Genuine confidence naturally happens when you start doing this…
First of all, thanks to everyone who has sent me feedback and suggestions after last week!
From a combination of #dataanalytics, suggestions, and conversations with different folks, I’ve seen & heard a significant amount of interest in having features and sharing the insightful and interesting conversations that I get to have with so many people. I’m currently trying to figure out how to start a podcast — from the logistics of setting up the microphones to the people I want to feature. But your words have been heard & I’m working! :)
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****Okay, back to your planned programming. ;) ****
So, one thing that I’ve noticed that a lot of people say about me is that I’m genuinely very confident, and how it’s something they wish they had. They are often curious as to how I’ve developed that confidence over time.
Now…I don’t even think I’m that confident. There’s still aspects of my confidence that I’m working on, such as overcoming my fear of public speaking and trying to be less of a people pleaser…but I like to think I’ve made a TON of progress. I’ve also been doing a lot of self-reflecting as well as observing people whom I think are *genuinely* confident, and I think I have a good sense now of how one can build one’s personal confidence.
I wish I could say that I’m joking, but 2 years ago, I couldn’t hold a conversation with a guy (s/o to Terence for all those pep talks he tried to give to me during sophomore year that never worked lol), didn’t feel that confident in myself or my appearance, was afraid to speak up for myself and what I wanted both personally & professionally, and the list goes on.
Today, I like to think I’m macro-confident and micro-insecure — which, to me, means that I’m confident about the core things that actually matter in the grand scheme of things, and insecure about the smaller, minor things that are normal and okay for anyone to be insecure about (a.k.a. like not doing my brows or foundation base before I leave my dorm LOL).
Tell me to approach and hold a conversation with anyone, whether it be a CMO of a tech company, that cute boy everyone’s admiring, or a random stranger in an Uber— I’ll probably be up for the challenge and do it. If I make a mistake, I’m comfortable with myself enough to laugh it off, and I also enjoy embarrassing myself, making people laugh, and meeting new people. Nowadays, I genuinely feel good about myself and who I fundamentally am. This has translated to a lot of tangible success in the dating world, job seeking world, and a lot more.
I’m not saying any of this to brag at all, but I just wanted to use my personal experiences to demonstrate that confidence isn’t something you’re just born with and that “some people just happen to have.” What started to help me develop my confidence was first having the mindset that confidence is like a muscle that you can train yourself to grow stronger over time. Everyone starts somewhere, and it doesn’t happen overnight. You also have to continue working at it over time.
This article won’t get into the nitty-gritty of how to be confident in specific scenarios (i.e. dating, jobs, etc), but I believe it’ll provide a high-level overview of what is essential for anyone trying to start building their confidence.
So let’s begin!
First of all, think about the reason why being confident matters to you.
I assume that if you want to be confident, you’re probably not as confident as you want to be right now. So, to get to that “goal” requires change. Change is uncomfortable, and it takes discipline, consistent habits, and hard work to make and keep those improvements. If you don’t have a strong enough “why” to what you do, you will end up like most people and give up after a brief period.
So… let’s try to avoid that mistake. Think about why you want to be confident. And please do not say that you want to be confident because “everyone should be confident” and that it’s just the “right thing to do.” I ask that you seek a deeper “why” and intention behind why you do what you do, and that reason will be different for each individual.
For me, my reasons for wanting to develop my confidence were that I knew deep down that there was a mental gap between the reality of who I was and how I felt about myself. In addition, I was tired of feeling lesser than what I knew I was worth, and it didn’t help that I was in a toxic relationship with someone who constantly made me feel bad about myself at that time. So I wanted to prove to myself and the world that I could and would be the person that I knew was always inside of me. Sounds kinda cheesy, but it’s true.
If that reasoning doesn’t work for you, what could also put things into perspective is to think about what you might miss out on if you weren’t genuinely confident.
This is a big one. I won’t judge you for your life choices, and I get it that some people are comfortable with the way that their lives are and where they’re at. But it’s important to understand what you might be missing out on if you choose to never step outside of your comfort zone and strive to become a more confident version of you. When you aren’t genuinely confident or grounded in yourself by the right things, it is almost like seeing the world with a different lens — one that is less vivid and more negative. You might be missing out on being able to talk to that cute person you really wanted to, not tried to make an upwards career move or pursued that job offer, or simply just miss out on an amazing opportunity to fulfill your highest potential — all because you didn’t believe in yourself enough to go after what it is that you wanted.
The people who are the most confident are not necessarily the ones who are fearless. They face the same emotions that we do. For me, I really do not think I’m fearless (I’m actually quite the opposite — I’m kind of anxiety-driven LOL), but I know that when I’m scared to do something — I literally have to stop myself and go through a mental checklist. I first think about why I am scared, and then I proceed to ask myself what the worst outcome would be if I were to do it. Then I think about what I could gain if I pursue it and if things happened the way I wanted it to. And lastly, I think about the amount of regret I would have if I chose to not go after or do anything.
Once I go through that thought process, I often realize that the worst case scenario is usually not even that bad & mainly related to me feeling shy, embarrassed, or rejected. After I do that mental assessment and I check off all the boxes, I just go for it — even if I’m scared out of my mind. After you do it a couple of times and realize it’s not that bad (& often goes better than expected), you start to train yourself to just do it. There will be a point where you realize that you just don’t want fear guiding your life anymore.
Now, the process of how you go about building confidence is actually quite simple. It’s not easy by any means, but I think it’s simple to understand. Because I’m a Product Manager (PM), I‘m going to try my best to explain this process by using an analogy of building your confidence as if you were developing & shipping products in tech as a PM.
Creating your Product (Confidence)
Iterating your Product (Confidence)
Innovating from your Product (Confidence)
Creating your Product (Confidence)
You don’t become confident by just sitting around and thinking about it mentally, just like you don’t create genuinely good and useful products by just thinking up random ideas in your bedroom by yourself.
Genuine confidence comes from having legitimate proven success — which means knowing that you’ve succeeded at something at least once, and therefore are going to do it again. Whether you feel unhealthy and want to feel more confident in your body…or you feel unqualified to pursue that college or internship opportunity that you’ve always wanted…you’re not going to suddenly become confident if it’s not grounded in some truth or reality.
So start changing your truth. Confidence is an end result and byproduct of the process and journey of other elements of your life elevating. Work on yourself and becoming the best version of you that you can be. You don’t have to strive for perfection or any extravagant goal but simply focus on just becoming a better you every single day. Learn new skills and involve yourself in social activities and hobbies, meet new people and engage in different environments, stimulate yourself mentally & physically, and make a tangible list of goals for yourself in the areas that you want to improve and work on. One thing to note is that I think having goals is important and it’s nice to have them, but it’s more important to enjoy the process of getting there and to think of yourself as an evolving individual.
When you start to see yourself make progress and improve over time, I can’t tell you how good of a feeling that is. Genuine confidence is just naturally created in this process.
Great technology products are built with an early iteration of a concept, often called a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and after it launches and is released to the market, people (aka PM’s like me) work on using customer feedback and market data to help improve, iterate, improve, and evolve the product to make it better and more enjoyable for people.
My simple “MVP goals” were to just look and feel better about myself (physically and mentally), especially after leaving a toxic relationship. I started learning how to dress better, feed myself nutritious and healthy foods, exercising more frequently, listening more books and podcasts, and just thinking from a more positive mindset. I learned how to present myself well and find what made me feel comfortable and confident. I experimented with different beauty styles and fashions, learned more about the different types of perfume scents and levels, and genuinely enjoyed making myself feel good for myself. Over time, I even changed my posture, the way I walked and started to smile more as a result of my confidence.
Iterating your Product (Confidence)
Once I reached my MVP goals, I felt like I was confident enough to start pursuing other things that I had avoided for a long time. My advice is that you really need to start by putting yourself out there. You already worked on hard building your “MVP,” (aka working & becoming a better version of yourself) and now it’s just about getting “feedback” to improve and iterate yourself. Embrace the anxiety for a bit and just see how things turn out instead of just running away and being afraid. If you don’t do it, you’ll never know how things could have turned out and you miss every opportunity you don’t take.
Once I felt and looked better, I started stepping even more out of my comfort zone by pursuing something else I was also uncomfortable about — dating people whom I actually found attractive and networking with people whom I found were cool and inspirational (and way more successful than me). Through consistently putting myself in new, potentially uncomfortable situations and enjoying the process, I started to see myself naturally become more confident over time.
Growing and continuously improving over time can be difficult because it’s not like growth is always exponential. You might hit some roadblocks and face some pitfalls in the process.
Try not to base your confidence on external/superficial factors, and don’t become so outcome-dependent.
You’ll realize this as you go on this journey yourself, but as you grow your confidence, you’ll become less concerned with the end result and enjoy the process more. This can be applied to anything from career to love to your personal growth. Focus on the process of becoming a better you, devoid of the result. If you become outcome-dependent, you will easily give up when things get hard on a goal/task you’re working on or if someone doesn’t validate you in the way you want. For example, don’t focus on getting that girl/job/body, etc… focus on the process of becoming someone who will naturally attract those things that you desire.
Faking it until you make it will ultimately expose you in the end.
“Fake it ’til you make it” is the oldest trick in the book, and I’d have to say I don’t agree with this statement. It’s really hard for me to be someone other than myself nowadays, but I remember before how it felt easier to simply put on a facade or mask to the world instead of trying to be my most authentic self. My rationale is that more fake things just add to more fake things. Real things create more real things. If you don’t have a solid foundation, your house will come tumbling down. If your product isn’t backed by user research and data, I don’t care how pretty the features and designs are — it will not succeed in the market. My piece of advice is to celebrate the genuine micro-successes and progress you do accomplish so that you don’t need to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Don’t look at things as “being fake.” Focus on trying, improving, failing, and iterating. You don’t need to fake it until you make it because you’re making it already. Focus on becoming a better, genuine you. I’ve seen way too many people who fake their confidence or base it off on things that simply weren’t true, and they all get exposed in due time.
In addition, become self-aware. Learn who you are. Who you really are, none of this fake it, don’t care, fuck everyone stuff. Who do you want to be? What are your values, morals, goals, and principles? When you figure out who you are you can then live your life with confidence.
Know that this, too, shall pass.
You will not always feel 100% confident, but you will also not always feel 100% terrible. If something happens to you that affects your confidence, know that it, too, shall pass. Everyone messes up, encounters a sticky situation, whatever it is. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Reflect on it, analyze it, learn from it, and move on. Try not to take it personally as a reflection of who you are. Don’t spend any more time hurting yourself. I speak from experience, as being someone who constantly blames myself for failed situations that were often out of my control. Give yourself some slack and love yourself for who you are.
At the end of the day, you are stuck being you. No amount of self-hate changes that. Thus, you have 2 options: you can spend your time feeling down about something you cannot change. Or you can embrace the inevitable and learn to like yourself. Ultimately, this is where all confidence comes from. It’s okay to feel down about something, but then know that in the end, it’ll pass and you can’t beat yourself up for being who you are.
This transitions nicely to another topic when it comes to confidence: other people’s opinions.
People’s opinions matter, but don’t let them matter to a point where it hinders you.
When you create a product, not everyone will like it. I can guarantee it. But you don’t need everyone’s approval. That is actually entirely fine in the product/tech world.
In life, you will not be liked by everyone. As a people pleaser, this scares me beyond regard because I grew up just wanting to feel liked and accepted by people. But you know what? What you do is you try your best and then you gotta let it go. Or else it’ll eat you up and debilitate you.
You can live from three perspectives: from your own, from someone else’s, or from a third person’s. A healthy, confident, person spends about equal time in each. They spend some time worrying about their issues, some time understanding others, and some time observing things as a whole. Selfish people spend all their time in their own heads. Sensitive (and lowkey less confident people) spend their time in other’s heads (definitely me in the past) or in the third person. Disconnected people spend their time in the third person. Don’t let yourself sit there in everyone else’s heads all the time…rather, spend some time worrying about and resolving your own issues. If you really struggle with caring too much about what other people think, I’d also recommend reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson.
To be more specific, if anyone struggles with having confidence because of their parents constantly disapproving them, let me just say that I completely understand. As an Asian-American female who has pretty much already disappointed her family by not becoming a doctor, I didn’t necessarily grow up in the most supportive environment of the career path that I chose, and my family still doesn’t understand half of what my accomplishments mean and are worried about my future (Y’alls think I’m lying when I say this… but #LOL i’m not). I really had to learn how to be confident on my own and be grounded in myself rather than other people’s validation. At the end of the day, genuine confidence is devoid of anyone’s opinions. It’s a quiet voice inside of you that says, “I believe in you, and you can do it.”
What certainly helps is to surround yourself with good, positive people. You really are the sum of the 5 people you hang out with the most, so surround yourself with people who encourage you to grow and become the best version of yourself. Have the courage to distance yourself from those create negative energy within your space. If you feel as if you don’t have a good support network of people like that, you can listen to podcasts and nourish yourself self-education through with the articles, books, and work of great thought leaders that resonate with you.
Innovating from your Product
Now, here is something that that most people don’t really tell you about building your confidence.
It’s not enough to just create good products and improve them over time. Well-created products actually lead to great inspiration and ideas for other products. A good PM should focus on the customer and relentlessly pursue the innovation of new ideas and products beyond the scope of their comfort zone.
This analogy applies to people’s confidence as well. I’ll provide an example.
Someone might feel confident in their public speaking skills, but then if you ask them to write an essay, they will get scared and opt out. I call that micro-confidence. That person’s confidence is contingent on their comfort zone. Genuinely confident people almost don’t have a comfort zone, or their comfort zone is constantly expanding.
To not become complacent and stagnant, put yourself in uncomfortable situations.
In other words, innovate yourself.
To me, genuine confidence is being able to place yourself in any situation, anywhere, at any time — and you can still feel grounded in yourself and navigate through any potentially uncomfortable or sticky situations.
I believe that real confidence is exemplified by having a strong belief in yourself…you, fundamentally… not your skills or clothes or other external things (even though those are obviously all great). Real confidence is your ability to be open-minded, learn new things, perhaps fail at it (sometimes almost embarrassingly badly), yet still continue to keep trying to improve and become better.
Don’t worry if you’re not there yet. I don’t think most people are, and I’m still trying to work on this myself. But simply becoming aware of and understanding this has completely shifted my mindset. To use an example from my own life, I’m confident in my ability to hold a great conversation with another individual, but I’m really scared if you put me in front of a camera or an audience and asked me to just improvise and speak without a script. Knowing this, I’m determined in 2019 to work on this aspect of myself & am going to my first Toastmasters meeting next week!
A good gauge of genuine confidence is when you’re able to say to yourself: “You know what? I don’t know what will happen, but that’s okay because whatever happens, I know I’ll get through it. I trust myself.”
In my opinion, genuine confidence is believing in yourself enough to handle whatever happens or comes your way, good or bad.
Each time I step out of my comfort zone, try something new or deal with an unexpected event, I feel like I have overcome a hurdle and realized that I was entirely capable of successfully doing things like that. My confidence skyrockets because I realized that I had actually challenged myself and know now that I’m a capable person.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the outcome, but more so about the process of growing and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and becoming more grounded in who you are and trusting yourself, not anyone else or circumstances. In life, you will fall down, you will get hurt, but each time after you fall down and get up, you will become stronger. You will realize that your capacity to tolerate things will grow. You will become better, and it’s such an amazing feeling.
I really hope everyone is able to feel that sense of belief and conviction in oneself.
So… those are my thoughts on how I believe that one can build genuine confidence. I know it’s a long read (it took me even longer to write it LOL), but I really appreciate it if you read to the end! Everything I said is written from my own experience and learning things the hard way as well as of those I’ve observed around me.
I hope you could find some sort of value in this post, and if you have any thoughts/suggestions/ideas, please feel free to share as I’d love to hear them!
Keep growin’ & glowin’,