You read that right. Failing can be the key to success.
People often believe that confidence is as an essential, fixed characteristic — either you have it or you don’t. Yet research has shown that confidence is, in fact, a controllable quality, one that you can cultivate when you understand how. Journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman dove into the psychology and science behind this critical quality in their book, The Confidence Code. Here are three of their most compelling insights about how to boost belief in yourself.
Foster a Growth Mindset
One of the most fundamental practices for improving self-confidence is to adopt a “growth mindset.” Originally coined by Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of motivation and author of the seminal text, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, a growth mindset is when people believe their abilities or talents aren’t fixed or innate but capable of improvement through dedication, effort, and guidance. The opposite of this, a “fixed mindset,” considers abilities and talents (as well as traits like intelligence and athleticism) to be essentially unalterable.
A growth mindset encourages you to see yourself as a work in progress. Accordingly, it places the focus of any endeavor onto the learning process rather than on judging performance. This staves off discouragement by helping you interpret setbacks as opportunities to improve, which ends up leading to actual progress.
In order to gain confidence, it’s important to let go of expectations of perfection and become comfortable with failure. Kay and Shipman suggest you practice their “fail fast” method: rather than waiting for your idea or plan to pan out perfectly, you should move quickly to figure out what works and what doesn’t. When you encounter more failures — fast failures — use them to help you learn and improve with speed and efficiency. In the immortal words of Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Failure, even instructional failure, can take an emotional toll. Consequently, it’s important to maintain self-compassion. While self-esteem (which people often confuse for confidence) promotes self-affirmation and, at times, perfectionism (the bane of both confidence and growth), self-compassion acknowledges and accepts flaws.
Your confidence can also benefit from focusing on others when possible. Kay and Shipman suggest an occasional shift from a “me” to “we” mindset, as letting go of self-criticism to think about others can promote a confidence-boosting change in perspective.
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