THE BLOG
06/10/2011 08:04 am ET Updated Aug 10, 2011

Self-Confidence: 4 Ways To Build It So You Can Live the Life of Your Dreams

No matter what you want to do in life -- whether you want to be an Academy-Award-winning actor, a CEO of a big company, a sought-after speaker or the winner of a marathon -- having self-confidence is essential for your success. Without a healthy dose of confidence, you'll never take the steps needed to make your dream come true. That's why, before embarking on any endeavor, you need to build up your confidence level and know you are worthy of what you desire.

When I was in my early 20s, I met Pete Wilson, a politician who was running for governor of California. I asked him how he got the drive and stamina to run for office. After all, political races are so vicious, and you have to really believe in yourself and want to make changes in order to go through what politicians go through.

Mr. Wilson said, "You yourself have to think you're great, because no one else is going to tell you that you are." His words are so true! To live the life of your dreams and do whatever it is you want to do, you have to first build your own self-confidence and not depend on or wait for anyone else's approval.

Remember, how you see yourself and what you believe about yourself is more important than what anyone else thinks. If you don't work at loving, accepting and believing in yourself, then your fears will paralyze you. Being happy and fulfilled, and having your heart filled with peace, starts with you. It's an inside job.

Following are four steps that can help you build your self-confidence.

1. Acknowledge your uniqueness.

Believe in yourself and know that you are one of a kind. In the words of Walt Whitman, know "[t]hat you are here -- that life exists and identity, / That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse." There is no one else like you on this planet. No one looks like you or has the same talents and perspective as you. You are unique and are therefore here to make your unique contribution. If we each focus on what we bring into the world to share, there can be no comparisons, envy or regret. We are here to "contribute a verse." What will your verse be?

If you're not sure yet or don't like your verse so far, take some time and think about it. Think about what you would do with your time if you had one month to live and a million dollars. What advice would you pass on to those you love? Whatever your answers are, that's what's unique about you.

2. Confront your fears.

Nothing destroys self-confidence more than succumbing to fear. Everyone feels fear at various times; we're human. But facing circumstances with courage and poise strengthens character and builds self-confidence.

Recently, I boarded a plane and went, by myself, to Jordan. People told me, "You're nuts. You're walking into the lions' den." Yes, I was a white female traveling alone in a mostly Muslim country, but I refused to let fear dictate my life's journey. I had visited Jordan in the past and wanted to revisit it before teaching a class in Egypt. This was going to be "my" time to go deep, relax and meditate before the class.

I ended up having a great time. I slept under the black sky and bright stars in a cave and felt more alive, inspired and full of life. By confronting any fears I may have had and giving to myself, I was able to build my confidence and give more to my clients. I was able to share from a deeper level and give channeled and inspired counseling by spending time in silence in breathtaking surroundings, instead of give a mundane, regurgitated speech.

3. Accomplish something -- no matter what.

Set goals for yourself and then push yourself to reach them. Self-confidence soars when you know you can do what you put your mind to. It makes you feel unstoppable. If you feel like you don't have the strength to do it alone, get a coach!

Remember that everybody has setbacks and obstacles to contend with. Don't let them undermine your confidence. Treat them as opportunities to strengthen your resolve and then persevere.

Overcoming adversity and accomplishing something builds and strengthens self-confidence. The greatest songs, works of art and literary pieces have been written by those who have experienced the depths of despair, loss and emptiness -- and overcame them. Experiencing sadness and loss and then rising above it gives rise to hope and triumph. It makes you stretch and become more than you were. When you do the best you can, with the best of what you've got, you can't help but feel good about yourself. That confidence then comes through in everything you do.

4. See the positive in every situation.

You are not what happens to you or how you believe others see you. In other words, you are not defined by what happens to you or how others see you. You are who you choose to be -- hopefully, you choose to be a person of character, dignity and self-confidence. When you see the positive in every situation, it's easier to make that choice.

I recently spoke at an event that was supposed to be for Youth Leaders Causing Leaders. When I arrived, it turned out that I only had two teenagers in the audience, while the rest were adults. I had to scrap my speech and improvise a speech based on my new audience. I was thrilled that the talk was only scheduled for 20 minutes, instead of the usual 45 to 60 minutes. Several other speakers chose to cancel because they felt the event was not organized properly and they didn't have something prepared for this age group.

Rather than view the situation as a negative, I saw it as a positive. I saw it as a challenge. I saw the glass as half-full instead of half-empty because it forced me to dig deeper and come up with a 20-minute presentation about leadership that would help motivate and inspire the audience I had in front of me, not the one I had prepared for.

Right before I took the stage, the producer asked if I could speak for 60 minutes because the other two speakers had cancelled. I gladly accepted, not having anything prepared except for my inner resources. No notes, bullet points, nothing.

Look at whatever challenge you're facing. How can you see the glass half-full? When you're able to, you'll tap into reservoirs of self-confidence you never knew you had.

Your confidence and potential are limitless.

Self-confidence is essential for achieving success in any endeavor. And you develop your self-confidence by doing, learning, accomplishing and persisting -- not by talking about it and criticizing others who are doing things. So work on increasing your self-confidence every day. When you do, you'll have the key ingredient for reaching your goals and living the life of your dreams.