A man wrote to me saying he lacked confidence and wondered if I could help. He said he lacked confidence specifically with bosses, people in authority, and women. He said he wanted to try new things but was reluctant to act on his desires and he was afraid of criticism from others.
However, when he pursues things he loves to do, he doesn't suffer a lack of confidence. During those times, he doesn't care what people think of him. He wanted to have that same confidence when he attempted greater challenges.
I asked him what he had already tried. He'd already tried the Dale Carnegie course, NLP, and hypnosis. Here is my reply to him:
The Dale Carnegie Course is one of the things I would have recommended. It's a great course. If it gave you a feeling of confidence at the time, maybe taking it again might help.
But I think there is an entirely different angle that might be profitable to pursue: Raise your integrity.
This is not an easy thing to do, and there is much more to it than you probably can imagine until you try it in earnest.
Since you specifically named people in authority, new challenges, and women, I'd say you lack courage. And courage comes from responsibility. In other words, if you have a purpose you are focused on accomplishing, courage is a natural by-product.
But the purpose — the thing you are responsible for accomplishing — needs to be important to you. It needs to be more important than the bad feelings of inferiority or whatever you feel dealing with women or people in authority or challenges. Your purpose has to be vital and important. A weak wish won't do it.
But what strong purpose can you have in each of those situations? There is only one that applies in each of those situations and that is important enough: Your own integrity.
If you were committed to your own integrity, and really gave it the importance it deserves, that would be an important enough purpose to give you courage in those situations. You would no longer cower inside. You would no longer shrink back from those situations or overly inhibit yourself. And you would do what you had to do to stay true to your integrity, and by doing so, you would feel confident in yourself. You would learn to trust yourself. You would realize you will not betray yourself to please others or to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
At that point, confidence is no longer an issue.
Like I said, this is not going to be easy. You said you were a waiter. In that job, your task is to please those people. That's what they pay you for. Honestly expressing your feelings in most cases on the job will not be appropriate or fitting. It would be like a pilot getting on the intercom during a flight and telling the passengers he just remembered a scary mistake he made on another flight that he never admitted, and he wanted to confess it. It's not appropriate. The passengers want the pilot to pay attention to his job and get them to their destination on time and in one piece.
Your customers don't want to know your honest feelings. They just want you to take their order, deliver the food, and help them enjoy their experience.
You were hired to do this, and have agreed to do it (either explicitly or implicitly) so it would be a breach of your own integrity to do anything less.
But other than on the job as a waiter, you have opportunities every day to be your honest self, to speak the truth, to live your life with integrity, and to be true to your own ambitions, talents, and inner desires.
Even at work, you have many opportunities to become a man of integrity in ways that do not violate the purpose of your job. Once you start paying attention to it, you'll find opportunities almost constantly. It is amazing how much of your life is overwhelmingly influenced by your integrity moment-to-moment.
Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic is a matter of your integrity too.
So my advice is to focus on raising the condition of your integrity and on that alone to solve your confidence problem. It will give you confidence and a whole lot more.
By the way, women love an honest man.
There are many good books I can recommend, but you don't need any of them. If you just pay attention, you'll learn from your own experience. You'll make lots of mistakes, but if you keep your attention on your own integrity, every day, every hour, from the time you get up until the time you go to bed at night, your life will be transformed. No kidding.
If you want to read some good integrity coaching, though, here are my top choices:
1. Character Is Destiny: The Value of Personal Ethics in Everyday Life by Russell W. Gough
2. Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson
3. To Thine Own Self Be True: The Relationship Between Spiritual Values and Emotional Health by Lewis Andrews
4. Saying What's Real: 7 Keys to Authentic Communication and Relationship Success by Susan Campbell
5. Stop! You're Driving Me Crazy by George Bach and Ronald Deutsch
Write to me any time about how it's going or any specific issues you have along the way. Good luck to you.
Adam Khan is the author of Antivirus For Your Mind: How to Strengthen Your Persistence and Determination and Feel Good More Often and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.