There was once a young boy in London. One day, the boy had to get up on stage in front of his class and share one of his family’s cultural traditions. He carefully prepared his presentation and even dressed up in a special outfit his mom had prepared for him.
As he walked onto the stage, however, things didn’t go like he thought they would. Immediately, his classmates began to laugh. He was mortified, but he kept stumbling through the song he had learned.
Finally, the laughter got so bad, his teacher had to come and gently lead him offstage. He was so embarrassed, he thought he might never recover. That young boy was Jay Shetty.
There are moments in life that can mold your confidence in good or bad ways. This was one such moment for Jay Shetty. At the time he was humiliated, and his confidence took a hit. Fortunately, his parents enrolled him in an after-school drama and public speaking program, where he was able to regain his confidence.
The Truth About Confidence
“If we want to become more confident, we have to be honest with ourselves that the reason we’re not already is because we’re put off by the effort it will take to become truly good at whatever it is we want to do,” Jay Shetty explains. We’d all like to be able to jump an enormous gap from where we are to where we want to be, but it’s not that simple. It takes time.
“If I tried to go from the crying kid on the stage to a podcast host and public speaker, it would have been a huge leap,” Jay Shetty continues. “But because I was in that seven-year program, because I then created a club at my college where I was a weekly presenter, and because I then taught classes to my fellow monks, my ability gap got smaller and smaller.”
In this article, Jay Shetty dispels the myths surrounding confidence and unpacks seven different things that you can start doing today to gain more confidence, feel stronger and be more empowered.
Use Jay Shetty’s seven strategies to recover quickly when your confidence takes a hit or find yourself wishing you could be like someone else or have what someone else has.
8 Myths About Confidence and Failure
Myth #1: Success Happens Immediately
The first myth that surrounds building confidence is the idea that a person can just do or try something and success will happen. We have all heard the adage, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try again.”
While that may sound easy, that is not always the case. If you have ever experienced a situation similar to what young Jay Shetty went through, you know it is not that simple.
Myth #2: Change Your Mind, Change Your Confidence
Myth number two is the idea that our confidence lies in our mindset and is based entirely on our belief in ourselves. If we don’t have confidence, we just need to change our minds, right? Not so, says Jay Shetty. Lack of confidence in situations like public speaking or asking someone on a date can actually stem from lack of practice or experience.
“Confidence is based on our beliefs about ourselves, along with the behavior we undertake,” Jay Shetty explains. “We need to look at both the psychology of self-confidence and also the actual skills that enable and support us to be confident.”
Championship-winning college cheerleading coach Monica Aldama tells her team, “Keep going until you get it right, and then keep going until you can’t get it wrong.” Jay Shetty agrees. If you want to get better at something, practice. The same goes for growing confidence, but not just any practice will do. Your practice needs to be precise. Focus on what you need to work on, the skills you need the most, and where your weak spots are, then zero in on those things.
Myth #3: Sweaty Palms and Nervousness Always Indicate Lack of Confidence
The third myth Jay Shetty shares about confidence is that when you feel that flutter in your chest and your palms get sweaty, it’s caused by anxiety or fear and your lack of confidence. The truth is, sometimes it’s just excitement. Don’t be too quick to label it as fear or anxiety. The body signals are similar to excitement.
“Those feelings are just you getting your energy up to perform, to give the presentation, to introduce yourself,” Jay Shetty shares. “Research shows that if we tell ourselves in those moments that we’re anxious and nervous, it leads to worse performance than if we tell ourselves that we’re just excited.”
There is nothing wrong with being nervous. It signals that you care about the outcome. When you don’t feel some sort of nervous emotion, you may slack off and become complacent. Next time you feel yourself with butterflies or sweaty palms, tell yourself that you are excited to boost your confidence.
Myth #4: Your Failures Define You
Myth four about confidence is the idea that failure defines who you are. Fear of failure or rejection is something a lot of people worry about, says Jay Shetty. We’re afraid of what failure tells us about ourselves. We fear that failure confirms we can’t do it, and we fear rejection from others because we think it means we’re losers. We fear that not only will we fail, but that we ARE failures.
In truth, failure does not define who we are, says Jay Shetty. If you use a failure to move forward in life, that can be a defining moment. When we focus on loss, it’s because we fear that failure is fatalistic and final. The thinking that failures will finish us needs to stop because it is simply not true.
As a lifestyle coach, Jay Shetty often sees that fear of trying and failing is the biggest obstacle that holds people back. In his coaching, he leads others through the “Then what happens?” exercise. You can try this exercise for yourself.
“Imagine you’ve wanted to ask someone out, but you’re afraid you’ll be rejected,” Jay Shetty explains. “Ask yourself what happens If you’re rejected? You might feel embarrassed. Then ask what happens if I feel embarrassed? Maybe you say ‘I’d go home and eat a pint of ice cream.’ Then I’ll ask what happens if you go home and eat a pint of ice cream? Maybe you’d feel guilty. None of those feel great, I’ll grant you that. But did you notice what didn’t happen? The world didn’t fall apart.”
We have all failed at something in life and have overcome the disappointment and embarrassment of those failures. We have all had successes, but our brains are trained to focus on the failures because of negative bias.
A concrete practice to bolster your confidence that Jay Shetty recommends is looking for evidence of your past successes and writing them down. Every time you failed or were rejected, and your world didn’t end, is a success.
Myth #5: Failure Signals the End
The fifth myth is that failure signals the end. In reality, failure is far less dramatic. Most of the time, you are the only one to know that you’ve gone through a failure. And just imagine if the people you admire had stopped after one failure. Jay Shetty wouldn’t be serving others in the same way today if he’d let his failures stop him.
Kobe Bryant said that failure doesn’t exist because the story continues. When you don’t allow failure to be the end, the story always continues. Failure is only final when you allow it to make you quit. When you try to make meaningful progress, you are not at the end. You are in the middle.
“There’s a quote that’s attributed to minister and popular speaker, Robert H. Schuller that says, ‘What would you do if you knew you could not fail?’ I want to reframe that quote,” Jay Shetty shares. “I like to think of it as what would you do if you had no fear of failure? There’s a difference.”
Myth #6: If It’s Too Difficult, It’s Not For You
That leads to myth number six, the idea that if you have to work hard for something, it is not for you.
“Here’s something you may have heard me say before, and I’m going to repeat it now because it’s so important,” Jay Shetty explains. “Don’t fall into the trap of mistaking weaknesses for inexperience. That’s where some of our confidence disappears.”
If you don’t feel confident, figure out your weaknesses and practice improving on them. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Myth #7: Being Confident Means Never Being Afraid
Being confident is not about having unending courage. Confidence is about bold moments, like the decision to take action towards that course you want to sign up for, the conversation you need to have with your boss, or approaching a stranger you find attractive. Those moments require absolute confidence. No one can make you believe in yourself. That has to come from belief in yourself.
“Belief may be the single most powerful tool for building confidence,” Jay Shetty shares. “Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, the originator of the idea of “mindset,” has shown that some of the most popular theories in psychology are only true if we believe them to be.”1
If you believe you can become more confident, you’ve already taken the first and most significant psychological step to achieving it.
Myth #8: You Have to BE Confident to Act with Confidence
Myth number eight is that you have to be confident to act with confidence. You may have heard the expression “fake it until you make it.”
“According to research, acting confident not only makes others see you as confident, more importantly, it actually makes you more confident.” Shetty explains. “Being confident isn’t pretending. It’s practicing what a confident person does. For example, instead of waiting around for someone to talk to you, you may introduce yourself. That’s not fake. It’s not inauthentic. It’s stepping forward into being confident.”
How to Increase Your Confidence
Want to improve your confidence? Try following these tips. First, use what has become popularly known as “power postures” to boost your confidence.
“Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your hands on your hips in the superhero pose,” instructs Jay Shetty. “Do in front of the mirror, or even stretch your arms out in a V. Or make fists and thrust them in the air like you’re Muhammad Ali and you’ve just won a match. The key is that whatever the pose, your spine is extended, and your posture and the front of your body are open.”
Expressing gratitude is another tool you can use. When we feel gratitude, we can’t feel anxiety, fear, or apprehension. Gratitude also connects you with the power of humility; it calms your nerves, and lowers the stakes.
“Focusing on thankfulness quiets the ego,” Shetty expresses. “Stop and breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think of something you’re truly grateful for at that moment. Don’t just think it, feel it in your body, believe it in your body, mean it in your mind, and feel it in your heart.”
Another strategy for building confidence is to look at what’s draining your confidence.
“Remove negative energy from your life, or at least minimizing the impact of negative people,” Shetty explains. “You may have past experiences that are keeping you from being confident. To address those, you want to learn how to characterize situations and experiences properly.”
Past experiences may have a negative impact on your current confidence due to the perceived failures. As you look back, re-characterize those experiences.
“I’m going to propose that the reason the situation didn’t go the way you wanted was because of one or more of four factors that fit the acronym FAST—wrong fit, wrong approach, wrong skill set, or wrong timing,” Jay Shett explains.
If you change the way you think about the situation, your confidence can change, too. For example, you may not have been the right fit in your experience when you didn’t get the job or when your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you. Maybe you didn’t match what the company or the other person was looking for.
If so, that’s not a failure on your part. It was just the wrong fit. Why attach your confidence in yourself and your abilities to a situation that couldn’t have worked? It’s not a failure. It’s recharacterizing what you need.
Jay’s last strategy for building confidence in conversation is to lead with curiosity. You don’t have to do and say all the right things about yourself to get someone to like you or want to work with you. Genuine connection starts with paying attention. It begins with focusing on the other person. You can do this simply by letting your curiosity guide you. You can start with a simple, “What brings you here?”
Research shows that when two strangers are introduced and one mostly asks questions and listens to the other’s answers, the person who did most of the talking reports high levels of liking the questioner and wanting to speak to them again. This approach takes the pressure off in a new meeting situation.
We will not succeed at everything we try, but if you follow these tips for confidence, you can build confidence in a healthy way. Failure is a normal part of life. It’s how we frame failure that really matters.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “7 Simple Ways to Build Confidence” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.