We are constantly reminded: ‘Confidence is the key to success’. Why is that? Well, confidence is a game-changing quality that portrays itself as a sense of ‘security’ and a belief in one’s ability to deal with all situations. Being confident helps us beat the blues, perform well under stress and make better decisions. Athletes often vouch for the importance of high confidence levels under pressure, and its benefits in keeping anxiety at bay. Self-confidence also helps build a more positive attitude, thus improving mental health. When one is confident, they know their worth, function at full potential and excel at what they do.

As a cosmetic and restorative dentist, I get many patients coming to me for a smile makeover. And post-treatment, they tend to show higher confidence levels. Over time, I have come to believe that confidence is, in fact, a ‘muscle’ (henceforth called the ‘C-muscle’) that can be strengthened to reach its potential in multiple ways. And just like you set fitness goals for yourself, it is important to self-define goals to boost your confidence—and then to work towards them. 

Growing up, I was a gawky kid. As a teenager, I struggled with being self-confident and being accepting of my true self! Below are some tried-and-tested formulas and secrets from my own experiences that I follow all the time to amp up my confidence.

Exercise to build confidence (your ‘C-muscle’)

1. Believe and visualise

Certain situations can be intimidating, especially when we’re outside our comfort zone. Visualising ourselves being successful in the situation can give us the confidence to perform it. For example, whether you are socially awkward or wanting to work on your people’s skills, just believe that you can do it. Self-belief  eases your fears to an extent that you can prepare and take that first step instead of putting it off.

2. Practice task performance

That ‘practice makes us perfect’ is no joke. To get better at something, you need to keep practising it, no matter the task. Whether it is that critical presentation in the office, or the speech to be delivered before a huge audience, it may seem daunting at first. But  as you continue to practice several times, you will get better at it, and will feel more confident in your ability to deliver..

3. Remember: Failure=lesson

There is nothing like failure; you have just discovered what not to do! By failing, you move closer to what actually needs to be done to reach your goal. If you make a mistake, that’s fine. Understand that confidence is just like any other muscle in your body and has amazing self-reparative power. You can always bounce back! But not trying due to fear of failure or mistakes will not grow your C-muscle.

Now, let’s talk about overconfidence.

To continue with the analogy above, cultivating overconfidence is like pumping C-muscle beyond its capacity. Injury is inevitable. Yes, your C-muscle, like the other muscles in your body, has amazing self-healing ability. But why risk injury in the first place? Overconfidence increases your expectations and increases the likelihood of you getting hurt when those expectations aren’t met.

Dos and don’ts to prevent overconfidence

1. Take small steps: Imagine you deadlift a 50-kilo weight one day. Feeling happy and energised, the next day you move directly up to 150 kilos. Bad idea, right? Your C-muscle builds up step-wise, through practice. So take small efforts consistently and break down your goal into small targets. As each passing target is accomplished, you will feel your C-muscle growing.

2. Check your expectations: Perform the task; don’t just focus on results. The C-muscle will take time to grow. So in any given situation, perform your task with utmost dedication and gratitude, but be prepared for all possible surprises and outcomes, including failure. That sets you up to have low expectations and hence minimises the hurt.

3. Surrender: Remember that not everything is in your hands, so don’t be hard on yourself or beat yourself up if you fail. All we can do is try to the best of our abilities. So don’t let your confidence get affected by things that were not in your control in the first place.

When your C-muscle is injured. remember the self-healing power of this muscle and follow exercises 1-3 above .

Building your confidence muscle is a journey, and practice is the key word. Exercising this muscle will give you the most fruitful results and resilience with optimum mental health . However it is really important to practice self-compassion and gratitude on this journey.

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  • Dr Karishma Vijan

    Dental Surgeon, Author, Philanthropist

    Dr Karishma Vijan is a Mumbai-based practising dentist focusing on cosmetic and restorative dentistry. She has written articles for several national and international scientific journals. After losing a close family acquaintance to cancer, and witnessed the prolonged suffering that came with the disease, Dr Vijan was devastated. She did not want to wait till she was 'old enough' to make a difference to the world through her professional  skills or her intention of philanthropy. She decided to turn her loss into purpose, and thus was born The Unicorn Xpress Foundation & Trust (Tux). The nonprofit's motto is ‘Empowerment through Healthcare’ and it works with underprivileged women across several cities in India. Dr Vijan has received the WEF 2019 prestigious ‘Iconic Women Creating a Better World for All’ award, and has been invited as speaker at Plenary Sessions at the annual international gathering gala edition for the Women Economic Forum, 2019. She has also been named one of the 'Most Inspiring Women in Healthcare across India' as a part of the Bumble Bizz campaign for women. Dr Vijan was also featured in the list of ‘100 Most Impactful Global Healthcare Leaders' at the World Health & Wellness Congress 2019 by ET Now.