Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie “The Eagle” is a British skier whom no one believed in before he made it to the Olympics.
Eddie was slightly overweight, extremely far sighted (he wore thick glasses) and trained in second hand equipment. At times he even stayed in a Finnish mental hospital because he couldn’t afford genuine accommodation. Many people came to doubt his ability as a skier. If he didn’t have confidence in himself, he could never have endured all this, and never would have made it to the Olympics; which he did, and became internationally loved as a figurehead and emblem of the Olympic spirit.
When I think about all the great people like Eddie, who achieved greatness through their confidence, I wonder where it came from. I don’t think confidence came naturally to them. It didn’t come naturally to me.
If confidence doesn’t come naturally, where is it from?
When I was a small child, before attending school I remember my friends and I seemed almost limitless in confidence. We lived fearlessly. Though all our lives were open to us, we never looked forward and worried. We had not collected any regrets. I remember nobody seemed more confident than anyone else, nobody carried themselves as superior.
All this changed at school. In school, competition is entrenched. It didn’t matter what we did or studied, whether we studied English, Art, P.E, some naturally stuck out, scored better and were rewarded for it. Our conduct at school even separated us. This in turn seemed to affect self confidence.
I was never a straight-a student. My grades were good but not great. I was never one of the kids rewarded for some high grade or performance, and never had their levels of self esteem.
Confidence for me came later.
In high school, I discovered my passion for technology. I loved writing code (I still do) and each successful program I wrote, each line of effective code was rewarding to me in a way I never felt before. Each time something didn’t work, or when I came across a difficult bug to overcome, I was presented with an exciting challenge. I received no praise in school for it, no accolades, but that didn’t matter. I was doing what I loved, and every time after solving a difficult coding problem, my confidence grew.
Here I discovered something that changed my entire outlook on confidence and ability. Self confidence can never be found outside. It is something that only comes from you. No matter how much you look, or where you look, no matter how much praise you do or don’t get, you will never find confidence unless it comes from within.
Confidence came from working though difficulties, making myself work on challenging pieces. It didn’t seem to matter if I succeeded or failed (but I’ve long known that even if you fail a hundred times, you will succeed if you are able to keep trying). I only needed to keep pushing myself and confidence grew as a result.
Confidence comes when challenges are overcome
When struggles are overcome, it feels good, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction. From this satisfaction comes confidence.
Perhaps you have an unhealthy lifestyle and losing weight, doing exercises and going on diets are the difficult things for you. Perhaps, you are shy. Delivering a talk in front of a large audience will then be something difficult to you. Or perhaps you are a perfectionist, then embracing mistakes will be the most difficult thing for you.
No matter what it might be, you probably felt proud, strong, and sure in your abilities once you overcame that obstacle. That is the true feeling of confidence earned through effort and experience.
Confidence grows from doubt and criticism
There will be setbacks and disappointments. There will be failures because many breakthroughs require trial and error. There will be criticisms because everyone is far from perfect at the very beginning.
When I first started Lifehack, it took a long time to gain readers. It took me a while to get 100 visitors. This was difficult for me because I had great ambitions for this site, and for a time it seemed doomed to fail. I received plenty of criticism. Some thought that the world didn’t need another advice site, others thought there was something wrong with the idea itself. It was hard for me not to listen to them and agree.
But in the end, I believed in my dream and persisted. I tweaked the layout, reconsidered how the articles would be structured and written. Made the site more user friendly. The team grew with the hiring of some extremely dynamic and talented people. With each determined effort, the site grew in popularity, and a few years later we have now influenced millions.
Pushing out of my comfort zone and getting past the most difficult challenges were the greatest factors in growing my confidence.
Pushing yourself through is tough, I’m not denying that. They wouldn’t be called “challenges” if it were otherwise. But there is a quote by Churchill that I think about whenever I am faced with new ones, a quote that I feel related to everything I’ve written about above:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going”
Some people avoid challenges. Perhaps they may have failed at something one too many times, perhaps they’ve been told that they lack something needed to succeed. Instead they rely on stability, coasting through life. This can be fine for them, but ultimately its restrictive. They will never grow in confidence, and their fear of failure will become so powerful that will give up before seeing success.
The key to self confidence is to face every challenge head on. With every challenge you face and overcome, your confidence will grow to face the next. Welcome the challenges that come, don’t avoid them. They are all opportunities in disguise to feed your growth.