How to Be Self-Confident | Motivational Podcasts

Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of wearable inspiration and gift ideas. Visit them online at Bookofzen.com. Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from Psychology & Higher Life by William McKeever, published in 1905.

What opinion should we have of ourselves? Should we believe that we can accomplish almost anything we care to undertake? Does our merely believing that we can do a thing help us in any way? What is self-confidence, anyway? Is there a really wholesome and helpful attitude of mind toward one’s self, which we may learn to assume? These are some of the questions that we’ll be attempting to answer today.

Self-confidence might be defined tentatively as the courage to go forward and do one’s best under all circumstances. To work faithfully and honestly in the situation in which one is placed, even when the immediate reward is not at all in sight, and to turn the thoughts toward victory when defeat seems already to have come, is to form the beginnings of a self-reliant character.

I may seem harsh in saying it, but the evidence is unmistakable that there are many a chicken-hearted youth in this land of ours, who are such because they have been brought up too tenderly. Such persons ought to be taken through a course of “hard knocks,” wherein there is smarting and hungering and considerable weariness of the flesh. One year of practical “roughing it” will do more toward developing a self-reliant character than a decade of moralizing on the subject.

Hard conditions bring out sterling qualities of character. Of this fact, there are thousands of shining examples among the pioneers of the West. They went forth without purse or coin, but with vigorous health and with faces set like flint, and made the desert place blossom like a garden. But this is not true of all of those who made the venture. Thousands soon became disheartened and went back, leaving the sturdier folks behind. It was a case of the survival of the fittest.

Many of these survivors became wealthy in a land where they were expected to starve. It is a law that persistent effort brings success. These sturdy pioneers soon discovered that, notwithstanding a variety of menacing conditions, in a series of years the successes overbalanced the failures. So the young person, if rightly trained, discovers in time that it is only necessary to be true to the promptings of their better self; for by pressing forward in a confident manner they find that more than half of their trials are successful.

In short, they become anything but a pessimist. The pessimist is a person who is out of tune mentally. Discord and discouragement are always in their path. We meet pessimists throughout society, propagating mental disease and disloyalty. Even in religious circles, we find the pessimist dealing out moral distemper and disbelief.

And yet the pessimist has necessarily only one bad fault — they persist in looking on the dark side of things. They are consequently a disbeliever in themselves, and they never begin an undertaking but say instead: “Oh, it will fail; there is no use trying. This thing will never succeed;” and it never does.

The optimist, on the other hand, thoroughly believes in themselves. By degrees they come into an unswerving purpose in life and an unwavering faith that they can carry that purpose out. They have come to realize that a hand mightier than their own is guiding the destinies of humankind; and that, by the very nature of things, their life is divinely ordered. Unlike the negative thinker, the optimist sees the bright side of everything, and as a result, even the commonplace affairs of life inspire them.

The self-confident person, of necessity, believes in other people. Old as I am, it stirs me up to put forth greater effort to have people believe in me. The ordinary little child will do their utmost to come up to the standard fixed for them by the expressed opinions of their elders. The self-reliant person, therefore, is a benefactor of his or her associates.

It is such an easy matter to drift down to the level of a gossip, and later to that of a defamer of character, and finally to that of the chronic misanthropist. If one goes about looking for the meanness in other people’s character, you can surely find it. But so can you find the good — more of it than you can enumerate in a lifetime.

Happy indeed is the individual who has formed the habit of looking for the good. And so in every clime we find the stalwart, self-reliant character, who, in the language of the statesman might say: “Master of human destinies am I: Fame, love, and fortune on my footsteps wait.”

Another of the great promoters of self-confidence, as well as of long life and happiness, is love. Everyone should by all means fall in love with something or somebody, or, better yet, with everybody.

It is impossible to define love. It is too great an attribute of the Divine Being and of the divinely ordered soul to admit of exact definition. But we can say this: exercise what love you have and it will grow. Even the selfish love which singles out one individual for its exercise, will transform one’s character.

The happy, radiant soul is surely in love with somebody or something — with a helpmeet, with a sweetheart, with humanity, or with an occupation. Love is a great force that overcomes our difficulties and wins victories. It is a soothing balm to offer to our afflicted friends, and a healing potion for the heart-sick souls that come within the circle of our acquaintance.

Another prolific generator of self-confidence is hope, but one of its greatest destroyers is despair. The one who, in the face of reverses, can maintain a hopeful attitude of mind, is already in possession of part of the capital stock for their next venture, while the despairing soul is defeated for a long time to come.

Hope is eternal; despair is infernal. Hope is the sweet-scented dew that kisses the fresh flowers of morning; despair is the biting frost that nips in the bud the promise of a harvest. Hope is the fresh shower of April that woos the tender blade of sprouting grass; despair is the hot wind of August that burns up the field of maturing corn. Hope puts the bright gleam into the eye and kindles the everlasting glow in the soul; despair marks traces of care upon the countenance and smothers out the fires of enthusiasm.

Beware of the disposition to rove, to give up a position or undertaking before it is thoroughly tried, to imagine that some other position or station in life is better than one’s own — this tendency is chronic with many people, and it becomes their greatest obstacle to success. “The good is not here, but yonder,” they say; and away they go, chasing over mountain and stream and through forest and glade, seeking happiness and contentment in another land and another clime.

How long will people continue to commit this folly! How long must this error of the ages be repeated, this error of seeking happiness in some distant place. Roam as you will over deserts and seas and through every land of the globe, and then come back weary and disappointed to your humble abode, back to thyself, and there learn at last this eternal truth: that happiness is not to be found exclusively in the outside world of places and material things, but that its home is in your own soul, where it must take root and grow, ere you can’t enjoy its blessings.

Self-confidence is a form of mental wealth. It has been demonstrated frequently that material wealth alone does not bring pleasure in proportion to its amount. Some of the meanest spirited and most discontented people are to be found among the rich, as well as among the poor. Happiness cannot be purchased with money.

There must be a sense of unworthiness in the mind of a person who sits down to a sumptuous meal with the thought that they have done nothing to earn it, but that every mouthful they take represents the honest labor of someone else. On the other hand, it must be deeply gratifying to the eater to partake of a meal, plain and unadorned though it may be, with the consciousness that they have earned it, or its equivalent, on that day by means of honest work.

It is maintained by those who ought to be able to speak with authority, that the most highly satisfying condition in life is to be able to earn a modest living by one’s daily work, and along with this to have frequent intervals for rest and recreation and intellectual improvement. They say that wealth consists not so much in the abundance of the material things that one may possess, as in their capacity to enjoy.

A millionaire may acquire the legal title to a valuable tract of land, but they cannot buy the beauty of the lovely landscape. They may purchase the most beautiful painting in the world, but the appreciation of it cannot be obtained at any monetary price. While the capacity to buy rests in the money, the capacity to appreciate must be in the individual. A small capacity for buying, coupled with a large capacity for enjoying, is far preferable to the converse.

In addition to being able to do some worthy work day by day, another valuable asset consists in the capacity to turn to one’s own good account the commonplace events and experiences of every-day life. In the highest sense of the word, we are the owners of all that we can appreciate and enjoy, and no person can either buy or take it from us. All the things I see and love are mine — the cattle on a thousand hills, the flowers, the trees, the lakes, the seas, the mighty rivers and the streams.

The everlasting worlds are mine — the planets poised in space on high, the suns, the stars. The radiant bars of light that beam across the sky. The living power of love is mine; forever is my sure defense; and in that love I live and move, the expression of Omnipotence.

So the self-reliant person soon learns to realize their ability to get good and to give good wherever they go. They draw out the best side of other people and give out in return the best that they have within their own higher nature. Others somehow feel assured after an exchange of glances with them that they are on intimate relations of good-fellowship.

Another ingredient of the self-reliant, healthy-minded character is frankness. The world is full of good people who suffer unnecessarily day by day because they are unable to speak out frankly what they know they ought to say. They cannot speak their minds freely until they become very much provoked, and then the effect is most displeasing both to the speaker (after they ”cool off”) and the one spoken to.

If you can do so with a sincere motive of helping the other person, never hesitate to criticize candidly and affectionately someone who is your so-called equal, or one who is younger and less experienced than you.

If a young person can early become imbued with a love of truth for its own sake, they take a forward step toward self-reliance. The timid, backward youth is always fearful that an investigation will reveal something that will interfere with their preconceived ideas or plans. To be absolutely willing to have the truth laid bare, just as it is, is characteristic of a high order of scientific genius.

Many a so-called scientific treatise is rendered practically worthless because of the author’s apparent effort to make matters come out in confirmation of their prejudice. The true scientist is willing to sacrifice every preconceived idea at the altar of truth. They acquire a passionate fondness for the facts in any case. This scientific love of truth for its own sake makes them more aggressive in their efforts to know the world.

The tyrannical, despotic ruler, the intolerant religious bigot, and the supercilious society dictator are all examples of those who are mentally disturbed lest the particular group of minds over whom they hold sway should suddenly come into possession of a knowledge of matters as they actually exist. But the honest, healthy-minded student of life, confidently proceeds with the firm belief that truth is mighty and will prevail, and that each day’s revelations will open up a view more wondrous.

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