Tuesday, January 06, 2015

7 Questions About Self-confidence

On 22nd of December 2014, I did a talk in South Korea about self-confidence.

During the Q&A session, I answered a few questions from the audience but due to time constraints, I couldn't answer all the questions sent to me on pieces of paper. So I brought those pieces of paper home and I answered them via email.

Now, I want to share those questions and answers here. Hopefully, something I said will be beneficial to someone who reads it.

1. What is the difference between perception and impression? What matters more?

I think there is little to no difference between the two. How you perceive someone is the impression someone gives to you (intentional or not). What matters most is not be fake and not to do things just to get people’s affection and approval. Show good akhlaq not because you want people to like you, but because you believe that is the right thing to do and that is what Allah likes the most from you.

2. We live in a society where criticism is seen as motivation, and usually the criticism is in the negative form. How can we take these kind of criticisms to improve our self-confidence?

Constructive criticism is indeed a form of motivation. People who constructively critique us are giving us useful information for self-improvement, even if the critique is in the negative form that we don't like to hear (e.g. You shouldn't have done that. You should do this instead).

Constructive criticism can sound negative to our ears but it doesn't mean that it is hateful or offensive. If it is, then it shouldn't be called a constructive criticism. That is actually a hate comment from a hater. If that is the case, then we should just plug our ears up because it is just not worth our time.

As recipients of these constructive criticisms, we should build a thicker skin and shouldn't be overly sensitive towards what people say. Don’t take it personal and learn to let things go, because we respect ourselves too much to let someone else control our emotions.

This world is filled with sharp tongues and if we are too sensitive, then it might be difficult for us to navigate through this harsh world with its various challenges. We are not here to gain people's praises and approval. We are here to gain Allah's pleasure.

3. If I am a quiet and reserved person, but my environment has a lot of wrong in it, what should I do? Should I change my personality?

Focus on what we can control and what is within our individual capabilities. Allah doesn't hold us into account for things that are beyond our control and capabilities. At the same time, we shouldn't underestimate our capabilities.

Sometimes we think that the only thing that we can do when we see a wrong is to hate it in our heart, but in reality we can do so much more than that. It requires self-reflection and honesty to figure out the extent of our capabilities in reality.

Not only that, while we should try to change things within our capabilities, we should also wisdom (hikmah) as our guide. Without hikmah, we might end up causing more harm than good. Hikmah requires knowledge, understanding, and experience.

We don't have to change our personality. What we should do is harmonize our personality so that it is in line with the Quran and the Sunnah. You don’t have to change who you are. You just have to find the best version of who you are.

4. How to find that social support?

Depends on what your ultimate goal in life is. Based on what your goal is, you will search for people who will help you attain that ultimate goal. Search in places where you think those people will be.

5. How to know if the people around you are your social support?

Do they help you attain your ultimate goal in life? If yes, then they are truly your social support and you should hold on to them. If no, then you should reduce your interaction with them (but don’t remove them completely from your life – reduce, not remove) and start looking for the social support you actually need.

6. How do I start a conversation with someone and to get the conversation going if I have no confidence in my social skills?

Practice, practice, and practice. It requires getting out of your comfort zone, which I can imagine would be hard for you (or anyone else). Self-confidence is mostly the responsibility of the individual. You can’t outsource self-confidence to other people. People can’t help you, until you help yourself.

7. I have a problem in believing what I really want to do. I’ve been stuck in between ‘do things that people will love’ (to avoid hatred) or ‘do things that I really want to do’. What do you think about it?

If the ‘people’ you are referring to are the general public, then you should stick to what you want to do (provided that what you want to do is not illegal or haram). Because at the end of the day, this is your life and you are responsible for it. Not them.

But, if the ‘people’ you are referring to are your family (especially your parents), then you should try to find the best way to discuss this matter with them. Discussion should be a two-way conversation, where you listen to what they want to say and they listen to what you want to say. Together, you decide on what is best.

They can’t know how you feel without you telling them and if you don’t build a good relationship with them first, it is hard for you to make them listen to you. Build the connection first, then the message can go through.


To learn more about self-confidence and how you can achieve it on your own, do join us for our upcoming SPEAK UP! English Speaking Seminar.

Details can be found here.