It’s not your lack of skill, it’s your lack of confidence… stupid!

On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.

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The following post was translated from Elena Martín’s original on Idealist’s Spanish language site, Idealistas.


Much of your ability to do something is not dependent on whether or not you can actually do it, but whether or not you think you can do it. Someone with all the skills in the world but little confidence in himself will not get very far, while someone with less skills but true belief in himself will usually find a way to meet his goals.

Psychologists call this phenomenon “self-efficacy”—our belief in our capabilities to do what is required to achieve a given goal. Think about yourself: do you more often have the attitude: “I can get this project to work,” or “I can get this job,” or the opposite: “I don’t think I can do this,” or “I’m not going to get a call back”?

If you fall in the first camp, bravo! But if you tend to think more like the latter, don’t despair—for one thing, you’re not alone. Overriding self-confidence doesn’t come easily to everyone. You might be thinking, “Sure, I’d love to have more faith that I can do the things I want, but it’s not like I can just flip a switch. What can I do?”

Well, we invite you to try building your confidence by practicing these points:

  • Be aware of how you’re talking—to yourself and others—about your ideas, dreams, and plans. Your thoughts and language create realities! If you believe and say you can’t do something, what do you think will happen?
  • Don’t dwell on your weaknesses. Spend more time focused on what you see as your strengths.
  • That said, don’t ignore your shortcomings. Identify them and work to improve those areas. Acknowledging them will show you opportunities to become a better version of yourself.
  • Generate network power. You don’t have to know everything or take on every aspect of your dream project all by yourself. If you connect with others and are willing to receive a helping hand, you’ll accomplish much more. (Of course, you should also be willing to lend a hand when someone else needs your particular knowledge or skills!)
  • Think about who inspires you, and what they have in common. Identify the reasons you admire these folks and try to follow their example. We often feel inspired by people who exemplify positive traits we believe ourselves to be lacking in.
  • Embrace any failures. Just by trying to understand why things didn’t work out, you will learn something. Use failures as stepping stones to better attempts in the future.

It’s true: increasing self-confidence isn’t as easy as flipping a switch, but it can be built up like a muscle. Try these tips and see if you don’t notice a growing faith in yourself!

What other practices have helped you gain confidence and believe more in what’s possible than what’s impossible?

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