Confidence an essential ingredient of happiness, crucial to our success and the one obstacle that stands between us and the person we wish to become. Whichever direction we wish to take in our lives, our achievements often depend upon how confident we are in our own abilities.

Whether it’s quitting our 9-5 to start a business, ending a toxic relationship or speaking up in a boardroom meeting, if we aren’t self-assured, we won’t do it.

And so, it follows, that we should strive to become as confident as possible. But how?

On Stories

In any given situation, your mind conjures up stories about what is or might be happening. Perhaps it’s telling us that the laughter coming from behind is at our messy hair or uncharacteristic outfit, or that our boss doesn’t think we’re good enough for the job.

Whatever the scenario, it’s crucial that we learn how to get out of our own head by quitting telling ourselves stories.

The first step is to start noticing when these internal narratives start running wild. And when you notice, just detach yourself. Remind yourself that these stories aren’t factual and that your thoughts don’t define what is real or who you are.

A Personal Anecdote About Confidence

Until I reached my late teens, I had a deep phobia of public speaking. Every time an opportunity arose in which I’d have to talk to more than 2-3 people, I’d crumble and avoid it at all costs.

This fear lasted for many years until I’d simply had enough. I’d always reasoned that someday I’d be confident ‘enough’ to face up and confront my aversion to public discussion, but that day never came.

That’s when I learned a vital lesson about confidence. No matter how much you hope, pray and wait patiently, you’ll never feel confident enough to do the things that scare you. You gain confidence after you face that which you’re afraid of; after you put yourself in a position in which you might be rejected, humiliated, lonely or fail — but never before.

Each and every time you face up to your fear, you become a little more confident and have a little extra courage to do it again in the future. Over time, you start to realize that, actually, there’s nothing to be afraid of. You can survive a little embarrassment, and the earth will continue to spin.

Embrace the Three Second Rule

From my experiences, I’ve found that doing scary things usually comes down to something I like to call the three-second rule. As soon as you think about doing something that frightens you, your mind starts coming up with reasons about why you should chicken out and save it for another day.

The thing is, if you leave it any longer than three seconds, you probably won’t do it. By that point, you’ll already have convinced yourself not to. The key, therefore, is to face your fears within that three-second window.

Low confidence is caused by fear - usually fear of rejection or anxieties about standing out from the crowd. It follows, therefore, that to increase our confidence and overcome these fears we must face them until they no longer scare us; until we become desensitized.

My advice would be to decide on which course of action best enables you to confront your specific fear, go out and put yourself in that situation and give yourself no more than three seconds to go ahead and embrace that phobia.

Perhaps it’s talking to strangers or speaking up in meetings or lying down on the floor in a crowded supermarket (been there, done that) - whatever it is, it’s a hurdle that you must get over. As Will Smith said,

“The best things in life are on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear, are all of the best things in life.”

So face up, and go and access those things.