confidence is easy

(Updated – First published on 6th March 2013)




Failure = Success

So, you’re struggling with self-esteem issues and you’re desperate to increase your confidence. Well, here’s something you might not be aware of. Having confidence in yourself is built as much on failure as it is on success.

Firstly, you need to understand that failure is a fact of life. Believe it or not, the most successful people in this world are those who failed the most!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles &

Some of the most brilliant minds of our time got there because they were abject failures. I know, hard to believe isn’t it? The difference between their thinking and the way you’re thinking now is simple. Every time they failed, they saw it as another step closer to getting it right next time.

When Thomas Edison had developed the first truly useable incandescent light bulb, he was asked how he managed to continue in his work when he had had so many failures? His answer was simply that he’d had no failures, but he’d  discovered a thousand ways his light bulb wouldn’t work!

Still not convinced?

It’s very easy to lose heart and give up after your fantastic idea appears to fail at every hurdle. In truth though, the only time you can really fail is when you stop trying.

As an example, let’s use a simple idea that almost everyone has experienced; How many times would you let a baby try to walk and watch them fail, before you stopped them from trying and just accepted that this baby was just never meant to walk? I assume that your answer would be you’d never stop them trying! So, is it any wonder that babies eventually walk?

So, why is it that as adults we all just stop trying when the going gets tough?

Unfortunately, as we grow older, our parents, our extended family, our friends, our teachers and mentors, etc. all teach us, through their own belief structures (even thought it’s usually not done deliberately), that only a select few will ever make a real success of their lives and everyone else just has to be satisfied with the situation they’ve been given.

Very often as children we’ll hear our parents etc. say things like “children should be seen and not heard.” and “You should only speak when you’re spoken to”. Is it any wonder so many of us are introverts with little or no self-confidence?.

You may also hear things like, “money goes to money”, or “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”, or “of course he’s successful, his family have money so everything’s handed to him on a plate”. Get the idea?

The truth however, is that anything that’s been done by anyone previously, can be done by you!

I realise that sounds like a rash and over simplified statement, but think about it. Everybody starts off their lives the same way. They can’t talk, think for themselves, walk, eat without help, or even control their own bladder. Yet some become Astronauts, groundbreaking scientists, or World leaders, while others become homeless, or murderers, or drug addicts.

Failure breeds success

In the main, these people, whichever end of he spectrum they’re at, got there because of three things;

1. The belief structures imposed on them by their family and peers, etc.
2. The decisions they decided to make based on those belief structures.
3. Whether they imagined it would cause more pain than pleasure to change their circumstances.

Some good examples of this are Oprah Winfrey and Col. Sanders.

Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty, the Daughter of an unmarried teenage Mother. After her birth, her Mother left Oprah with her Grandmother in rural Mississippi and left.

Her Grandmother was so poor that she couldn’t afford to buy clothes and Oprah had to wear dresses made from potato sacks.

She was often beaten with a stick for not doing her chores, or behaving badly. She freely admits she was raped at eight years old and that she’d been molested by her Uncle, Cousin and a family friend. And, she also became pregnant at 14!

When most ‘normal‘ people would curl up in a corner and wait to die, she decided that she deserved better and fought ‘tooth-and-nail’ to get herself out of her situation and lead a more powerful existence.

The Forbes’ international rich list has Oprah listed as the first black woman billionaire in world history and in 2013, she regained the No. 1 slot on their ‘List Of The Most Powerful Celebrities

Colonel Harland Sanders, become a world-known figure for his highly successful Kentucky Fried Chicken.

What most people don’t realize though, is that the road Col. Sanders had to tread to get to that position was by no means an easy one.

When his father died when he was 6 years old, he became responsible for feeding and taking care of his younger brother and sister.

He began working at the age of 12, and over the years, he held down numerous jobs. These included a farmer, street-car conductor, railroad fireman and insurance salesman.

At 40 years old he was running a small service station in Kentucky that also served food to travelers. He decided to move his food operation to a restaurant across the street. He featured a fried chicken so notable that he was named a Kentucky colonel five years later, by Governor Ruby Laffoon.

However, after Interstate 75 diverted the majority of the ‘travelling’ custom away from his restaurant, he was 65, and was forced to sell his business for a fraction of its value.

Very soon he was penniless aside from the small franchise payments he had arranged with friend Pete Harman, who was selling his secret recipe chicken in Salt Lake City.

His Social Security cheques were for $105. He realized he wouldn’t be able to survive with that as his only income. But, the only thing he had that was saleable was his recipe for fried chicken.

So he began travelling door-to-door, initially in his local area, then further afield. He cooked his chicken for chefs in various restaurants, cafes and diners. If they liked the taste, and wanted to become a franchisee, his payment would be one nickel for every chicken sold.

What’s amazing about this story is that even though that deal seems like a good one, the Colonel had to undergo one thousand and nine ‘NO’s, before he heard his first yes! How’s that for an abject failure!

Could you honestly say that you’d still have the enthusiasm in your goals, after that many failures? How many people would still have the drive after even one hundred failures? There are many people who would have given up after five failures.

Yet, by 1964, Colonel Sanders had 600 franchises selling his trademark chicken.

He believed in his product, after all he’d had many rave reviews over the years and he knew that it was just a case of continually trying until he found someone with the ‘vision’ to take a chance on him.

Eventually he succeeded.

And, they’re not the only ones…

There are some great quotes from some very wise people regarding what most of us refer to as failure.

Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to try again more intelligently”.

Oliver Goldsmith said “Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall”.

Michael Jordan when asked about his immensely successful basketball career replied, “I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot… and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life, and that’s exactly why I succeeded.” and finally,

Soichiro Honda said “Many people dream of success. To me, success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection”

The moral here is simple, never give up on your dreams. They may take a little longer to achieve than you expected and you’ll probably have to change your approach more than once to get there (sometimes many times 😉 ), but keep at it, never give up and most importantly, believe in your ability to succeed!

Share with us your successes (or failures 🙂 ) either in the comments, or on social media.

Steve, who's also the Founder of Teen Anxiety UK, has been writing books and articles about various aspects of Psychology since 2006.

For the last five years, he's main focus has been in helping build confidence and self-esteem.

His formal qualifications include Clinical Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, NLP and CBT.

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