How much do you believe in yourself?
I was never a confident kid growing up. My childhood was difficult because I was short, chubby, and had a face full of acne. I was not good at sports and usually locked myself in my room playing video games or reading Marvel and DC comics all day after school. But then, puberty hit, and suddenly it felt like someone grabbed me and stretched me out. My voice suddenly took on the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman, and my face cleared up. I had what you would call a ‘glow up’, and it didn’t stop there.
I was profoundly grateful for this transformation, and I grew more confident afterwards.
But is confidence really a matter of appearance? Or can it be built or developed over time?
When you feel sure of yourself and your abilities, you are confident. At least, that is what the dictionary will tell you. Realistically, it is about feeling secure in your personal space. Insecurities usually cause anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression, which all account for adverse mental health issues. But they can also be caused by experiences of failure, rejection, past traumas, loneliness, or growing up with disapproving guardians or in a hostile environment.
Sometimes it takes years for people to fully understand and accept the depths of the insecurities that hold them back. Confronting and dealing with these insecurities can help build your confidence and give you a more positive outlook on life.
Many athletes, often considered the pinnacles of the physical human form, deal with insecurities related to their bodies and self-esteem. Even the most successful can be affected. But those who have the self-confidence to keep going are the ones who have prolonged success.
Serena Williams, winner of 23 Grand Slam titles and one of the most famous tennis players and athletes in world history, has spoken of her struggles with her looks and people comparing her to her sister Venus Williams. The media often portrayed Serena’s figure as short and stocky, indicating that she lacked the grace of other tennis stars. Despite these issues, Serena’s extensive success shows that she rose above these comments and grew to accept and be comfortable in her body.
NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas, standing at 5’9, felt disadvantaged in a league dominated by height and physicality. But the point guard never lost faith in himself. He underwent intense training and kept fit, eventually leading a challenging, domineering side that came to be known as the Bad Boy Pistons for their grit and determination. The hard-scrabble team won two back-to-back championships while beating all-time greats like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Jordan.
Simone Biles is America’s most decorated gymnast. Still, she was bullied for her appearance because others felt she was ‘too muscular for a girl’. However, it did not deter her from competing. She has racked up 30 medals with her incredible feats on the gymnastics stage.
All these athletes experienced criticism for the way they looked and their body sizes and shapes. But they pushed themselves through adversity, moving past their usual comfort zone to succeed. They had the talent but also worked to overcome their weaknesses and continued to move forward confidently.
INFERIORITY AND ARROGANCE
Confidence can affect your attitude. The more someone feels in control of their life, the more confident they can be. And too much confidence can lead to arrogance, a sense of superiority, and narcissism.
Perception can skew how you think about yourself, and due to its subjective nature, it can be flawed. When people feel inferior, it can lead to them trying to assert dominance to wrest back control and feel more secure. When they feel superior, they can see others as weak and dismiss them and their worth.
Though both types of people may look confident, they are, in reality, thin-skinned. They can lash out at people who challenge them. Contrasting great names throughout history can show us the difference. Adolf Hitler seemed confident in building a world-conquering superpower, as did Abraham Lincoln when he decided to abolish slavery and throw his country into a civil war. Both were leaders, but the former had a driving need to feel superior to others, while the latter focused on a just cause that elevated people. Their confidence drove their actions and etched their names onto the pages of history, but for very different reasons.
Our life goals motivate us to be confident while making decisive, purposeful choices bolster it. A need to always be right while belittling those who disagree can be a sign that fear and insecurity are the true driving force of someone’s actions, not confidence.
You won’t always feel confident every day. We all experience shifts in our levels of self-assuredness. There will be days when you are shaken by circumstance and face intense criticism. You have to understand, remember, and learn from these instances. Confidence is not innate or fixed. It can be acquired and improved over time and sap away.
To develop a positive mindset, you must focus on your strengths and what you can and will achieve.
Confidence can prepare us to confront life but cannot make us perfect. It convinces us to take advantage of opportunities and reach our full potential. Building confidence is slow and complex, but you may be surprised by how far you get with the proper practice. The more you embrace and confront your mistakes and insecurities, the more clearly you will understand yourself. And once you do, you will be confident about everything you can achieve.
CAPABILITY AND FORTITUDE
People have to trust themselves to know their capabilities. Everyday life gives us new challenges every day. If we have self-belief, it will allow us to try again, even if we fail.
But confidence can also be situational. We can be confident in certain areas but lack it in others.
Sometimes, when others recognise our skills and capabilities, it can boost our confidence. But this only works if we trust this praise instead of doubting them or believing that our successes are flukes. Our confidence will grow if we learn to take pride in our achievements.
It is hard to build confidence when it’s just you and the voice in your head. The conflict arises when your inner voice shouts, “I can’t”. The challenge then is to retort, with all the grit you have, “No, I can.”
We also must be careful when we draw comparisons with others. It is natural to do so, but sometimes such comparisons can affect our self-esteem if we find ourselves lacking, leading to a sense of inferiority. The key is to stay positive, shake off self-doubt, and use these experiences as chances to grow.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.