Confidence, or “self-confidence”, is hard to define. Some people think it’s a feeling of certainty about what you’re doing. Some people think it’s a mastery level of skill. Some people think it’s a sense that you will do well in the future. Some people even think it’s about other people approving of you.
The problem with the most common definitions is that they are often unworkable.
You can’t feel certain all the time, especially if you want to try brave new things. You can’t expect to be an expert in everything. You can’t predict or control the future. And you can’t control how other people feel about you (without being fake, and even that doesn’t work very well).
So before we even explore the practical steps you need to take to constantly improve your confidence, we first need to give it a clear definition that is workable – something that is possible, and can be controlled by you without requiring advantages, good luck, or other people’s cooperation.
Confidence must be something that incorporates all emotions, including things like anxiety, fear and even depression, without being attached to any temporary feelings.
It must be something that can happen when you’re a beginner as much as when you’re an expert. It must be something that focuses on the process of developing skills more than actually having a high level of skill or good results.
It must be about the present moment, without being too negatively affected by memories of the past or concerns about the future, because the present moment is the only space in time that you can influence.
It must be entirely under your control. Even if other people try to negatively interfere with your life, your confidence must be able to remain strong. In fact, it would be preferable that other people’s interference only makes you stronger – confidence must be antifragile.
So all of this combined leaves us with some clear do’s and don’t’s about defining confidence, which will hopefully lead us to practical actions that build confidence in a realistic and sustainable way.
I’ll save you some hassle – here’s a definition that works!
Confidence is the ability to impress yourself by living by your own principles and values – to consistently behave with integrity – creating feelings of long-lasting self-respect, courage, and trust in yourself to handle all situations.
Figuring out your core values
If we can break down this definition into a step-by-step formula that anyone can live by regardless of their situation, we have ourselves a recipe for managing and building self-confidence. So let’s do that now.
First, obviously, we must identify your core values – the set of principles or code of honour that you need to live by to impress yourself. This must be something that you choose for yourself, not something chosen for you by your country, culture, parents, peers or church. You might need to break some rules and upset other people’s morals here!
To go through this in detail, check out this in-depth podcast about discovering your core values:
But in short, you basically need to identify the traits and behaviours that you admire and respect in other people, and the things you’ve done in the past that you’re proud of.
Don’t focus too much on accomplishments, results and possessions – winning doesn’t always equal integrity. Instead, focus more on people who behave in a way that you believe is right.
And if you’re stuck or clueless, you can start with this basic list as a template and change, dismiss or add to it as you see fit:
The 6 Brojo Core Values of Masculine Confidence
- Curiosity – always willing to learn more with an open mind
- Courage – always facing your fears and taking the difficult path to build strength
- Honesty – always speaking your mind and doing what you believe is right
- Acceptance – always letting go of that which is not under your control
- Respect – always maintaining boundaries and allowing others to maintain theirs
- Responsibility – always taking ownership of your life and resisting the urge to play the victim
Making it practical
Once you’ve identified your core values, you need to clearly describe what it means to live by them. They need to be easily translated into straightforward behaviour – it should always be clear whether you’re living by them.
Again, starting with a rough draft that you’ll improve and adapt over time, write out a clear description of each of your values. You can almost think of these as “rules” about what “counts” as living by the value and what doesn’t. Make sure it’s specific and measurable. Here are some examples:
“Honesty means that whatever I say matches what I think and feel, and that I always say anything that feels important to me even if it causes conflict”.
“Respect means that I always confront people who negatively impact my life, but I leave them to live however they want if they’re not hurting me and I don’t try to control them with advice or manipulation.”
“Compassion means that I take time to hear what people have to say and try to understand where they’re coming from before I judge them or decide how to respond to them.”
Then comes the hard part: actually doing it.
Taking real life action
Start small and simple. Give yourself a goal each day to do something planned that would be living by your values more than you were yesterday.
This will usually be something uncomfortable that you’re hesitant to do, but it shouldn’t be something massively terrifying because then you probably just won’t do it. You want to give yourself a chance to win as often as possible.
To keep it simple, you can just ask yourself,
“What can I do today that I’ll be proud of tomorrow?”
Just make sure the pride doesn’t come from a preferred result or another person’s feedback. It should be something you’re proud of even if you lose and no one else notices or cares.
Here are some classics that nearly always build confidence, no matter who you are:
- Stand up for something you believe in when you’d usually stay quiet and keep the peace
- Take better care of your body with improved nutrition and hard exercise
- Do an act of kindness for someone anonymously (to avoid getting external credit)
- Try something new that both intrigues you and scares you in equal measure – allow yourself to suck at something unfamiliar
- Engage in manual labour just to practice endurance and resilience
- Make yourself physically uncomfortable just to prove to yourself that you’re tougher than you think (this is why I do cold showers each morning)
- Admit you were wrong about something, or let someone teach you something to challenge your ego
Just choose one or two things per day, and keep everything else the same. It’s as important to not do too much or ask too much from yourself as it is to push yourself. This must be a sustainable practice that you can keep up forever.
And even when you can’t think of good things to do, there are some things that you can simply stop doing because they hurt your confidence.
Here are some classic examples that apply to most people:
- Lying, pretending to agree, people-pleasing, and faking positive emotions to keep other people happy – just keep a straight face and stay silent instead
- Eating unhealthy foods that are high in sugar or saturated fat – just skip that meal instead
- Gossiping and saying harmful things about people – just keep quiet instead
- Spending too much time in comfort-bingeing activity – stop watching Netflix and go for a walk instead
- Hanging out with negative losers who bring you down and live in a victim mentality – stay home alone and read a good book instead
Think of it like a points-system – every action you take that has integrity earns you confidence, while every action you take that disrespects your values loses you points. Building confidence is simply about getting more positive points on the board and trying not to lose them.
Just imagine if you were able to do something small but significant that you were proud of every single day of your life. Imagine the compound interest on that investment.
This is totally possible and completely under your control. Sure, sometimes it’s hard or even confusing to figure out the right thing to do, but at the very least you can stop doing things that you know are wrong and disrespectful to yourself.
I have used this basic template to massively increase the self-confidence of thousands of people, myself included, and it simply works for everyone because it caters to each person’s individual preferences, beliefs and values. I don’t tell people how they should live; I help them figure it out for themselves.
Get in touch if you’d like support on building this system for yourself too: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan’s Top Resources
Dan has 3 bestselling non-fiction books available in both written and audio form:
- The Naked Truth, his latest release, shows you how radical honesty builds self-confidence and relationships
- Nothing to Lose explores how to build confidence from the inside by correcting the programming in your brain
- The Legendary Life is a very practical, action-focused guide on how to plan and execute a life plan that brings you your ideal lifestyle
Dan continues to put out high quality online self-paced courses through the Udemy platform
- Nice Guy Recovery: how to transform from a people pleaser into a confident beast.
- Shamelessness: how to relieve yourself of the “not good enough” story
- Powerful Honesty: takes you through step-by-step development of your communication skills to be more charismatic and powerful in your honesty
- The 3X Confidence and Authenticity Masterclass program: use the famous 3X Model to build confidence in all areas of life
- Financial Freedom for Beginners: includes everything from budgeting, to getting a raise, to investing in the stock market, to starting a side-business and more
- Overcoming Your Fear of Rejection… Permanently!: covers the psychology of “rejection” and what actions to take to make yourself immune to the fear of it