By Habibah Saafir
The reason why some people don’t achieve the success and fulfillment they truly desire to have in their career, be it a desired role or a higher salary, has far less to do with their level of competency than with their level of confidence. This results in increased levels of stress, anxiety, work dissatisfaction and burnout. To address this, let’s first uncover a few of the common misconceptions about confidence.
• You’re either born confident or you’re not. Wrong. Confidence comes from competence. The more knowledge, skill and ability you gain from trying something new, the more competent you become. As a result, your confidence increases.
• Only extraverts have the personality trait called “confidence.” But confidence isn’t a personality trait; rather, it’s a skill that anyone can learn. The reality is true confidence is silent, for confident people have nothing to prove to anyone.
• Confident people are confident all the time. No one feels confident 100% of the time, for confidence, just like anything else, can wax and wane.
Now that we’ve cleared up a few misconceptions, let’s look at what we can do to build unshakable confidence.
Five Tips to Build Unshakable Confidence
• Exercise Consistently. One of the best ways to build confidence is through consistent exercise, which improve one’s mood, increases energy and gives an overall sense of accomplishment. Studies have shown that engaging in moderate aerobic exercise for at least 20-30 minutes causes a release of endorphins, the brain chemical that improves your mood. This positive emotional and physical state grows your confidence as well as your willingness to take on new risks and challenges.
• Build self-trust through keeping commitments to yourself and others. Begin this process by adopting one small habit and doing it consistently. I recommend starting with something as simple as making your bed immediately after you get up. Be sure to choose something that will be easy for you to do every day. Consider “habit stacking,” a strategy outlined by James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” (2019), a New York Times Best Seller. This involves linking a new habit to a current one. The current habit serves as a trigger or cue for you to perform the new habit.
Here’s the formula: After/Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].
For example: After I get up in the morning, I will immediately make my bed.
• Let go of perfectionism and allow yourself to make mistakes. Focusing so much energy and attention on making things perfect only reinforces the subconscious belief that “I’m not good enough.” As your self-trust slowly diminishes, you’ll begin second-guessing yourself and seeking external validation for any work you put out or anything you do.
To combat this, remind yourself that perfection is a trait that only God possesses. Since there’s no need to chase the unattainable, give yourself permission to make mistakes using faith and courage. Now this is certainly easier said than done, which is why I encourage you to leverage a method I call “Stacking Your Wins.”
Here are the steps (in order): • Grab a blank sheet of paper • Create a list of 5-10 things you’ve accomplished and are proud of • Take a few minutes to reflect on each one, evoking the positive emotions you felt when it happened • Celebrate yourself the same way you did when you accomplished it and feel the same gratitude to God that you felt then • Take one small step toward an immediate goal you have and keep the momentum going!
• Associate with a positive peer group.Prophet Muhammed (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) encourages us to associate only with good people. Therefore, make sure you’re spending most of your time with people who will have a positive influence on you. When you think about influence, consider what this means in a broader context. Certainly, it’s important to associate with friends who will encourage us to pray on time, be charitable and develop ourselves spiritually.
However, it’s also important to have peers who will challenge us to develop ourselves both personally and professionally. When you surround yourself with people who value growth, they would most likely be more courageous, take on challenges, take imperfect actions and become super confident. By mere association, you can begin to borrow their belief, model their behavior and yield similar results (by the grace of God).
For example: I remember when I was working in construction management, one of the engineers began modeling the managers’ behavior. Rather than wait for his boss’ approval for everything, he began spearheading meetings and proposing solutions as problems arose. Of course he risked facing criticism and judgment from his peers and upper management, but he was confident enough to take the risk anyway. Because of his self-trust and gumption despite lack of experience, he proved himself and was quickly promoted to a managerial position. Witnessing this taught me a valuable lesson. Although one can and may well be expected to wait to have all the answers and to rely on one’s boss or supervisors for guidance at some point one must learn to trust oneself to lead and even be willing to make some mistakes so that one confidently grows into a great leader.
• Know what you stand for and never compromise your deen for the dollar. Self-assurance and dignity are among the key components of building unshakable confidence. Therefore, be clear on your values and what you stand for as a Muslim and an individual. One example of this is informing your boss or supervisor early on that your faith requires you to pray at scheduled times every day. Doing so is a simple way to educate your colleagues on habits that are non-negotiable to you and that they should respect. Those around you will begin to see your adherence and high moral standards and associate them with high performance standards, consistency and an excellent work ethic.
The Prophet said, “Verily God has ordained excellence in everything (one does).” Therefore, a Muslim will strive to maintain his/her relationship with God through prayer and to maintain an excellent character and high-quality work. In that way, he/she will become known for all-around excellence, thereby making a wonderful first and lasting impression on others. That self-assurance and the ensuing respect gained from others does a lot to keep one’s confidence high, as it’s a confidence based on certainty in how God guides us.
Habibah Saafir, a civil engineer who earned a B.S. degree (2014) from New Jersey Institute of Technology, is also a success coach for women, with a dual certification in health and life coaching. She serves as a college prep mentor to high schoolers in northern New Jersey under New York Academy Educational Services.