Here's something you know. Being self-confident improves odds of success, whether you're a leader wanting to lead confidently, an entrepreneur, or someone just trying to learn how to deal with criticism. And you know the obvious ways to become more confident such as living with a sense of purpose and leveraging your strengths. 

Now for the less obvious, unexpected ways that the most confident people become that way. I encourage you to tap into these unexpected, even counterintuitive hidden gems to shine more confidently from within.  

1. Don't start with self-confidence, start with self-compassion.

Believe it or not, to start feeling more self-confident, don't start with trying to feel more self-confident. Start by focusing on feeling compassionate towards yourself. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake, remind yourself that you're not perfect, allow yourself a learning curve and don't expect to be an overnight sensation in everything you do.

Here's the good news, research from the University of Texas, Austin shows that focusing first and foremost on self-compassion will lead to more consistent confidence, because you have a built-in mechanism to keep from spiraling downward in moments you catch yourself beating yourself up. To practice self-compassion, talk to yourself like you would a friend in need in those moments.   

2. Insist that you're not good enough.

Wait, huh? Isn't self-confidence about insisting the opposite of this? It's about the spirit and intent behind this insistence. For example, when you're facing a tall task, cheerily remind yourself that you're probably not good enough to do the task to your absolute best ability by going it completely alone --no one is. In other words, it's a self-reminder that it's OK to ask for help.

Highly self-confident people view asking for help as an opportunity to go from good to great. You should too. Research from Harvard and University of Pennsylvania even shows that asking for help makes you look good in the eyes of others which can further boost your self-confidence.

3. Be egotistical (at times).

Standard advice is to be confident without being egotistical, otherwise it backfires and that whole self-confidence thing begins to unravel. But actually, you should leverage your ego specifically to pump yourself up here and there with self-affirmations. Remind yourself of what you're good at, that you've done it before, or that you've come so far already.

2013 research published in the psychology journal PLOS indicates that engaging in self-affirmations even improves problem solving under stress because you aren't thrown off your game as easily and don't let negativity add to the difficulty at hand.

4. Celebrate self-doubt.

Hold on, don't confident people cast self-doubt aside? Not necessarily. In fact, they embrace it. The highly self-confident don't wait until they feel 100 percent confident before proceeding, knowing that the simple act of doing will make them feel more confident over the long run. Think about it. After you try something difficult, even if you don't 100 percent succeed, aren't you going to be more confident the next time for having the experience under your belt?  

A seminal, 2010 study in sports psychology even showed that a little self-doubt can improve performance, because it helps athletes maintain an edge.

5. Be stubborn when it counts most.

We're told to stay flexible-minded because confidence flows from knowing you can bend and mold to what the moment requires. Except when it comes to preparing for that big, challenging event. Then it's time for stubbornly sticking to rituals you've created. Harvard research shows that sticking to preparation rituals make you calmer when the moment to perform arrives.

I've found this to be true in preparing for any keynote I give. I have a ritual of rehearsing a keynote, no matter how many times I've given it, twice two days before and on the day before, and once the morning of. It gives me great comfort in knowing I'm prepared, and helps me to perform at my best.

6. Make comparisons (but do draw the line).

I often write about the importance of understanding that the only comparison that matters is to who you were yesterday. I'd like to amend that a bit to acknowledge that comparing to someone who has achieved what you want to can be helpful for goal setting. But stop there, because carrying on with the comparisons is more dangerous than meets the eye.

2018 research from Oakland University proved it's a vicious cycle; when you compare to others you experience envy, the more envy you experience the worse you feel about yourself and thus the lower your self-confidence.

So pulling from the unexpected means you can expect to pull your self-confidence up. Better get started --greater success awaits.

Published on: Nov 9, 2019
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