How to gain more confidence
There are a lot of people in the world who feel that anxiety and lack of confidence significantly inhibit their pursuit of happiness. The question "how can I become more confident and less anxious?" is a very common one.
The first thing to realise is that anxiety, in itself, is not an entirely bad thing. To worry about possible dangers and try to anticipate them is a hard-wired survival insinct. Without it, our ancestors may well have been attacked by a wild animal, or frozen to death through lack of preparation for the coming winter.
The dangers we face in the modern world are usually less immediate than that, but they exist nonetheless. It is anxiety about our future that causes us to save money, educate ourselves and take out insurance. Wearing a seat-belt is a natural anxious reaction to the possibility we may be in an accident. Without these anxieties, we may well find ourselves in a very negative situation that we could easily have avoided with a little forethought.
Over-confidence can be an even larger problem than under-confidence. Prisons are filled with people who were confident they'd "get away with it". Accident wards have many injured patients who became too confident of their motorcycling, skiing or skateboarding skills.
As with most things, balance is the key. If you're finding that anxiety is limiting the options and rewards available to you, then you should take concrete steps to overcome it. Realise that worry is not something you should be too keen to banish altogether from your life, however.
The first point to convince yourself of is that life involves risk. We can never be completely safe from the dangers that we fear. No matter how careful we are, bad things can happen.
But even if a completely risk-free life was available, would we want it? Taking calculated risks can be what makes life worth living. Risk can be scary, but also exhilerating. It can make us feel alive.
There are few worthwhile rewards in life that don't come with some level of risk attached. No friendship can be formed without someone taking the chance of trying to begin it; two people cannot fall in love wihout risking the possibility of agonising heartache if that love fails; no great job can be offered to someone who hasn't taken the risk of applying for it; and no pay-off can be realised from an investment that wasn't undertaken.
If you want the rewards of life, you must be willing to take the risks necessary to get them. More than that, you have to be prepared to fail, for it is certain that some of your bets in the casino of life won't pay-off.
Confidence in most areas of life is grown through practice. Some people have more natural ability and in-built self-confidence than others. You may have been dealt a poor hand in these areas, but that's what you have to work with. If you are lacking in natural confidence, your only choices are to strive to overcome it, or let it have a negative effect on your life.
The only way to gain a more confident attitude in any activity is to just do it. If you're a beginner, you will almost certainly fail in your first few attempts. Be prepared to shake off that failure and try again. With each attempt at that activity, you will learn more about it - physically, mentally and emotionally. Often, you will find your early assumptions about it to be faulty. With time, you'll come to know it so well and be so comfortable with it that you'll wonder what you ever worried about.
Take the example of learning to ride a bike. Most children are very keen to learn this skill because of the promise of fun and greater mobility that it brings. But it also brings danger - that of falling off and injuring yourself. Yet most children accept that the risk of injury is worth the reward of fun and mobility.
And so, a child climbs onto a bike for the first time, grips the handlebars, turns the peddles and - CRASH - he falls off and scrapes some skin from his knee. He is now very wary of his new toy, but after a time, he tries again. He turns the peddles and takes off. This is it - he's riding a bike! And then, inevitably, CRASH! More blood and more tears. On his third attempt, he goes even farther before colliding with a tree. On his fourth attempt, he rides around the entire block before slipping on some gravel and scratching his elbow.
Within a fortnight, the child is confidently using his bike. It has expanded his horizons and allowed him greater freedom than he could have imagined. He still knows that he will probably crash one day, but the taste of liberty the bike gives him is worth that risk. He's now teaching himself how to do wheelies.
This analogy is typical of almost any skill - from sport, to social life, to career, to investment. You may be terrified of talking to people in groups, or going to job interviews, or talking to members of the opposite sex. At the same time, you probably haven't had much experience of these activities. Like all new things, your early attempts were probably a little clumsy and felt awkward. With each mistake though, your skills will improve.
The way to get better at something - and therefore become more confident at it - is to gain as much experience in it as you can.
Sometimes, the hardest step can be the first. Exposing yourself to the risk of failure is very difficult, and your first reaction may be to avoid taking that risk altogether. This psychological inhibition can be very difficult to overcome. It can feel like a wall within your mind that's painful to push through. Nevertheless, push through it you must. Take the risk, prepare yourself for the inevitable mistakes, and just do it.
You already know what the rewards are that await on the other side of this learning curve. So get going and start training yourself in that activity. The more quickly you get through the difficult initial stages, the more quickly those rewards will be yours.
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