If You Don't Believe in Yourself, Who Will?Feb 28, 2023
Self-confidence is a skill. You can learn it, practice it, get better at it. And reap the rewards of believing in yourself. I should know: my life is a story of self-confidence.
At the beginning of every soccer season or any speech I give about self-confidence, I show the “Crazy Ones” commercial from Apple’s 1997 Think Different campaign—the one with famous innovators like Pablo Picasso, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, Amelia Earhart, Jim Henson, and Albert Einstein. If you’ve never seen it, you should search for it right now and take it in. (In the version that went on the air, the voiceover was done by Richard Dreyfuss, but there is also a version with Steve Jobs himself narrating.)
I will never forget how it made me feel when I saw that ad for the first time. My spine tingled from the instant I heard those first words: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.” And since then, every time I see the video my heart races all the way to that incredible final line: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
If we want to, any of us can become a crazy one. Sure, we may not lead a civil rights movement or fly a plane across the Atlantic or invent a device that revolutionizes the world, but we never know what we can accomplish. We are all engaged in things that matter. We are all living our one life. And we all have an opportunity, every single day, to do it better. To be a better parent, friend, spouse, or coworker. To help someone out. To invent a new way. To make a bold suggestion. To speak out against injustice. To create something original. You never know what you can accomplish until you try.
It’s an illusion to think that greatness belongs to a privileged few who act on the global stage. Every one of us has the capacity to be great. I have seen this truth play out repeatedly in my own life—in my research, in my coaching career and in my experiences speaking all over North America.
What I have learned the past 3 decades as a high-performance coach is excellence – on the playing fields or the board rooms requires a specific set of mental qualities such as being able to focus, recover from setbacks, and work cohesively with peers. Teach athletes the right mental skills, and they’ll acquire what they need more than anything: self-confidence.
Confident athletes are successful in the same ways that confident people are successful. They handle pressure better. They channel anxiety into improved performances. They want to be at the center of the action, and they rise to the occasion whenever they are.
I define self-confidence as the genuine belief in your ability to accomplish the task at hand. That doesn’t mean being deluded that you can do impossible things. Self-confidence is a belief that you can do something beyond your current level of experience and skill. It’s also having faith that you can handle adversity, and even if it doesn’t turn out exactly as you had hoped, you know you did your best.
Dozens of studies have been conducted about the role that confidence plays in our ability to turn thoughts into action. For example, renowned psychologist Albert Bandura discovered that confident people see difficult tasks as challenges to be overcome rather than situations to avoid. He also found that confident people recover more quickly from setbacks and respond with increased effort, both of which are critical for long-term success.
Another advantage of believing in yourself is that it can lead to a better quality of life. Research shows that confidence is related to better mental and physical health, higher educational achievement, improved literacy, lower drop-out rates, and better economic standing. You don’t need to be a Harvard grad to have self-confidence, but if you have self-confidence, you are more likely to attend a better school, get a better job and lead a better life.
In fact, there is significant evidence that self-confidence is a more important factor in determining success than talent.
Confident people aren’t any taller, smarter, better-looking, or richer than you or me, and an Ivy League education isn’t required. What they have is a belief in themselves, which anyone can develop.
The difficulty is that most people view self-confidence as an inborn quality that someone either has or doesn’t have. I have met so many folks who think, I’m just not the kind of person who is confident about their abilities. Maybe you are one of those people.
I want to assure you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Self-confidence is a global skill that anyone—and I mean anyone—can learn.
Putting yourself in situations where you overcome challenges or obstacles—repeatedly, even if they are relatively small—develops the skill of self-confidence. You don’t need to win a national championship. You just need to do something that challenges you. Maybe it’s volunteering as an assistant so you can learn from the best, getting back into the job market after you have been fired, or sending your manuscript in again after ten rejections and having it be accepted.
With each small increase in challenge, you take on, you gain a bit more belief in your ability to succeed until you are so confident that success is no more difficult than getting to work on time or calling a friend.
You too can develop the skill of self-confidence and put that skill to use in your day-to-day life. At work, at home, at school and in everything you do, you can become a high-performing individual—a better version of yourself.
With the skill of self-confidence, the sky is the limit.