How to Be a More Self-Confident Christian
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
What do you think about when you hear the word “self-confidence?” What kinds of images pop into your head? Do you see people you admire who you believe are filled to the brim with self-confidence? Do you imagine yourself having the confidence you need to go after things you’ve dreamed of doing or wanted to do for a long time? What does the idea of having self-confidence mean for followers of Christ?
Having self-confidence, for Christians, means learning how to walk our talk. It means continuously learning and trying to walk by faith, and not only by sight. It means being kind yet strong, and not weak.
I like bringing definitions into my discussions because they help put us on a common path of understanding, the same "sheet of music," so to speak. Webster’s definition of self-confidence says, “confidence in yourself; in your own powers and your own abilities.” It says that "self-confidence" stems from the word “confidence,” which means “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way; a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances.” Self-confidence, then, is established upon a foundation of confidence. Its meaning seems grounded in your attitude about you, your faith in and beliefs--first, about you; then, your abilities.
Where Does Self-Confidence Come From?
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
A lot of brilliant people believe that parents are key in establishing a foundation of self-confidence for their children. They believe (and so do I) that when parents provide a loving, accepting, guiding environment for a child, the child is more likely than not to grow up learning to love and to accept self, and to seek guidance.
Does that mean a person who is self-confident will always able to do whatever it is they set out to do? Isn't there a difference between having a certain ability and having confidence in one's self? Self-confidence does not determine ability or the lack of ability. However, people who believe they can do things attempt to do them, and those who don’t believe they can do things, don’t make the attempt. Therefore, having confidence in you is about having enough faith or belief in yourself to attempt to achieve goals, and it requires no promises with regard to the outcome. It is that "power" within you that allows you to try, and to keep trying.
Which of these two groups do you think you fall into?
- That group of folk who try to achieve mainly because they have great self-confidence, but don't know for sure they possess a lot of great abilities to do things.
- The group of folk who have been told they have great aptitude or potential to do things, but who don’t try, because they don't possess self-confidence.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:27)
Goal achievement is attempted only by those who feel confident enough to try to do something, and ability is that thing that can help determine the outcome of a trial, but it cannot propel anyone to try to achieve. The catch is that ability needs trial; it needs testing in order to be realized, and without self-confidence it often does not get the chance to be tested.
The foundation of self-confidence is set during childhood. I believe that at key points throughout a child’s first years of life, he or she must be given chances to realize and to develop strengths. Children must be encouraged to try. They have to be persuaded—by their parents, to believe in themselves enough to attempt to do things; to try to accomplish goals.
A friend of mine found herself facing a dilemma. She was asked to serve as president of the PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) of her children's school. But, when it came time to delegate tasks and responsibilities to other members of the association, she found herself preferring to do all the work herself instead of doling out assignments. She felt confident in her ability to do the work, but not in her ability to delegate work to others. She told me she cringed at the thought of giving assignments and possibly having people get upset with her.
But, doing everything herself only created more problems for her. She had a husband, two children, a full-time job, and besides teaching Sunday school she also sang in the choir at her church. Accepting the responsibility of being president of the PTA was something she felt she needed to do, but it added a lot more stress to her busy life.
In addition to jam-packing her daily schedule with almost more work than she could handle, when it came time to thank people (at the end of the school year) for helping out with PTA projects, she had no one but herself to thank. An amazing multi-tasker, In her first year, she'd been successful in completing several projects and in raising money for activities. Instead of being able to show how well she worked with others to achieve goals, she ended up appearing to be a self-centered “glory seeker” who had no clue about how to work with others.
Let’s take a closer look at this situation to see if we can discover where more self-confidence might have helped my friend. First of all, when she accepted a position of leadership with the PTA, she also accepted the responsibility that came along with it. She accepted it on purpose, she told me, because she saw it as a good opportunity to gain leadership skills. Although she didn’t feel quite up to the challenge of the position, she felt it would benefit her to accept the offer and its challenges as way to gain new skills that could serve her well in other areas of her life.
Once she began to carry out the responsibilities of the position, however, she found herself “shrinking” from some of the more difficult tasks. But was it courageous or cowardly for her to carry out most or all of the tasks herself, rather than to delegate them?
A self-confident person would have asked this question: What is the worst thing that can happen if I ask everyone on the administrative board to help out with PTA duties and tasks? The worst thing that could have happened would have been for everyone present at the administrative board meetings to have said “No,” which I don’t think would have happened. Meetings of the board were the appropriate place to form committees and to delegate tasks. People attending these meetings, I would think, would be more likely to say “No” in private, rather than in front of the entire administrative board.
My friend, if she accepts such a position again, should be ready to courageously accept all of the responsibility that goes along with it. That includes delegating tasks, so that other members of the board can share in both the work and the glory of the board’s accomplishments. By sharing in the work and the accolades of a job well done, she will be on a good path to learning more about managing people, which she discovered takes a lot more self-confidence than simply completing a project.
It's easy to feel a challenge to your confidence any time you're asked to fulfill a position requiring you to take on a leadership role. Many people, if asked to do what my friend was asked to do, might find needed skills missing. But, with the right amount of self-confidence and determination, opportunities to grow can be of great personal and professional benefit.
In order to step back and look at what it takes to develop self-confidence, let’s use—as a metaphor—a child learning to walk. Let's create a mom and dad, Linda and Larry, and a child, Lesa. It will help Lesa to grow into a confident woman if, when she is ready to learn how to walk, Linda and Larry will give her many chances to try to stand up and balance, on her own.
Even if her parents don't encourage Lesa, she will eventually try to stand up because God put something inside her soul that lets her know she is to use her legs to walk. But, if her parents encourage her, she'll feel more confident every time she stands up, and she'll work harder to balance on her own if she knows her parents are there to see that she is protected; that her safety is insured as she tries.
With her parents' help and encouragement, Lesa will develop confidence as she tries to stand, and she'll know that if she falls, someone is there to protect her--to keep her from being hurt. With encouragement and the assurance of protection, Lesa will soon find more confidence, and through trial, she will find her balance, plus a lot more. You see, as she was being encouraged to stand, she was learning to believe in herself. And learning to believe in herself, learning to trust that others believed in her too, is something that is going to benefit Lesa throughout her life.
One day, as Lesa's legs grow stronger from a lot of standing and trying, she will begin to feel more confident. As she pulls herself up again and again, even though she'll take many tumbles in her attempts to stand, she'll keep her determination and focus. She'll become fearless in her belief that she can stand on her own and walk, because her parents are letting her know they know she can do it, and that they want her to take her first independent steps.
"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." (Deuteronomy 7:9)
As Christians, we know that God is our heavenly father. We know that He is the parent we have when we are all grown-up and living on our own. He is our permanent, forever teacher; our reliable source of encouragement and comfort, and He is always there to help us learn how to stand, and how to keep on standing, on our own and beside others. But do we know that God allows us to come face-to-face with challenges in life, so that we can see the need to grow and to develop our strengths? So that we will know when it's time for us to seek His wisdom?
In our scenario, if Lesa was never allowed chances to stand on her own, although she would eventually learn how to walk, she would not develop the confidence she needs that will help her be strong for other trials she'll encounter in life. If, every time Lesa attempted to rise up, to try to find balance, Linda and Larry pushed her back down, or showed they were afraid for her to try to stand, she would believe in their fear. She would learn from them that there is nearly too much risk involved in trying to be independent. With no encouragement, she would doubt her abilities to do anything on her own. Her development in all things would be threatened, delayed, impaired, or stunted. If her parents were always there holding her up, never allowing her the chance to try--to fail on her own while trying, her development of self-confidence would be severely threatened.
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." (Psalm 32:8)
When parents allow their love for their child to propel them to let go enough so that the child can learn to stand on his or her own, they really are insuring the child's development. In other words, when self reliance is encouraged, children learn to depend on themselves, and they grow and develop while learning what they need to know in order to survive.
When God challenges us to develop personal strengths, the search and discovery processes we go through is what leads us to all kinds of new opportunities to stand; to seek and to find our power and balance as we discover the joys of self-reliance and independence.
- As Christian children, we are to seek more and greater opportunities to expand our self-reliance and independence knowing that God, our heavenly father, is glorified when we work hard, when we try.
- Depending on God provides "parental" support and guidance that helps Christian children believe they are capable of doing anything they want to do. Our Christian beliefs allow us to feel encouraged when our attempts to achieve are appreciated, because we know God is pleased with the results of our efforts.
- Praise can and will bolster a grown-up Christian child’s confidence, insuring that they feel a sense of pride in accomplishment. It is easy to feel good about yourself, after all, when the One you love the most shows you that He loves you, and that He is pleased with you and your efforts to achieve.
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
God is not overly protective or overly critical of His children. When parents are overly protective or overly critical, children internalize feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes, parents can be overprotective to the point where it can become a detriment to a child, and the child begins to feel inadequate. After all, it’s hard to believe in yourself when you feel that your most trusted allies are not trusting of you and your abilities. God's love is an empowering love that makes you feel whole and adequate, just as you are, while encouraging you to reach for more. "All things are possible," it says, "if you only believe."
Childhood is a good time for learning from mistakes. I know I made gigantic mistakes as a child, but my parents always made me feel confident enough in myself to try again. Armed with confidence from trying, I always found myself trying to outdo my last attempts because I enjoyed seeing the joy on my parent’s faces when I did well in my schoolwork or in my hobbies or other activities.
I believe, therefore, that adult Christian children who accept God and His commandments and teachings feel encouraged to try and to develop and grow as a result of living. We know it is not good to feel "unjustly punished" or "overly criticized" when God allows adversity and suffering to come, because we know that God's love and His unchanging hand is always there for us.
How does Self-Confidence Look?
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Christians who are self-confident have a positive and realistic outlook when it comes to their potential. They have faith and trust in God and themselves, and in His ability to teach them to exert control over their lives. People who believe and trust in God, who study Holy Scripture, will develop confidence in themselves. The Holy Bible teaches us that we can accomplish what we believe we can accomplish. So, as we dream, we also make plans, and we work toward our goals while staying spiritually centered and connected to God, ultimately expecting to achieve what we set out to achieve.
A self-confident Christian knows that life has both ups and downs. He or she knows that there is no tragedy in not reaching all of one's goals, but that there is great tragedy in never having goals. A self-confident Christian who trusts in God always has hope of reaching goals. No matter what comes--failure, setbacks, trials, and more trials, his or her perspective and outlook on life and its possibilities is positive and bright.
Self-confident Christians are self-assured, and they feel good about themselves without needing to know how others feel about them. Because they depend on God’s ways and His instructions for their lives, they're not tied to approval from other people in order to feel good about themselves. They’re God-focused, self-reliant risk takers who overcome the fear of failure by believing fully, and by fully expecting to achieve goals with lessons from the life of Jesus Christ used as a guiding light.
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD