Let us first get the dictionary definition of ‘confidence’: the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.
Let us now define ‘self-confidence’: a feeling of trust in one’s own abilities, qualities and judgement.
So that is how the world defines confidence. Hence, let me ask you this: what is your most confident trait?
Does beauty define you? Or perhaps your car defines you? Or is it your health? Or surely your job defines you! Or maybe it is the great house you have to flaunt to your friends. Or perhaps your children define who you are. Maybe your sense of self-confidence comes from being a great dancer or a good marketer. Yes? No, no, none of that really! Those are things or skills you have. But those are not who you really are! Yes they are tools you use to navigate life. But all of that may be taken away from you. Then who are you, despite the dice life throws at you?
When I was an English teacher in Venezuela, I asked a young girl of barely 13, a student of mine, what she thought of plastic surgery. I am mentioning this because in extremely vain societies such as Venezuela and other beauty obsessed countries, a girl’s entire sense of self, of who she is and her value in life, comes from the way she looks. The bar is raised every day and the beauty standards go up, higher and higher. To keep up, young girls of 15, 16, go under the knife for silicone implants, liposuction and other figure & feature corrections on a regular basis. She excitedly told me that it was a great thing as it improved their self-esteem and confidence. Her answer made me really sad. She was a pretty girl and perhaps in a couple of years she too was going under the knife, without even being educated about its consequences. For more on this, read my article: body image & beauty: empowering the feminine. Needless to say, those methods are extremely detrimental often leading to serious health hazards like internal infections, cancer and premature death. The beauty industry is getting richer at the expense of these teens with poor self-esteem, who carry toxic substances inside their bodies for years. I wondered if it really augmented one’s confidence. No matter how beautiful they looked, they were never satisfied with it. First breast implants. Then feature corrections. Then liposuction. Then replacements and maintenance. There is no end to it. In fact, the industry harps on their low confidence. People have started loving plastic. Worse still, people’s self-confidence is derived out of plastic!
This is not just the case with the beauty industry. It is everywhere. The billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in keeping us diseased. The food industry has a vested interest in messing with our health. The capitalistic society has a vested interest in keeping us emotionally isolated. And we fall prey to them. What society values in us is exactly what kills us in the first place! We want that job. Then we want the better job. We get the house. Then we want the bigger house. We get the car. Then we want the brighter car, for ourselves or to show off? And even after getting these things, we do not feel fulfilled. Now there is nothing wrong in acquiring or striving for excellence, but when our entire sense of confidence in life comes from these outside things, we keep trying to get them to fulfill us, but meet with only frustration and emptiness. Because those are external, hence fleeting. We may experience a tragedy and lose all of that. Then what? Has life failed us? Where will our self-confidence be if any of the conditions of our life makes it impossible to do what we would like to do or have?
It is great to be able to rely on our own abilities and qualities but authentic self-confidence has nothing to do with what we have, how we look, how many languages we speak, what talents, skills or expertise we have mastered over time! Authentic confidence comes from being willing to be authentic. That means exposing our true selves, embracing all of who we are, engaging in our emotions, accepting our light and our shadow, having confidence in life and trusting the process of life itself. We are here. That is proof that life supports us, no matter what we are going through. Life is on our side. It comes from a simple awareness that we are one with everything in creation, an individuation of divinity itself. It is a kind of heart confidence. When we are coming from the heart space, there is no room for manipulation, domination, control games, hiding, lying, feeding off others’ weaknesses, or any such unhealthy dynamics in our relationships with each other. Because you know everyone and everything is ultimately a part of you – that is the grander definition of the “self”. So who will you deceive? It is an inner knowing. Our external reality is just a mirror of our own internal vibrations. In the end it’s not about the house you owned, the car you possessed or the number of children you’ve had. It is you with your self, how self-actualized you are. Are you happy with yourself? Are you at a place of self-acceptance, self-compassion, no matter what the outside circumstances are? Then you have authentic self-confidence.
Below are some ways to develop authentic confidence:
See with inner vision
Everything that you see is not what it really is. However, the heart can see beyond what the eyes can. Cultivate seeing everything and everyone from the heart space. You may see someone in a high-flying career and believe they are fulfilled or happy, that you haven’t been able to get yet, hence envy them. But you have no idea what storms and vicissitudes that person may be going through everyday to maintain that status quo, sometimes at the expense of his own health and well-being, or the emotional isolation that makes him miserable despite externally having “success”. This in-sight will improve your communications with people greatly; instead of judging, condemning or envying you can see them for who they really are. Having a sense of purpose and direction in life also augments self-confidence. And spend less time on social media; you can’t tell from the selfies what is really going on behind the mask.
Remove the mask
People are not satisfied with who they are. They are always trying to change themselves to be accepted, to fit into societal molds. Everyone is walking around with a mask; their inner worlds and outer worlds are misaligned. So people cannot connect with the real you that is hiding behind a façade. How can they really experience or love you, if you are always masquerading as someone or something you are not? This comes from a space of self-rejection or coping mechanisms usually developed in childhood that hides aspects of themselves because they believe they cannot be accepted for who they really are. Remove the mask and reveal your true self. In essence, we are all wearing the emperor’s new clothes, parading naked around the world, but we think others cannot see our flaws, faults and foibles. That’s not true. Everyone can see your weaknesses anyways. So, why not reveal yourself gloriously and gorgeously? It is the real you that everyone falls in love with anyways. Owning and expressing your truth puts you in total control. So show up, and do so shamelessly!
Do it your way
Don’t be afraid to find your own inner voice, your unique signature in life, your truest authentic self that is crying to come out and express itself. Everybody has a gift. Everybody has something valuable to give to the world. It is costing our world when you play small. Go within, to find out what that gift is, and act from there. Let all of life be a platform for you to do just that. When you do, life too will support you.
Confidence comes when you know life will never fail you. We are here to thrive, not just survive. Most people are worried about their survival and safety. But the soul did not come here on earth to have a comfortable, safe ride. We were born to die! Life is giving us an opportunity in every moment to express and experience who we really are. When we can do this consciously it empowers us from within. You see, it is about self-awareness, not self-assurance. The best way to nurture true self-confidence is to be aware of who we really are. The process of life actualizes us. We came here on earth to have an experience of ourselves, what one may call self-realization. So express your self in all its grandeur and splendour. Never be afraid to express your desires, go for your dreams and speak from your authentic inner voice. Your authenticity is found in the absolute assurance of your own abilities and qualities coming from the knowledge that we are all one, and that we can rely on the totality of who we are, which you may call life, or god!
When we stop focusing on the things we think we need and instead express & experience our truths, those things that we need fall into place automatically. But if your entire sense of self-confidence comes from those external means, what your friends will think about you, how your colleagues will judge you, how much wealth you have amassed, then you will forever edit yourself. You can never really be free or reveal the true you, those vulnerable aspects of you that people actually fall in love with. You may or may not achieve what is defined as “success” by society, but when you act from your highest truth, you will experience life as a grand adventure and therein will be found your joy.
In conclusion, cultivating authentic self-confidence is a good investment on the self. It requires the hard work of never abandoning the self, not even in our darkest times and having faith in life that all will work out in the end. True self-confidence is not achieved by honing our skills, strengthening out talents and gifts. Yes those things are important to navigate life, but relying on those solely will not actualize us. One must have faith in the self, in life itself. As the ‘self’ includes all that is life…
Werner Erhard said, “Life will resolve itself in the process of Life Itself.” The game plays the game, the poem writes the poem and we can’t tell the dancer from the dance.