Every person in the history of our world has struggled with confidence. They struggle with thinking their work isn’t good enough and often need the affirmations of those around them to help calm the tumultuous thoughts that plagued them. Today I want to focus on getting to the heart of the problem: Why your confidence is lacking and how you might fix it. Being confident is a lifelong struggle that we all grapple with, everyone handles it differently. The important thing is to figure out what exactly you have a hard time with so that you can handle the root of the problem.
So what is the magical cure? I used to think it was to just act confident, even when you aren’t. My husband and I had a rule that was simply, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.” This isn’t wrong, nor was it right, but it has lead to us doing a lot of odd or silly things that made us question our judgment. You see, my husband has this natural leadership element about him. He isn’t afraid to be the first person to try something new, which means that his philosophy of “Do something, even if it’s wrong” really works for him. It isn’t so great for people like me, though it has helped me get out of my shell.
The philosophy that I ended up using to help with my confidence was a little more realistic to myself. I just remind myself that nobody is perfect and that everyone makes and has made mistakes. Nobody is above foolishness. Some of us like to hold ourselves to a much higher standard, trying to make ourselves appear infallible, but in the end this just makes our follies stand out more.
I believe that the true key to building confidence within a writer, or within anyone, is to develop a sense of humility. Being able to laugh at yourself, at your own work, and not take yourself too seriously will make your confidence nearly unshakable. I say nearly because nobody has truly invincible confidence, we all still get shaken from time to time, no matter who we are. That, I think, just helps to make me all that much more confident if I’m honest.
The Voice In Your Head
When it comes to any form of art, we often find ourselves doubting whether our work is going to be good enough for our audience. We’ve all had those voices of doubt in our heads:
“They won’t like it.”
“This is dumb.”
“Why should they care?”
“They’ve seen this before.”
I want to help you silence those little voices in your head. Whether that voice is your own, your parents, friends, or just someone you admire, you need to understand that yours is the only opinion that truly matters. You need to learn to be confident in yourself and your own skills before you can expect to find success out in the world.
When you write with the intent to please or appease others over satisfying yourself, you will fail. If the message that you’re putting forward isn’t the message you truly believe in, your work will suffer for it. This isn’t meant to be negative, and I’m not trying to put anyone down. In fact, just the opposite.
On Writing For Others
I sometimes get asked, “What’s so bad about writing for others?” The answer is simple: When you start to write for anyone but yourself, you step outside of your own realm of consciousness. You might have an idea of what someone else wants and what they like, but you can’t know for absolute fact. It’s because you can’t know for absolute fact that doubt can slither in. Write for you and know that those who love your work, love your work, not whatever or whomever you’re writing for.
Also allow me to state, for clarity’s sake, that I am talking about your own creative works. This doesn’t apply so much to technical, business, and copywriting.
Keep that in mind as well, that people love your writing for a reason. You give them what nobody else can, you give them what they can’t otherwise get.
Building Your Confidence
There are dozens of self-help books out there about confidence and how to find it. I don’t want to discourage you from seeking some of those texts out if you feel that you need them, however I want to share (for free) my own method of building my confidence whenever I feel doubt about my own work. This may work for you, or may give you ideas on what to try for finding and building your own confidence with your craft.
Whenever I find myself struggling with my confidence, my skills, my own opinions, my first instinct is to learn more about the subject in question. Whether it’s writing, editing, marketing, or any of my hobbies, I seek out knowledgeable sources in that field and I try to learn about where I might be failing. When I doubted myself on the developmental structure of my stories, I read Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee, then went and dissected the story structure of some of my favorite books for deeper understanding. When I struggle with editing, I turn to the Style Guide, or other more learned Editors in my field. Once I can focus in on where I felt doubtful, I can study it, dissect it, then return with fresh eyes and renewed confidence.
Additionally remember what I talked about at the beginning of this article. Nobody is perfect, including you. When you start to doubt yourself, remind yourself that your heroes messed up too. Your favorite writer probably faced more than a few rejection letters, your favorite book had to go through several drafts and iterations before it ever got into your hands. Remember that there is only one major difference between you and your idol: They didn’t let their lack of confidence stop them. Once you get past your lack of confidence, anything is possible.
Success shouldn’t be about how much money you made, or how many people read your book, or how much praise and acclaim you get. Success should be measured solely in the fact that you did something you set out to do. You had an idea, you wrote it down, you worked on it for hours and hours until you were satisfied enough with it, you went to an agent or publisher. Regardless of whether or not your book ever hits store shelves, know that you’ve already done something that so many others haven’t done. Rejection isn’t failure. Harry Potter was rejected by almost a dozen publishers before it was picked up. Rejection isn’t failure. You succeeded the moment you finished your first draft. The moment you decided to finish your novel.
If you take away only one thing from this blog post, let it be that: Rejection isn’t failure.
Changing Those Voices
Once you accept that you want to be more confident, then you need to start working to change those voices in your head. The only person you have to please is yourself, and you can learn how and where to improve. Other voices? They don’t matter. Write for yourself, create for yourself, and most importantly: be yourself!
There are dozens of little tricks that have been developed by coaches and psychiatrists to help us fight against the negative voices in our head. They developed these methods because everyone struggles with negative self-image, even them. Perhaps especially them!
Try writing yourself a letter or a note. Talk about all of the good things you’ve done and accomplished in your life, even if it’s ridiculously small. Try writing it when you’re feeling good about yourself, write it down by hand if you can, and keep it somewhere safe. When you’re feeling low, pull that letter out and use it to remind yourself of the good things you’ve accomplished. If you accomplish something new, add that to your letter.
Exercise has both physical and emotional health benefits. If you’re feeling low-energy, uninspired, or just bad, try running yourself through ten minutes of exercise. Go for a jog, do some push-ups, some jumping-jacks, you’ll be surprised how you feel once you’re done. Your body releases endorphins that will help you feel better and more energized.
Use meditation to try and clear your mind of negative thoughts for just a little while. Use YouTube to find a video on positivity, or a pep talk. Try listening to ambient sounds. Do something to get you out of your own thoughts and focus on something else for a few minutes. Then come back to it with a new mindset, and you might find that those negative voices aren’t so loud anymore.
Write With Confidence
I know that this sounds difficult to those who struggle with confidence. I don’t have any magic words to make you suddenly more confident, and my only suggestion is to keep working at your craft. If you don’t feel good enough to show your work to the public yet, that’s fine! Remember the beginning of this post, try and figure out where exactly you’re struggling with and work on that. When you start to see improvement in the areas you feel weakest in, you’ll feel your confidence start to grow stronger.
The only person that you need to impress is yourself!