A Simple Way to Build Confidence

Do you compare yourself to others? I used to compare myself to everybody. I realized that this obsession was a symptom of low self-confidence and poor self-esteem. Today I’ll share some thoughts about the danger of comparing yourself to others.

Building confidence and self-esteem is a popular self-help subject. But why do so many of us need to build confidence and self-esteem? How did we lose it to begin with?

As my boys grow, I see they were born with confidence and self-esteem. They instinctively keep trying even when the odds against them are overwhelming.

I realize you can build confidence in any activity by practicing. But that isn’t what I’m writing about in this post. I am writing about the deep inner feeling of knowing that you are capable and valuable.

I believe that we are all born believing we are capable and valuable – and somehow – some of us forget that core truth about ourselves.

So, how does it happen? How do we lose ourselves?

I think you lose it when you face painful difficult situations before reaching intellectual, emotional, and moral maturity, so you blame yourself. Instead of believing you made a simple mistake and trying again, you begin to believe you are flawed.

In the worst situations, you are abused and lied to and begin to believe you are defective.

Other times you are subjected to emotional abuse in school and at home where you learn your value is based purely on other people’s evaluation of your performance.

  • Your social performance
  • Your athletic performance
  • Your academic performance
  • Your romantic performance
  • Your financial performance

We measure the results of these performances with cliques, grades, sports scores, the attractiveness of our mates, and the quantity and quality of our possessions. In the process of measuring, you start to compare yourself with others. You start to rate the lunchroom cliques at school from A-E like Paul Graham.

Don’t misunderstand me…

I’m not anti-competition and I believe performing in all these areas is important. I love competition. I believe competition forces companies to improve products and lower costs. I love competitive hockey. I am saying that the competitive nature of our society results in many of us viewing others and ourselves through a > / < (I am greater than you; I am less than you) comparative filter. This faulty filter causes many of us to measure our own value inaccurately. We internalize these comparisons early in our lives with thoughts like these:

  • I am a better hockey player than Brett but worse than Dave
  • Sally is smarter than Kim
  • Hunter is a stud so Jeff doesn’t have a chance with her
  • Look at her shoes; I don’t have that kind of money to burn

That’s where I think we go wrong. You diminish your confidence and self-esteem each time you measure your value against other people. When your feelings of self-worth are dependent upon comparing yourself with someone else, you have given power over your emotional state to something outside of yourself that you can’t control. Your emotions are at the whims of other people’s performances instead of your own performances.

I am going to ask you some questions to illustrate a point:

  • Are you a better or worse golfer than Tiger Woods?
  • Are you richer or poorer than Bill Gates?
  • Are you better looking than Brad Pitt?
  • Are you smarter than Einstein?

Do these questions seem absurd to you?

These questions are equally absurd:

  • Are you a better or worse golfer than your sales manager?
  • Are you richer or poorer than the family across the street?
  • Are you better looking than your wife’s first boyfriend?
  • Are you smarter than the other kid in class?

Don’t ask questions like the ones above…
They lead to low self-esteem.

Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Am I playing the best golf I am capable of? Do I want to improve my golf game? If so, what would be a good strategy?
  • Do I have enough money to do the things I want to do? If not, how much do I need and how can I acquire it?
  • How can I feel more attractive? What changes to my thoughts, beliefs, and actions will make me feel more attractive?
  • Are there more efficient ways to study and complete homework? Am I managing my time well? What does a grade mean to me? Not to everyone else, but what does it mean to me?

You can damage your self-esteem and confidence by asking yourself poor questions. So ask yourself great questions.

You may be thinking…
Wait a minute – Shouldn’t I learn from successful people? Shouldn’t I learn from other people’s failures, so I don’t repeat their mistakes? Yes, learn from other people. Get inspired by their successes. Let their failures be a ‘how not to’ guide. But measure yourself by your own internal standard. Never compare yourself to someone else.

Gates, Gretzky, and Woods may be at the very top of what they do, but sometimes, even they get beat. I will guarantee they didn’t get to #1 by obsessing about who was better or worse; they became #1 through obsessive personal improvement.

They got to #1 by asking…
How can I become the best I can be?

They didn’t get to #1 by asking…
How can I be better than Dave?

15 thoughts on “A Simple Way to Build Confidence”

  1. Coach John Wooden’s father said to him.

    “John, Don’t try to be better than anyone else. Just become the best you, that you can be.”

    That was a wise man.

    Happy New Year, Steve. 🙂

  2. Very true, Steve. I considered myself a complete failure for a most of my life. I went to the wrong school, met the wrong people and wasn’t really encouraged by my parents. I eventually started developing a great enthusiasm for things, and then gave up, right after the first failure. I already knew, that that was expected of me. That’s who I was.

    It took years and years of repairing. It wasn’t until I read Louise L. Hay’s book “You can heal your life” and the workbook that goes with it. I’m finally at a point in my life, where I am comfortable with who I am and happy with the things that I actually have accomplished.

    I decided to become a writer, and while the road is rocky, I’m sticking to it. 🙂 I know I can do it. I love to write. I love to talk, and I have lots to say. And I trust that people will want to read what I have to say.

    GG

  3. Great post Steve, I couldn’t agree more! I would strongly suggest that you add this one to your ‘Most Popular Posts’ list… that is if it will fit. 😉

  4. I have a similar problem — I don’t compare myself to other people as in “am I better/worse than so and so?” but I do have very high expectations for myself. And what I do sometimes is compare how much I’ve accomplished so far in my lifetime (I’m 25) with what other people accomplished by my age. Technically I’ve accomplished a lot already, but there’s always someone who accomplished more, sometimes even when they were years younger than me. It’s hard for me to accept that doing my best should be enough. But I’m working on it.

  5. You’re absolutely right, Steve. Comparing ourselves to others weakens us, lowers our self esteem and serves no positive good. thanks for being so explicit.
    Regards,
    Noel

  6. I like how you switched it around and asked, “Am I being the best I could be?”

    Great post! Are you submitting it to any of the Carnivals?

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  8. hi , i belive what i have read , but i have a question , i would like to share my fellings so that any one can help me , now i am in very weak status , i was strong before ,from last 4 years i am really down in hell . before i was in heaven i can say , i used to work hard before , i choosed a wrong college , there it all started . now i am in a good college but worst and jeoleusy class mates , they make fun of me they make groups and tease , i wonder even in masters people behave like this ,i am suprised , but due to their activities i feel i am alone and i dont feel like studying i always think about what they said . please help any one , i feel i have lost my confidence , suggetions required

  9. Constantly comparing yourself to others is irrational! Other people have different environments. They are faced with different challenges. Things may be easier for them. Things may be harder for them.

    Keep your focus on yourself. You know if you are improving. You know how hard you are working. Only you know if you are a success.

  10. Great post Steve. It is important to focus on your own ability and stay on top of your vision than to compare with others and get frustrated by not achieving it.
    One of the most impressive characteristics of all high achievers is their relentless commitment to excellence and the meticulous attention to details associated with that journey. Success is in the details. Hence, Everything Counts — this is the golden rule of excellence.

  11. Steve, how can I gain confidence, when I truly feel like I am not suppose to be succesfull, yet I feel like deep down I should be able to be achieve. It’s like I have both feelings going on at the same time. I make so many mistakes at work, that are just stupid. I am oh so quick to take blame for everything. The one thing I do have going for me, is Intergrity. My question is how can I gain confidence in people, after I have made so many mistakes, and always take blame for everything?

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