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How to Build Confidence From Scratch

Michael Edwards, better known as Eddie “The Eagle” is a British skier whom no one believed in him before he made it to the world champion.

Eddie was slightly overweight, extremely near sighted (he wore thick glasses) trained in second hand equipment. At times he even stayed in a disused finish mental hospital as he couldn’t afford genuine accommodation. Many people came to doubt his ability as a skier. He would have suffered from low self confidence and never had endured all this, and never made it to the Olympics; but he 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 their confidence came from. I don’t think confidence came natural 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. Nobody seemed more confident than anyone else.

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, I never had their confidence.

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 had never felt before. Each time something didn’t work, or 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 has changed my entire outlook on confidence and ability. Self confidence 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 difficult things 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 diet 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 the difficult thing might be, you’d feel proud, strong, and confident in your abilities once you overcame that obstacle. That confidence you felt then is a confidence you deserve to feel at all times, you earned it then and earn it still.

Confidence grows along with more doubts and more criticisms.

There will be setbacks for sure because after all, these are some really difficult things. There will  be disappointments because it’s something really hard to do. There will be failures because difficult things require many trials and errors before succeeding. There will be criticisms because no one can be able to complete something difficult perfectly at the very beginning.

When I just started Lifehack, it took a long time to gain readers. It took me a while to get 100 visitors. This was difficult for me, I had great ambitions for this site, and for a time it seemed doomed to fail. I received 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, my confidence was such that I 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. Then the site grew in popularity, and as of now we have influenced millions.

I realized that by pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and getting over the difficult things would grow my confidence.

It can, of course, be tough to push yourself through challenges. I’m not denying that, they wouldn’t be challenges if it were otherwise. But there is a quote by Churchill that I think about whenever I am faced with a challenge, a quote that I feel relates to everything I’ve written about above:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

Confidence will grow further, the more challenges you face and overcome.

You will stay confident, only so long that you don’t avoid challenges. 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 they will never succeed.

Featured photo credit: Eddie the Eagle via

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