As I’ve said many times before: confidence isn’t something you’re born with, it’s something you build.
But as any architect will tell you, it’s a hell of a lot easier to build something when you have a clear vision of what you’re building, and a step-by-step plan for getting there.
Which means that before you can begin acting confidently and displaying the traits of confident people, it can be hugely beneficial to define what those traits are, and why they’re important.
This is a lesson it took me an embarrassingly long time to learn. Starting in my late teens and stretching well into my 20s, I felt insecure and unsettled. I desperately wanted to become more self-assured and confident, but I couldn’t put my finger on what, exactly, that entailed.
I also knew that there were plenty of people who already had the kind of confidence I envied, and I remember how frustrating it was to look at them and wonder what, exactly, made them seem so damn secure.
What traits did these people have that made me envy them? Why was it so easy to identify strong, self-assured and confident people? What characteristics or traits were the surest markers of self esteem?
Conscious of What Confidence Looks Like
I finally realized that if I wanted to be confident, I’d first have to become conscious of what confidence looks like. I made a list of the 10 most confident people I knew, then started listing some of the most obvious characteristics each of them possessed.
After that I took my search to the next level, and began really creeping out my friends making mental (and occasionally, actual) notes on their most confidence-conveying attributes.
Eventually, I was able to compile a pretty comprehensive list consisting of the clearest traits of confident people. In this post, I’ll lay out the 15 most distinct attributes of the self-assured, and explain why each one is so important for conveying confidence.
The Defining Traits of Confident People
Know Themselves and Their Values
You can’t be sure of yourself if you’re not sure of what you stand for. Confident people are generally the ones who have invested the time it takes to consider their values, and define what’s most important to them.
So many of the things that we struggle with in everyday life – managing our schedules, interacting with other people, reserving time for personal development, and dozens more – become easier once you have a clear sense of values.
That’s why I love the idea of writing a personal mission statement. Taking the time to not just think through, but write down and codify, your values provides a framework from which all other decisions can be made with confidence.
Whether we’re talking time, money, attention, compliments (more on those below), or any other type of currency, confident people are givers. A willingness to share is a sure marker of someone who’s secure in themselves.
Confident people tend to have an abundance mentality. Rather than focusing on how they can keep pieces of the pie for themselves, self-assured people focus on expanding the pie and creating more for everyone.
Make Firm Decisions
Confident people don’t necessarily rush into things, but they do make sure to keep their hemming and hawing to a bare minimum. A confident person gathers what information they can, takes some time to assess it, and then makes the best possible decision based on the facts.
And after they’ve made a choice, confident people live with it. Sure, it could turn out that you didn’t have all the information, or your assessment was inaccurate. But confident people have made their piece with the fact that an honest attempt to make the best call is all anyone of us can do.
Show me a person who will pass the buck, shirk responsibility or throw another person under the proverbial bus, and I’ll show you someone desperate to hide their insecurity.
Confident people, by contrast, step up and take responsibility, regardless of the circumstance.
It starts by taking responsibility for the things that are most personal to them, and that no one else can really control: their health and fitness, their personal image, their social skills and their mindsets.
But confident people also take responsibility for their mistakes and errors. They fess up, come clean, apologize when necessary and, crucially, work to improve.
You don’t need to have a type-A, go-getting personality in order to be confident, but you do need to take actions that will bring you closer to your goals.
For instance, as an introvert who would rather spend a day reading alone than hanging out with people, my goals probably look crazy to extroverts. But if I want to learn as much as I can and become the best version of myself that I can be, I know I’m going to need to read the right books, so I’ve made a point of finding the best self help books for men and carving out time in my schedule to read them.
Confidence comes from competence, and the more action you take toward your goals, the more confident you’ll feel.
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Let Things Roll Off Their Back
Shallow, insecure people hold grudges and try to exact revenge. But confident people know that shit happens, and so do interactions with shitty people.
When someone is short, rude or otherwise wrongs you, you have a choice: are you going to let their shitty behavior consume you, and potentially ruin your day? Or are you going to overcome the temptation to go negative and continue your day with a confident, positive mindset?
Confident people choose the latter.
They Ask For Help
Another big benefit of not caring what people think is that you’re not worried that asking for help will make you look stupid, incompetent or otherwise weak.
Confident people can acknowledge their weaknesses without interpreting them as personal failings, which provides them with the security they need to seek out help when necessary.
They Make Progress
Have you ever met a confident person who was stuck in the same place they were in five years ago?
Because confident people take the initiative and get started, ask for help when they need it, and don’t allow themselves to get thrown off course by taking setbacks personally, they’re able to keep trying new things and pushing their limits.
As a result, they progress toward their goals, and even when they don’t quite achieve them, they learn so much in the process that they find themselves much better off – and even more confident – than when they started.
Listen More Than They Speak
Confident people follow Dale Carnegie’s advice: “If you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering.”
Insecure people are so desperate to be seen as assertive that they often suck up all the air in the room. Confident people are secure enough to listen and respond thoughtfully. They may speak fewer words, but each one has a much greater impact.
Resist the Urge to Gossip
There’s an adage often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, which in all likelihood goes back much further:
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
Whoever said it, it rings as true today as whenever it was first articulated. As social creatures, we love gossip, and it can be admittedly hard to resist in joining in on the latest scuttlebutt. (Almost as hard as resisting the urge to use “scuttlebutt” in a sentence, in fact.)
But resisting that urge is exactly what confident people do, and you should too. If you absolutely have to talk about someone in their absence, try to apply the same principle that the philosopher, author and almost-absurdly-self-confident Sam Harris recommends: only say behind their backs what you’d be willing to say to their face.
Ask “Why not?” Instead of “Why Bother?”
All of us are subject to the negativity bias, our brain’s pesky tendency to go negative and assume worse outcomes than are actually reasonable.
But confident people have trained themselves to skirt this penchant and assume that something good will happen, rather than something bad.
Confident people don’t say, Why bother asking that girl out? She’ll just say no.
Instead they say, Why not ask that girl out? She might say yes!
Does she always say yes? No, not always. But does she sometimes? She does. And I don’t know about you but I’d much rather sometimes get a yes than always get… well, nothing.
Praise Others Easily
Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but there’s another nugget of wisdom from Dale Carnegie that’s worth internalizing.
Carnegie encouraged his readers to be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise,” and whether they’ve read his work or not, confident people alway seem to follow his advice, and in my list of go-to first date tips for guys, I explain why:
People who are insecure and unsure of themselves tend to think more time focused on their own foibles and insecurities than they do thinking about others.
But confident, self-assured people spend less time worrying about themselves and the way they may be perceived, which frees them up to devote more time and attention to other people.
Handing out compliments without any expectation of receiving one in return is a sure sign of confidence.
Know How to Say “No”
Confident people tend to be kinder and more generous than others, but make no mistake: they’re no pushovers.
Because they’re secure enough not to worry about the opinions of others, and because they have a clear understanding of their highest values, confident people don’t feel the need to acquiesce to every request that comes their way. Instead, they’re able to say no when an offer or appeal simply isn’t right for them, but do it in a respectful way.
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, summed it up well:
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “’yes’ burning inside.”
Take Care of Their Bodies
Confident people respect themselves, and that means respecting their physical health.
Don’t get me wrong: by no means do I want to suggest that I think all confident people are or should be gym rats. You certainly don’t need to look like a fitness model to be confident, and if my years in the fitness industry taught me anything, it’s that fitness models are just as prone to body dysmorphia as anybody else (and maybe more prone).
But confident people understand that feeling good mentally and emotionally follows naturally from feeling good physically. They work out not to look good (well, not just to look good) but to feel good and reap the many benefits of exercise and nutrition.
There’s a reason why this article isn’t titled “23 Unmistakable Traits of Insufferable Braggarts.”
I don’t care if you’re the most handsome, accomplished, assured and incredible person in history: no one wants to hear you talk about it.
While confident people often have the most to brag about, they also have the good sense to know that they shouldn’t. People who are truly self-assured let their accomplishments speak for themselves.
That’s not to say they downplay their abilities or their success, they just have enough personal security and self-worth that they don’t have to look for ways to interject them into conversation.
About 10 years ago, Clint Eastwood told a great story to GQ about a guy who perfectly embodies this. Eastwood recalls meeting boxing legend Rocky Marciano years earlier, when Marciano was in his prime, and marvelling at just how light Marciano’s handshake was.
“I walked away and thought, Yeah, Rocky Marciano doesn’t have to grab you,” Eastwood told GQ. “He knows he could kill you.”
Exactly. And confident people don’t have to brag.
They know they can charm you.
Now You Know What Confidence Looks Like
The Question is: Are You Ready to Start Building it Yourself?
As I said at the start of this post, in order to build confidence you need a clear idea of what you’re building and a step-by-step plan for getting you there.
The traits above should give you a firm understanding of what confidence looks like, and what kind of attributes you need to acquire in order to strengthen your self esteem.
But what about the other half of the equation, the step-by-step plan? For that, check out The Self Confidence Starter Guide. It’s a 20-page e-book that outlines the five fundamental steps a man must take to start building self confidence.
And the best part? It’s completely free. Just enter your email address below and I’ll send the Starter Guide straight to your inbox.
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- 31 Powerful Signs of a Confident Man – Irreverent Gent
- 7 Self-Confidence Tips Guys Need to Know – Irreverent Gent
- 8 Traits the Most Self-Assured People Share – Inc.com
- 10 Signs of Truly Confident People – Lifehack.com
Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a men’s style specialist, an Amazon bestselling author, an unrepentant introvert, a (patient, if long-suffering) Toronto sports fan and the husband of a wonderful (and fortunately much more patient) wife.