The Secret of Authentic Confidence

authenticity confidence self-respect

In working with high school students preparing to take the ACT and SAT exams, I've noticed that the straight-A students frequently show more hesitation than their peers earning B's and C's. Most of the time, it's because they are very self-aware; they know better than the lower-scoring students how much they don't know.

Some can harness this awareness, but many suffer, constantly mired in second-guessing. They undermine themselves and send the message that they don't really believe in their own ability. I certainly wouldn't trust them with a task except for the fact that I know their test scores.

Many of my friends are like this: they are demonstrably smarter, wiser, more adaptable, determined, and effective than average, yet they act like they are far below average while people with a weaker track record but blind self-confidence (or good connections) earn all the good jobs.

Which is why, in your quest to realize your greatest potential and attain mastery of the world around you, cultivating inner self-respect is essential, as is actually doing a good job, developing relationships, and having persistence.

There are no shortcuts to excellence.

Set high standards for yourself, and always do your best. Have an accurate assessment of your ability. If you did the first thing correctly, an 'accurate assessment' should mean you act confident.

Of course, being accurate is hard. It requires perspective. You must know your industry, your peers, and your competitors. That's the hard work.


External Value

You have demonstrated concretely that you are in fact valuable in terms that society measures. You have generated revenue for a company, or you have helped someone achieve results. You earned excellent grades or contributed to a groups' understanding of an issue.

The point is that you have generated results. There are concrete things in the world that exist because of you.

Internal Value

You believe you are worth knowing, worth investing in, and worth paying. You behave as if you deserve respect and attention. Not necessarily in a narcissistic way, but an assured way.

Internal value is something you assign yourself, and others will tend to treat you based on how you act.

Do you treat yourself with the respect and consideration you'd like the world to offer you? If not, why are you waiting for someone else to give you permission?

You've probably realized that there is a sort of feedback loop going on here: You act confident, so people respect you, which makes you feel even more confident, which leads to even more respect, which leads to even more confidence, etc, etc, etc.

The trick is matching your internal value with your external value. You want people to give you responsibility in line with your ability (or slightly above, to spur growth) but not so much that you let them down. On the other hand, you don't want to act so modest that nobody is willing to hire you, ask your advice, or rely on you in any way.

The Prince and the Pauper

I struggled with this for a long time and expressed it through the way I dressed, which was generally very poorly. My excuse was that appearances were superficial, but the fact that I dressed myself in ratty clothes sent a very strong message to myself and others. It said, I'm not worth being comfortable and looking good.

Actions speak louder than words, even when we're just talking with ourselves.

Just imagine how you respond to an average unshaven guy in a sweatshirt and ragged jeans. Now, clean him up a bit and put him in an expensive suit. Totally different response. Even if you don't judge a book by its cover, you're still going to listen when this guy starts a conversation.

Well, I have recently started to dress well, which for me meant wearing clothes that fit, weren't torn, and didn't have random stains. The response has been blatant. People noticed right away, my financial situation has improved considerably because I've actually landed some clients, and I get treated more seriously.

Do you engage in any behaviors that send the message you don't respect yourself? What changes can you make to start treating yourself with respect?

Photo credit: SweetOnVeg on Flickr