“Immigrants, due to our accents, are better suited for technical work or crunching numbers—accounting, engineering, technical stuff. We don’t make great lawyers.”
I’ve characterized this as some of the worst advice I ever received. It came from an uncle who’d recommended my sister and me for a part-time job at a bank in New York City while we were in college. We’d been in the United States for less than two years. He’d lived in the United States for close to two decades, and in the spirit of sharing well-meaning uncle advice, had asked about our professional aspirations. I dared to tell him I wanted to become a lawyer.
Over the years—well after I obtained a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School and began to practice law—as I’ve considered why I ignored his advice, it boils down to one thing: belief. I believed I could accomplish what I desired, so I continued in the direction of my goal.
Confidence is the sense that you can do what you set out to do, and that sense spurs you to action and permeates your actions.
There are several misconceptions about confidence. It is often equated with pride and arrogance. Or conversely, it is equated with extroversion, or being amiable or gregarious. Confidence is also often equated with likability and popularity; shyness or introversion are equated with lack of confidence and self-doubt.
Confidence and introversion are not conflicting personality traits. Being more reserved doesn’t mean that you can’t build confidence. While being well-liked or popular can boost your self-esteem, they have a limited impact on true confidence and your ability to achieve your goals.
Your perception of yourself is critical—not the perception you project to others or the way you are perceived, but how you perceive you.
At the foundation of confidence is a genuine belief in your inherent goodness and worth, and your belief in your talents and your ability to follow through even in the face of failure. Confidence is about allowing that belief to fuel and sustain the pursuit of your goals.
The Four Confidence Commitments
An essential question in building your confidence muscles is: Are you willing to leave certain things behind to make daily and sustained leaps?
Below are four confidence commitments to support your journey toward your audacious goals.
1. Don’t dwell on the opinions of others.
A major hindrance in accomplishing your goals is second-guessing your abilities, plans, or level of progress based on other people’s opinions, assessments, and perspectives. You must take ownership of seeing your goals through to fulfillment. No one else is qualified to do this.
2. Don’t seek perfection in each strike.
The quest for perfection often hinders progress. Focusing on perfection kills confidence. And with the death of confidence comes inaction. The only way to learn is to keep iterating and experimenting.
3. Learn from negative experiences and rejection, but don’t dwell on them.
Challenges, setbacks, and failures are part of learning. They are teachers—they show us where we can improve or change, and they teach us resilience. Don’t ruminate on failures or the times when you fall short. Identify the lessons, figure out a way to do better, and keep on striving.
4. Integrate confident habits into your life.
Regular physical activity, such as exercising or participating in a sport helps boost confidence. Exercise releases endorphins that improve your mood and outlook on life and help you feel better in your own skin.
In professional settings, practice and build your executive presence, as I describe in this Forbes article. Executive women’s leadership coach Ekene Onu notes that confidence comes through action and is built through small wins. Continue to take action toward your big goals. Through continued action comes confidence.
Confidence Is Yours to Embrace
Confidence is yours to embrace if you are willing to give up striving for perfection, caring about other people’s opinions, and dwelling on negative experiences, and if you begin to integrate confident habits into your life. Being confident is about being your very own cheerleader. More importantly, it is about committing not to give up in the face of adversity and rejection, which are certain to appear along the way. You will succeed because you believe.
Chinwe Esimai is Managing Director and Chief Anti-Bribery Officer at Citigroup, where she oversees the firm’s global anti-bribery program. She was born in Nigeria and is passionate about inspiring immigrant women leaders. She shares leadership insights for immigrant women at chinweesimai.com.
Originally posted on Forbes.