I was recently reminded how self-confidence shows up in the most unexpected places.  My husband and I watched the Documentary Maidenship, about then 14 year-old Laura Dekker, who sailed around the globe solo, in 2012.  Although her story sparked heated controversy, it also inspired folks around the world. 


On the heels of the Dekker documentary I read about University of Indiana senior Parker Mantell, who recently gave a rousing commencement address to a crowd of 17,000, despite a debilitating stutter.  Rather than letting his disability hold him back, Mantell spoke about how disabilities can become opportunities.  In his own words, “doubt kills more dreams than failure”.  Further, he said, “I Challenge you to take that step forward not despite your disabilities but because of them”.  He cited many famous people who’ve refused to let personal flaws keep them from pursuing their dreams, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ray Charles and Albert Einstein.


How have these young people found the intestinal fortitude to attempt the impossible?  What do Dekker and Mantell possess that allows them to act with self-confidence despite the odds?   They must intuitively understand the following principles:


  • When we only set out to do what we already can, our confidence doesn’t grow.

  • It’s OK to be afraid, but if we let our fear paralyze us, we miss opportunities to develop faith in ourselves.

  • If we allow it, adversity can become a spring-board for personal growth.


I frequently meet with successful people who, on the face of it, have every reason to be self-confident. They may be gifted professionally, athletically or artistically.  Paradoxically, however, they often have a shocking lack of self-confidence in other areas of their lives.  They may, for example, have had the talent and work ethic to become an Olympic skier, but not be able to face people in social settings.


Contrary to popular belief none of us is born confident.  The great news is that any of us can develop self-confidence if we understand how to get there and are willing to apply the elbow grease.  Here are steps to consider:


  • Pick a goal or a new endeavor; one you’ve wanted but until now have been afraid to pursue.  Write it down in clear language and post it in a number of places where you’ll see it regularly, such as your mirror, the refrigerator or the dashboard of your car.  Repeat it to yourself often.

  • Break your goal into steps.  Make those steps small enough that none feels too overwhelming.  Put dates of completion for each step into your calendar, just as you’d schedule a meeting with a business associate.  Don’t set yourself up for failure by creating an unrealistic time frame.

  • Tell friends and family members about your goal, for 2 reasons:   1) so that you feel more compelled to follow through with it, and 2) so that they can serve as your “cheering section”, especially if and when your resolve wanes.

  • Don’t let obstacles deter you from moving toward your goal.  Often even the best laid plans don’t materialize because we tend to give up once the going gets tough.

  • Don’t let embarrassment or ego keep you from asking for help.  Seek out successful people who’ve surely had their own struggles reaching their goals.  Offer to treat them to coffee or lunch.  You’d be surprised how many folks are flattered to be asked to share their wisdom!   And if they turn you down you’re no worse off for having asked.

  • Once you’ve reached your goal take time to celebrate.  It’s important to soak in the reality of what you’ve achieved and recognize the courage and fortitude it took to achieve it.


Every time you apply this set of steps to a new goal you’ll realize more strongly than ever that you can rely on yourself.  Further, the notion that you can feel fear and proceed anyway will be even more strongly rooted in your psyche.  In short, you’ll have grown your self-confidence by leaps and bounds.



Self Confidence is within Your Grasp!

by Maud Purcell

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© 2015 Maud Purcell