Here Are the 3 Elements to Building a Foundation of Self-Confidence
Confidence is a tricky word—one that can stir up a lot of feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. It’s a big, murky concept that we don’t often take the time to breakdown, but it impacts so much of our lives.
Putting confidence in practice is an act of bravery, but where does it come from and how do we even build it in the first place?
To Brittany Packnett Cunningham, “confidence is something we underestimate the importance of.” On the TED 2019 stage, the activist, educator, and author shared her story about uncovering it in herself—and what it might take to spark it in others.
She explained that when we think of creating change, we often think that it’s an equation that consists only of "knowledge + resources." But according to Packnett Cunningham, confidence might be the missing key in the equation—and she has a great point: You can have all the knowledge in the world of what to do, and the resources to do it, but without confidence, you can't leap up and put everything into action.
“Confidence is the necessary spark before everything that follows,” Packnett Cunningham explained. “Confidence is the difference between being inspired and actually getting started, between trying and doing until it’s done. Confidence helps us keep going even when we failed.”
“Confidence is the difference between being inspired and actually getting started, between trying and doing until it’s done. Confidence helps us keep going even when we failed.”- Brittany Packnett Cunningham
Our culture places a lot of value on confidence. As The Confidence Code authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found through their research, there’s a confidence gap between men and women and it can impact all areas of life, particularly in the workplace.
In a study conducted in the United Kingdom, half of female managers “reported self-doubt about their job performance and careers” compared to less than a third of their male counterparts. Research in this field shows that self-doubt can manifest into lack of opportunities.
This can impact people of marginalized groups, like immigrants or people with disabilities, on an even larger scale. For Packnett Cunningham, that informs her emphasis on working “the muscle of confidence” with students in her classroom.
Describing confidence as a muscle feels particularly intentional, because it’s not something that you, at the snap of a finger, can embody. As reported by Quartz, confidence isn’t a personality trait. Instead, think of it as a quality that’s “gained through experience.”
Much like other things, it’s also a quality that’s formed throughout your life. Some days, you might not feel confident—and that’s OK. Receiving those feelings and working through them can help you understand the areas you need to work on to foster trust in yourself.
According to Packnett Cunningham, focusing on three specific areas—permission, community and curiosity—can help spark confidence in yourself and others. “Permission births confidence, community nurtures it, and curiosity affirms it,” Packnett Cunningham explains. Understanding these three things can help you on your way to building a foundation of assuredness that will help you grow in unimaginable ways.
Sometimes, permission to flex your confidence muscle comes from watching other people do so. Inspiration can come from people you know IRL or online—and it can even come from yourself.
Think back on a time where you showed confidence. Remember how it felt, before and after, and tap back into that feeling. Give yourself permission to at least try to flex it, and know that when you do practice confidence, you might be giving someone else permission to dive into the self-trust pool, too. That’s pretty powerful.
When you give yourself permission to try an 'equality mentality,' you might notice your confidence building too.
"People with low self-confidence see others as better or more deserving than themselves," Chris Dunn explains in Entrepreneur. "Instead of carrying this perception, see yourself as being equal to everyone. They are no better or more deserving than you."
Remembering that can help put things into perspective for you.
Packnett Cunningham describes community as the “safest place to try confidence on.” Surrounding yourself with people who are there to support your confidence is key to growing more and more assured in your choices and actions.
Try leaning on your community, a support group, or an online forum to help remind you of your worth when you need that extra boost to push you all the way.
Because confidence is something that grows over time, it’s important to take the opportunity to learn whenever possible. Chances are, you might put self-confidence in practice, and it might not work out exactly like you might want. Take Packnett Cunningham’s advice: “Curiosity invites people to be in charge of your own learning.” Don’t be afraid to use your experiences to inform your next moves.
“For some of us, confidence is a revolutionary choice, and it would be our greatest shame to see our best ideas go unrealized and our brightest dreams go unreached all because we lacked the engine of confidence,” Packnett Cunningham shared.
Watch her full speech on confidence below:
Read Next: 3 Ways to Take Back Your Confidence
Shine is supported by members like you. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. See our affiliate disclosure for more info.