How I Learned: Four Tips To Improve Your Self-Confidence

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I was lucky enough to learn a valuable lesson about self-confidence during my freshman year of high school. I know it has helped me greatly in my career.

When You Think You're Going to Lose - You've Got Nothing to Lose!

It was the end of the school year and cheerleading tryouts were coming up. There was no junior varsity team. Our gym teacher happened to be the coach of the squad. After class one day, a bunch of us freshman girls asked her why there was no junior squad we could try out for. She said, "The school doesn't have the budget. And besides, who said you couldn't try out?" We had assumed since only junior and senior girls were on the current squad that we weren't eligible. Her response, "You can try out. It's highly unlikely you'll make it, but at least you'll know what it's like and be better prepared for next year's tryouts." Most of the girls decided not to bother, but I figured, "Why not?" The coach's theory made sense to me. I could just do it for the practice so next year's tryouts would feel easier.

Get Lost In the Moment

It was the day of tryouts and suddenly I got cold feet. I remember thinking, "You idiot. What makes you think you can do this? These girls are going to laugh at you for the rest of your high school career." But, it was too late to back down. When my turn came to cheer, the room was buzzing with chatter. Every girl trying out was sitting in a circle around the table of judges. We had to stand in the center of the circle, all eyes on us. They must have seen I was chickening out because the coach said, "If you can't cheer in front of these girls, you won't be able to do it in front of hundreds of fans."

Then, she said something that made me relax, "Just stand tall and get lost in the moment. Show us you are having fun." I realized then that self-confidence was about not expecting too much from myself. I was making this harder than it was. If I accepted it was next to impossible to get picked, then I could just let the energy, passion, and enjoyment pour out of me. I cheered my heart out. I forgot there was a room of girls hoping I'd fail and did it exactly as I had practiced it.

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Self-confidence is About Impressing the Only Person that Really Matters: Yourself

I went home that night proud of myself for trying. Who cared what the outcome was? The real win was that I did it. I realized self-confidence not only gave me the power to do things, but also provided me with a joy from the sense of control I had over my own happiness.

That experience changed me. I couldn't wait for the following year's tryouts. I didn't have to wait that long. Three days later, I made the squad. So did another freshman. A first in school history. Had I never allowed myself to have the self-confidence to try, it would have never happened. As the famous hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, says, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

So, What Does This Have to Do With Your Career?!

How many times have you avoided trying something new? Are you guilty of not taking a chance in your career -- like speaking up, asking for a raise, applying for a job, going for the promotion, etc., all because you didn't have the self-confidence? Each time we back down, we deprive ourselves of the power and joy we are capable of experiencing. It's not the result that matters, it's the fact that you can say, "I tried."

With that in mind, here are some tips for improving your self-confidence.

1) Don't expect to succeed. Go in expecting to fail. Focus on the fact you are training yourself to take action - and that is your real reward.
  • i.e. ask for the raise, but assume they'll say "no."

2) Practice. Practice. Practice. You should never wing it. This is about impressing yourself with your effort. Do whatever you can to rehearse, plan, prepare and practice so you feel more in control of yourself and your actions.
  • i.e. write out all the reasons you deserve the raise and run them by someone to see if it sounds convincing.

3) Compliment yourself for trying. When it's over, give yourself a high-five. Allow yourself to feel the rush of adrenaline that comes from doing something brave. Remind yourself of what a big accomplishment you have just completed - regardless of the outcome.
  • i.e. after the meeting with your boss, be proud of yourself for speaking up and asking for a raise which is intimidating to many people.

4) Plan your next self-confident action. Don't let your self-confidence get rusty. Once you use it, plan as quickly as possible to use it again. Keep the momentum going so you can reinforce the habit.
  • i.e. think about other ways you can be more confident at work to show the request for a raise wasn't a one-time thing.
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REMEMBER: Self-confidence isn't something you're born with. You develop it, just like any other skill. Which means, the more you practice, the better you'll get at using self-confidence to get what you want.

I hope this inspires you to use some self-confidence soon - this former cheerleader is rooting for you!

What other tips can readers share regarding ways to improve self-confidence? I'd love to hear them in the comments below.

Photo source: Getty Images

Check out more quotes on self-confidence here.
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