The Shocking Truth About Confidence

If someone ever told you to “just be confident,” then you’ve been given terrible advice.

It’s like telling someone to “just go to the gym” or “just eat healthier”…it’s much more complicated than that.

And that’s the truth: we can’t just tell ourselves to be confident.

There might be some “brain hacks” that work in the short term or once-in-a-while after a couple of drinks, but in the long run, true confidence cannot be faked.

Look, we all already know that being confident is important.

We already know that having more confidence would increase our self-esteem, our leadership abilities, and our attractiveness.

But how the hell do we actually become confident?

In this article, you’re going to learn how confidence really works and what you can do today to become a more confident person.

The REAL Way Confidence Is Built

When I first heard about personal development during my freshman year in college, I dove into every single book that I could.

I read books on social dynamics, emotional intelligence, productivity, lucid dreaming, entrepreneurship, you name it. It opened up an infinite amount of possibilites for improvement that I didn’t even know existed — it was great.

I started to connect the dots in my life and recognized patterns that explained why I was socially anxious or why I was having trouble growing my freelance design business.

And if you’ve read any personal development stuff before, then you know how relieving it is to finally find a solution for something that’s been troubling you for years.

By diving into it, I felt like a completely different person.

But after a couple months of reading personal development material, everything started to get incrementally worse.

I withdrew from my social environment and my social anxiety actually got worse than before. In fact, I remember getting anxious just from passing by a group of people on the street. Looking back, I’m still amazed at how far I’ve come.

But at the time, my negative thoughts continued to battle my positive ones, and they’d always win. As a result, all of my confidence disappeared — I had no urge, will, or motivation to do anything.

My days consisted of going to class, eating shitty food, and drinking Nyquil to fall asleep. And on top of that, I watched countless hours of TV.

It was ridiculous.

But after looking back at my attitude with personal development, I figured it out:

It was because I wasn’t actually doing the things that I was learning. If we look at the social anxiety aspect, I felt so good from just reading about how to improve my social life that I actually forgot to go out and work on it. I didn’t push myself and apply the knowledge that I read — I simply fantasized about it. As a consequence, I didn’t take the opportunities that I knew I needed to take to step out of my comfort zone and develop a positive social habit.

And it killed me on the inside.

But once I started implementing the MPA Principle, I was slowly able to build up my confidence to a level WAY above the superficial high that I got from reading books about social skills.

Instead of being addicted to fantasy, I felt motivated to go out to talk to people…and I actually did it.

My confidence finally returned…and I decided to come  up with a system to “design” confidence in a pact to never return to that depressed state. Ever.

It’s simple, and boils down to this:

Confidence is built by elimating the gap between what you need to do and what you actually do.

Let’s break this down into two parts:

1) In order to increase your confidence, you must actually do what you need to do to reach your goal. You have to reach your goals — no one ever gained confidence from failing.

2) The other part is reducing what you need to do in order to call your goal a success. By taking larger goals and breaking them into smaller and reachable chunks, you are able to finish them easier. And when you reach your small goals, you become more confident.

Makes sense, right?

By setting your expectations lower for yourself and taking more action, you build up your confidence.

With my social anxiety, I had trouble talking to strangers. I would constantly tell myself “you need to be more outgoing” and “just speak up” and the dreaded “just be more confident.” Obviously this wasn’t working, so I set my goal lower:

“Just say hi.”

When I did this, the weight instantly lifted off my shoulders. I created a task that was do-able, yet was still outside of my comfort zone. And then I did it.

The response? “Hey what’s goin on.” From my previously anxious self, this was a challenging step.

And that’s how confidence is built, my friends.

Remember: each time one of those small tasks gets conquered, your confidence goes up. And it builds and builds and builds upon itself.

It’s like working out. By steadily increasing the weight you lift each session, you slowly build up your strength and will eventually lift twice the weight that you started with.

Slow and steady wins the race.

How To Be More Confident: Use The MPA Principle

The Minimum Purposeful Action (or MPA) Principle puts this notion into practice by creating small, purposeful actions that will build your confidence.

By creating small actions that will help you reach your goals, and completing them, you get to celebrate the small victory of doing something challenging that helps you grow.

When you’re done celebrating, then you move onto the next one.

And here’s the key: the MPAs have to be challenging.

If you aren’t challenging yourself, then you aren’t growing and you aren’t building confidence. You’re just getting stuff done.

Luckily, figuring out how to create your MPAs to build confidence is relatively simple:

1) Figure out an area of your life where you’d like to be more confident in. This could be social anxiety, fitness, public speaking, whatever.

2) Imagine yourself in the future when you have all of that confidence. Then ask yourself, “what do I need to do to get to that point?”

3) Then, take a piece of paper and brainstorm the steps that you need to take. Break it down into micro-steps — the smallest parts you possibly can.

4) Pick the first step and do it today.

5) Rinse and repeat through the steps and keep on going until you reach your goal. Modify when necessary.

That’s it. Simple, straightforward, and effective.

By taking your goals and breaking them down into MPAs, you’ll challenge yourself, but at a rate that you can actually improve at instead of being overwhelmed by high expectations.

When you slowly improve and conquer your goals one step at a time, confidence comes naturally. And it’ll show up in every area of your life: your job, your relationships, and your health.

Your First MPA…

To hold you accountable, I’m giving you your first MPA to get you started:

Reply in a comment below and include these two items:

1) What is an area of your life that you’d currently like to be more confident in?

2) What is the first Minimum Purposeful Action that you can take to start building your confidence TODAY?

BONUS: If you want more material on how to use the MPA, then sign up below for my e-mail updates and get my action hack guide for free.

  • texexscott

    I am moving to a complety new area of town. I purchased a condo I am renovating to create for the first time a space that is all me, New floors, new paint, new furniture, a contractor with incredible ideas to make the place unique with materials of my choice like a newly built stone fireplace with materials I choose, I chose the location based on the place but also the residents that seem younger and hopefully friendlier than my current neighbors. Ive lived in a beautiful place and setting but a surburban neighborhood where no one knows anyone, I want to make new friends but I am so used to just waving as each drives into their garage never to be seen and this area people are out all the time. I can say hi but that’s about it..
    I thought that maybe also introducing myself might be a step in improving my confidence-I used to have a huge group of friends as I moved around the country with my.job. OH-I also quit my job which had evolved into one I hated to go in to daily and I did have the guts to do that but now I need the cofidence to network and find a job I love again. I don’t believe I can be my best if forced to do something I hate . I cashed in my 401k and have the funds I need for quite ahwhile. But I find my newfound freedom paralyzing and I just hang out and watch tv and eat crap.I need a fire in my butt to move on but indtead I veg. My confidence used to be boundless and I was responsible and had boundless energy, not now,
    I need to find where my inner Gladiator went and get him back.

    • Max Nachamkin

      Hey Scott,

      “I don’t believe I can be my best if forced to do something I hate.”

      Most certainly not. But I urge you to use this time of moving into a new area as a mental reset. I have those times a lot where I need to get away from my current location and just figure out a plan to move forward.

      Those steps that you briefly mention are good — going out and just saying “hi, I’m Scott, what’s your name?” is simple enough and will get your foot in the door. Just rinse and repeat with everyone you meet and you’ll start to develop a social circle with the people you see most often.

      “My confidence used to be boundless and I was responsible and had boundless energy, not now,I need to find where my inner Gladiator went and get him back.”

      The best thing to do is to starting going to the gym if you aren’t already. There’s something about being physically in shape that will help other areas of your life fall into place.

      Figure out what your MPAs are and “choose” (not force) yourself to do them. If you’re still having trouble with them, make them smaller and try again.

  • Adam

    Lovely post, Max. Always an inspiration to read.

    My questions is: How do I become confident around the “cool guys”? I am usually comfortable around other dudes that are viewed as losers but when it comes to the cooler guys I get nervous talking to them. Any tips?Also, what is the best way to prevent stuttering?

    • Max Nachamkin

      Hey Adam, glad you like the post.

      Being confident in social settings is about acknowledging that you are important and have a lot to bring to the table, too. These “cool guys” go into these situations thinking “everyone would LOVE to hear what I have to say” — it’s an unconscious thought, but start emulating that train of thought when you go into social situations where you’d get nervous.

      Why would you think this way? Because you DO have a lot to offer. You have your opinions, your stories, your humor. Acknowledge that, even if you don’t see it at first.

      Then start speaking up, especially when you’re nervous. Slow down when you speak, and take deep breaths when you need to. It’s a practice — the more you start speaking up and being yourself, the easier it becomes. Don’t go saying random shit just for the sake of it, but when you find yourself holding back from saying something because your nervous, stand up tall, slow down, and say it.

      • Adam

        Fantastic! Thx a lot for the feedback! You are the man.

        • Max Nachamkin

          You got it Adam

  • Phil

    I get nervous talking to girls. I can’t be myself around them and I’m too much in my head. I would love to become confident in that area.

    • Max Nachamkin

      I hear you man. The best way to develop your confidence in that is to continually release the need to have to be confident. Being attractive/confident is just a byproduct of complete presence with your emotions – so allow yourself to feel everything, even your fears about being nervous. Once you feel it completely, you’ll “pop through” and that fear will turn into confidence!

  • Jonathan Munoz

    Hi I would like to be more confident around people and women because as soon as someone confronts me on what I believe in then I keep quiet and let them tell me why they are wrong and this is bad for me because I want to enter into politics.

  • Jeffrey Baine Kwesiga

    I would like to be more confident with women I meet in real life and date women I chose. I think I will say hello to one stunningly beautiful woman who I truly want a week.

    • Max Nachamkin

      Hey Jeffrey. Awesome man, it’s a challenging yet rewarding journey to be on.

      Do it up!