The Skill of Self-Confidence
Lady Gaga walked onstage wearing something resembling a futuristic plastic space suit dripping with feathers and fishing line. She had fake lashes plastered beneath one eye, and sported a wig that looked like she’d stuck her finger in an electrical socket. Okay, this particular look is a fabrication, but you didn’t know it, did you? For a moment, you believed it, because for the longest time, no one knew what she really looked like beneath the eccentric outfits she wore. She could be your neighbor, your grocer, your Aunt. And people loved her, even though she was bizarrely different. People loved her BECAUSE she was bizarrely different. Why? Because she was confident.
Growing up does a number on your confidence. At a time when you’re struggling to define who you are, the world is blasting images of who we should or could be. This makes it difficult to cultivate true self-confidence. Because what if we’re wrong? What if there is a better version of ourselves? What if by simply overwriting our truest self, we could attain it? Would you do it? Or would you live torn, struggling to embrace yourself, but never feeling quite good enough?
In this TED Talk, Dr. Ivan Joseph discusses how to cultivate the skill of self-confidence. As a former University soccer coach, his answer is simple: Practice, repetition, persistence, self-talk, and flipping failure into feedback.
“The easiest way to build self-confidence? Repetition, repetition, repetition.” While this sounds easy, Joseph explains why this skill demands persistence: “The problem with repetition is: how many of us fail after the first bit of failure? How many of us fails after the first bit of adversity?”
Joseph brings up the example of Thomas Edison. We know it took him anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 failures to build the invention we now know today as the light bulb. Have you ever failed at something 1,000 times and still kept going? This is why persistence is so important. Without it, we might still be living in the dark.
Another important factor in bolstering self-confidence is self-talk. Did you know we speak over 50,000 words in self-talk every day? That’s a novella we’re reading to ourselves over and over and over. It can seem selfish or prideful to brag to yourself, but as Joseph points out, “There’s enough people that are telling us we can’t do it, that we’re not good enough. Why do we want to tell ourselves that? We know for a fact that thoughts influence actions… why do we want to say that negative self-talk to ourselves?”
Joseph shares the story of Lance Armstrong. We’ve all seen the yellow bands saying Livestrong. Most of us think it’s just a brand, but it actually started as Armstrong’s personal affirmation. He would move the band from one arm to the next whenever doubt or fear entered his mind, to remind himself of his motivation: to Live Strong.
However, one of the most beautiful aspects of this TED Talk is how Joseph expands this concept of self-confidence to include how we treat others. He discusses the incredible opportunity we have as humans to teach those around us how to be better. By acknowledging and praising someone when they do something well, instead of picking out another who does something wrong, we teach by example without crushing another’s self-confidence. In the world of academia, this is known as positive reinforcement, and has been proven to be far more effective in classrooms and in parenting than negative reinforcement.
To test this, a study done in Canada with an athletic team. They were shown clips of all the times they executed a particular move wrong. The coaches pointed out every nuance of why their action failed, to make them aware of what NOT to do. The team’s performance plummeted. Then, in the second stage of the study, they were shown clips of the same move, but on the times they executed it correctly. The team’s performance sky-rocketed.
Joseph says it’s simple, but we often forget to do this essential thing to bolster another’s self confidence: “Catch them when they’re good.”
At the ending of this rousing talk, Joseph puts his own spin on this famous quote by Rob Stiltanen:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits, the rebels, the trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. We’re supposed to be different, folks. And when people look at us? Believe in YOURSELF.”