Self Confidence - Does Doing Beat Telling?

July 23, 2008

What goals are you hoping to achieve in the next 12 months? Do you want to start a business, go freelance, or climb Mount Everest? And what is holding you back? Is it lack of self confidence?

The sad thing is, many people don’t even take a step towards achieving their hopes and dreams, because they lack confidence in their abilities. And this lack of self confidence is due to their own thoughts about themselves or their abilities. Trouble is, none of us are born with these thoughts - they’re thoughts they’ve learned through the words and actions of others.

How many times do you need to be told you’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, or you’re not smart enough before you begin believing it?

But you can unlearn these beliefs and rebuild your self confidence - I did. You could do it by constantly telling yourself that you can do the things you want to achieve, until your subsconscious actually believes it. But an even faster way to train your mind is by trying to do things you don’t have the confidence to do. It worked for me.

And you can start with small things - you don’t need to begin with huge death defying acts. And once you manage to do one thing, it gives you the confidence to do another, then another and so on.

The more you do the easier it gets, because once you manage to do things you thought you weren’t capable of, a world of opportunities open up to you.

Are you confident? If not, what small step could you take today to help retrain your mind? Or have you already taken steps to improve your self confidence? What did you do to achieve that? And what message would you give to others who are lacking in self confidence?

Please share in the comments section.

Image Credit: Est Bleu2007

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25 Responses to “Self Confidence - Does Doing Beat Telling?”

  1. Akemi - Yes to Me on July 23rd, 2008 12:32 am

    Hi Cath,

    I’ll take both doing and telling :)
    Nothing succeeds like success. It opens up the flow of energy. And you can also use the power of words (affirmations).

    I joined Toastmasters to practice public speaking. So far I’ve got a few table topic awards — that kind of thing.

    Take care,

    Akemi - Yes to Me’s last blog post..Review: How Ordinary People Became Millionaires

  2. Vered on July 23rd, 2008 12:38 am

    I’m self-confident, except in one area where I used to suffer from lack of self-confidence: sports.

    It’s exactly like you said: my parents really emphasized academics, to the point of actively discouraging me from pursuing sports.

    In recent years, however, I learned to ski, ride a bike (yes, I never learned to ride a bike as a child) and ice-skate. I am also exercising regularly and lifting weights. So I guess I went the “doing” route… and it worked beautifully.

    Vered’s last blog post..I Need Your Support Today

  3. Marelisa on July 23rd, 2008 12:40 am

    Cath: I think it’s really interesting how the voice in your head is telling you that you can’t do something, and yet you go ahead and do it anyway. I guess you just realize that behind that negative voice–which is basically your ego–there’s another voice that is telling you that you can do anything you set your heart to. Unfortunately the ego is a lot louder, so I guess what we really need to work on is quieting down the ego. Thanks for the link love!

    Marelisa’s last blog post..Six Steps to Creating the Life You Really Want

  4. Jennifer Mannion on July 23rd, 2008 12:46 am

    Hi Cath,
    Yes, self-confidence and I believe self-love are keys to success. It can be celebrating the small things that you love about yourself as well…. Writing a list of things that you CAN do even if it is as small as “make toast”…. if you give it a think for a bit you can be amazed at JUST how much you really can do…. Referring to that list or looking at it for clues you can take to move onto bigger steps is a good way to boost your self confidence. Also gotta watch that negative self-talk and try to become conscious of it and hear it when it comes so you can limit that or examine it to see where it is coming from. Thanks for another great post — stumbled and Dugg!

    Yea Akemi - Congrats on those awards. I want to join Toastmasters — I have heard wonderful things about it! It’s only offered Monday nights in my community so I am hoping in the fall I might start up…. Gratefully, Jenny

    Jennifer Mannion’s last blog post..Weeding My Thoughts to Plant New Seeds

  5. cathlawson on July 23rd, 2008 2:02 am

    Hi Akemi - Doing and telling together works really well doesn’t it. That is brilliant that you joined Toastmasters - good for you. I would also like to try public speaking - it is meant to be a real confidence booster. I know a few people in this community mentioned it was something they found difficult.

    Hi Vered - That is brilliant that you increased your confidence in sports. I’m guessing it got much easier once you’d tried the first one or two. Good for you.

    Hi Mare - You’re welcome. Sorry - it wasn’t as easy as I made it sounds. At first I used to have to write down the thing I was going to do that day. I would also write how worried I felt about doing it, then afterwards, I would write down how great I felt when it was done. I only did that initially, until I got more confident though.

    Hi Jenny, That is a brilliant idea. And as you say - there’s so many things we can do, so referring to that list would be a huge confidence booster.

    Thank you very much for stumbling and digging my posts. I’m banned from stumbleupon but I’m trying to learn to use Digg.

  6. Al at 7P on July 23rd, 2008 2:41 am

    Hi Cath - that’s awesome how you were able to rebuild self confidence. Developing confidence in something can be hard by itself, but it can be compounded if one was fed negative beliefs and dealing with low esteem from the beginning.

    The first thing I would recommend is to completely disassociate from the source of the negative feedback. Sometimes this means changing your environment or your entire world altogether. Bold goals require bold action, and sometimes things get worse before they get better. Progress sometimes requires that.

    By the way - thank you for linking to an article of mine. A pleasant surprise, indeed!

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..The Best Investment Strategy During a Recession

  7. cathlawson on July 23rd, 2008 2:58 am

    Hi Al - You’re welcome. I’m enjoying reading through your articles. And the one I linked to was extremely powerful.

    Disassociating yourself from the source of the negative feedback is excellent advice. And sometimes it can be difficult but as you said, often it is necessary if you want to make progress.

  8. Mike Goad on July 23rd, 2008 3:27 am

    When I became an instructor many years ago, I set out to be the best that I could be at it. I wanted the job, not just because I would get off shift work, but because it was something that I was interested in doing. Other instructors just did it because it was a job they were able to get. I did it because it was the career I chose and to be successful in getting up in front of the same group of people for over 20 years takes self-confidence… and credibility.

    I chose to make it a career… to make it mine… not just a job.

    A year after I retired, I was asked back to augment the staff as a contractor.

    Mike Goad’s last blog post..Now we are a credit risk? I guess!?

  9. Davina on July 23rd, 2008 5:49 am

    I’m a shy little mouse, so self-confidence has always been a struggle for me. I have found a good trick though that I’m starting to work on. I forget about me and how awkward I feel and become curious in the other person. A good way to get the flow going. It’s amazing just how much we assume about other people — curiosity can open so many doors.

    Davina’s last blog post..Like a Bird

  10. Barbara Swafford on July 23rd, 2008 6:02 am

    Hi Catherine,

    Congrats to you for building up your self confidence. That’s not an easy task. Like Al wrote, often we have to distance ourselves from those who tear us down, or speak negatively.

    I do believe self confidence can be learned. It will take hard work and a desire to be more confident. Often that means throwing ourselves into situations that make us uncomfortable, but out of those experiences, a more confident person will emerge.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Interview With Lorelle VanFossen - Part 2 - Errors Bloggers Make

  11. Scott McIntyre on July 23rd, 2008 7:16 am

    I think having a good level of self confidence is a key ingredient in living a healthy and happy life, Cath.

    It’s like the central point of a wheel.

    When we have confidence in ourselves, we are more likely to be able to do things assured of our own ability to achieve them. We are also more able to interact with others in effective ways that contribute to our wellbeing.

    Gaining a good level of self confidence, however, can be tough. We’re fighting against years of direct and indirect negative messages from both others and ourselves.

    Personally, I achieved a level of self confidence with which I’m happy when I lost 98 lbs in weight a few years ago.

    This one change unlocked many areas of my life- not least my belief that, if I could do that, I could achieve similar things.

    Little steps towards confidence are as vital as grand ones.

    Whatever helps an individual to walk a little taller and to talk a little bolder, is fantastic no matter what!

  12. Matt @ Face Your Fork on July 23rd, 2008 8:25 am

    Well… if I had to be honest and willingly play the Devil’s advocate here, I *would* say that some people are not smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough for a chosen path they wish to take. ;)
    Matt @ Face Your Fork’s last blog post..4 Reasons Positive Affirmations are Delusional

  13. Monika Mundell on July 23rd, 2008 8:36 am

    Hi Cath,

    Like Akemi I have done some public speaking when I was in MLM. I was actually involved to go on stage every single months for about 12 months or a little longer. This was mainly to do with training and yes, it has helped me tremendously with my self confidence. The biggest crowd I spoke to was 5,000. :-)

    I am self confident and feel that the biggest contributor to this was finding my passion. When you feel truly excited about what you do, speaking about it becomes a breeze, even if it is in front of many people. Unfortunately there aren’t cool groups like Toastmasters in my neck of the woods. Otherwise I might just keep doing those “stage shows”, LOL, you could say I’m a bit of an extrovert when it comes to public speaking. :-)
    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Keep Productive With Writing Prep Rituals

  14. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach on July 23rd, 2008 10:29 am

    The best thing you can do to increase your self-confidence is to repeat to yourself, I can DO this!

    This attitude lead me successfully thru a leg surgery, losing 50 odd pounds and other challenges that has made my life the definition of character-building. :)

    I liken it to being dropped in the middle of the ocean with the sharks circling and no coast guard in sight. Do you tread water and whine to yourself, gee, it’s hopeless, my, what cute fangs those sharks have? Or do you say, to hell with the world, I am saving myself NOW!

    Self-confidence rocks.

    Enjoy, Barbara

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach’s last blog post..81+ Enchanting Power StumbleUpon Destinations Waiting For Your Eyes Only

  15. cathlawson on July 23rd, 2008 12:21 pm

    Hi Mike - doing that must have taken a lot of self confidence. And I’m guessing that it’s also one of those types of career where you really can’t afford to have a bad day, as you have 20 pairs of eyes on you the whole time.

    Hi Davina - Good for you. That is very true - particularly if you don’t feel cofident in conversations. And being curious about the other person helps build their confidence too, as it shows you’re interested.

    Hi Barbara - Thank you. I wasn’t very self confident when I was younger - but the doing part really helped. Then when I first had PTSD it totally wiped any confidence I had and I followed the same process again starting with really small things.

    What you say about working on it is so true. Throwing ourselves into uncomfortable situations is what keeps us winding up in a rut.

    Hi Rita - I’m really sorry if you thought I was being negative asking about question 31. I was actually joking - I didn’t expect you to give me the answer at all but I’m sorry if it didn’t come across that way.

    I think questions are important - it shows you’ve read someone’s post properly, because not everyone in the blosphere does. And I wanted you to know that I’d really enjoyed reading what you’d written.

    Now, as for your response to that question, I don’t have a clue what “snowballing” is, aside from making snowballs in the snow and throwing them at others. But as the term appeared in a sexual survey, I’m guessing it has another meaning.

    Hi Scott - What a wonderful achievement and a great way to build your self confidence. And what you said about self confidence being a key ingredient to leading a happy and successful life is interesting.

    I hadn’t thought about it but I’m betting that it would be quite difficult to be generally happy if you were completely lacking in self confidence.

    Hi Matt - I’m wondering why it is that you think that? After all, don’t you believe that anyone can look pretty, with the right tools - eg make up etc? And any persistent person of average intelligence can perform better than someone with a high IQ who doesn’t try as hard?

    Are those beliefs ones you hold about yourself, or other people?

    Hi Monika - That is brilliant - 5000 people is a lot. It’s interesting - but most people I’ve met who do public speaking come across as very confident people.

    What you say about finding your passion is interesting. I guess if you’re truly passionate and focused on something, you would leave little room for any self doubt in you mind.

    Hi Barbara - your weight loss and leg surgery treatments must have gone a long way towards boosting your self confidence. And it’s great that you’ve brought out an ebook to help others who want to lose weight too.

    Continuously telling yourself you can do something is really important isn’t it. I love your description of the sharks with the cute fangs by the way.

  16. Brad Shorr on July 23rd, 2008 12:36 pm

    Hi Cath, Your one step at a time approach makes lots of sense to me. It’s hard to reinvent yourself overnight, impossible maybe. Sports is another good way to build self confidence. When I was younger, I didn’t have much, but participated in a variety of individual and team sports. It’s never too late to pick up golf or tennis, and it gives you a chance to explore your competitive side.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..What’s Your Ideal Writing Weekend?

  17. cathlawson on July 23rd, 2008 12:40 pm

    Hi Brad - Yes, small steps are so much easier, otherwise you’d probably become overwhelmed.

    It’s great that sports helped you build your self confidence. Come to think of it - most active sport types I know seem very self confident, so there must be a connection.

  18. Ricardo Bueno on July 23rd, 2008 10:54 pm

    You made an excellent point in saying that smaller, attainable goals are confidence inspiring. If we take on the big ones all at once, we’re back to that self-pity stage if we fail (only it’s worse).

    This reminds me of a book called: “The Four Agreements”
    Have you ever read it? I’m cooking up a post for it sometime later this week. The intro is pretty good at pointing out why we tend to have lower self-confidence…it’s because we’re constantly judging ourselves.

    Ricardo Bueno’s last blog post..Damn…it’s only Tuesday!

  19. cathlawson on July 24th, 2008 12:15 am

    Hi Ricardo - Thanks. Baby steps are much better aren’t they. And the more you push yourself the bigger those steps become.

    I didn’t read that book yet but I’m really looking forward to hearing about it in your post. That pill you linked to today was absolutely hilarious - an instant stress reliever.

  20. Ricardo Bueno on July 24th, 2008 12:49 am

    A good laugh almost always makes a stressful moment go away :-p Glad you enjoyed…

    Ricardo Bueno’s last blog post..[Bloggy Question]: Do you respond to your comments?

  21. Lindsay on July 25th, 2008 8:31 am

    Nice post.

    I have confidence in spades (in some areas of my life anyway!). One of my personal obstacles, which I’m working on now, is that I’ve reached my original goals (I make a comfortable living from my blogs, and I am free from bosses and the usual workplace maladies), so it’s hard to motivate myself to push further. I’m not terribly ambitious and don’t really need millions, but I feel I should be working toward new goals all the time.

    I’ve decided to take a couple of courses and go to a convention or two to help get motivated again. That might be something that could help your readers too.

    Hearing about others’ success can be a great motivator, especially when you see that someone who is even geekier and nerdier than you has done what you thought was impossible!

  22. cathlawson on July 26th, 2008 5:01 am

    Hi RB - It certainly made me feel better.

    Hi Lindsay - Thank you. I see what you mean - so you’ve kind of reached a comfort zone. Courses are brilliant motivators and hearing of other people’s successes really does spur you on doesn’t it? I love reading biographies and interviews.

  23. Alex Fayle on July 26th, 2008 6:59 am


    Confidence is a catch-22 situation. You get it from doing and you lose it by not doing, but when you’re in a not-doing cycle, how do you break the I-can’t-do-it mindset and get into the of-course-I-can groove?

    Your suggestion of starting small and finding quick victories really answers that question!


    Alex Fayle’s last blog post..Vacation Notice

  24. cathlawson on July 26th, 2008 7:42 am

    Hi Alex - That’s a really good point. I guess if you go through a not doing phase you do start to lose it again - unless you take mini steps.

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