (which certainly doesn’t help with your self-confidence).
You also can’t use mystical revelation to tell you the facts, whether a god, astrology, numerology, tarot cards, etc. If you believe these things are means to knowledge and guidance, ask yourself what evidence you have to justify this belief? The fact that millions of people believe these as sources of knowledge does not make it so.
When you believe there’s a way to understand the world other than through reason, you set yourself up for self-doubt, because you start to depend on something or someone outside of yourself to tell you what to think and do. This leads to doubting your own ability to discern reality and make healthy decisions for your life with confidence.
The second thing that hinders self-confidence is accepting that reason is valid, but doubting your ability to use it. Everyone has the ability to use reason and think logically—it doesn’t take high intelligence or some genetic gift. It’s a skill like anything else and can be learned and improved upon. It’s not based on intelligence, but rather the method of how one thinks. There are brilliant people who are intensely irrational, and people of average or below-average intelligence who are perfectly rational. (The only thing that could get in the way of a person’s ability to think is some types of brain damage or someone under the influence of a drug).
However, it takes effort and practice to think effectively in your life. Using reason is not automatic—you have to choose to think and exert effort, just as Melanie in my previous post had to consciously and actively think about whether she wanted to marry David.
Once you’ve thought through a situation considering all the relevant facts, there’s no reason to doubt yourself. Yes, you can make mistakes or not have all the facts and make wrong decisions—but this is the only method you have for making decisions. If you make a mistake, you can learn from it, correct it, and make better decisions in the future. The alternative is never trusting your mind and living in perpetual self-doubt.
The more confident and skilled you get in your thinking, the more confident you’ll be in your conclusions.
The final requirement for self-confidence is taking action on what you conclude from your reasoning. Self-confidence requires that you act—you cannot live your life in your mind just thinking, as thinking is just a tool for action and pursuing your goals and values. To get a job, find a romantic partner, improve your health, learn how to play guitar, you have to take action on a consistent basis. First you think and decide what you want, then you act on that thinking—thought and action go hand and hand. The action follows your reasoning and continues as you navigate your actions.
In my previous post, after Melanie considered all the facts and decided she wanted to marry David, she acted on her decision (i.e., said “yes” when he asked or asked him, planned the wedding, booked the honeymoon, etc.).
The action step is the final key to building self-confidence, because without it, you’ll never see your thinking turn into reality or learn that you can achieve what you want and have control over your life. And this is what’s required for self-confidence—the trust that your mind and body are capable of dealing with life. If you’ve considered all the relevant facts and have come to a conclusion, and still don’t act on it, you’re doubting for the sake of doubting, and this will stop you.
You may worry, “But I might be wrong. I might make a mistake or fail.” Yes, you might, but you’ll never find out if you don’t act, and you’ll never build confidence if you don’t act. If you’re wrong, then you’ll learn from your mistake and do it better next time. If you’re right, then you’ll build trust in your ability to think effectively and to act on your conclusions.
Self-confidence doesn’t require knowing everything or perfection, but a constant process of thinking, acting, and self-correcting.
If you doubt yourself for no reason (i.e., there’s no facts that contradict your conclusion), then you’ll forever be stuck and hindered in your ability to build self-confidence. The alternative is to develop your reasoning skills, consistently take action on your conclusions, learn from your mistakes, and be rewarded with unstoppable self-confidence.
In my next post, I’ll continue with how to improve your self-esteem by addressing the second requirement: self-respect.