“Over time, continual deposits of belief in yourself will add up, and before long, the doubt that once held you back will be a thing of the past.” — Michael D. Lewis

Extract from BANK ON SELF-INVESTMENT | Chapter 4

If you’ve ever watched a documentary film that covers successful people who are remarkable at their craft prepare for future events, you have definitely been introduced to admirable confidence on display. These people are very persistent in their approach and believe that they will achieve success in all their attempts—they will repetitively be their very best. They know, without a doubt, they will succeed. They also are aware that if they don’t, they will learn valuable lessons that will cause them to improve. This is confidence.

Self-confidence and self-esteem go hand in hand. Both terms signify awareness that your abilities can positively impact your future. People with high levels of self-esteem have genuine respect for themselves and confidence in their aptitude. Without self-confidence, you may feel helpless, buffeted by the often-unkind winds of fate. More so, you may believe your efforts will affect your success, but only in the sense that they will make you less likely to succeed. If you activate your self-confidence, it is more likely that you will perform better and achieve success that will further elevate your confidence.

A low self-confidence is a form of self-sabotage. Whenever you look at a new task you’ve never tried before, the first thought in your head might be something to the effect of, “I can’t do this!” You worry that you will mess it up, and you fear that messing one task up will snowball until you have effectively messed your whole life up. Whether these thoughts are rational or not isn’t necessary at that moment. All you can think of is the mortifying, often paralyzing fear that stepping out of your comfort zone will only result in embarrassment and catastrophic failure.

When you doubt your abilities, it becomes tough to put yourself in a position to take risks. The fear of failure begins to overpower the prospect of even the most promising possible rewards until you are too afraid to try something new. Doubt is incredibly powerful, and it can keep you from trying things you might otherwise excel at, given enough time to practice and develop your skills. Unfortunately, the road to success often involves many different risks. If you want to get into a competitive university, you need to apply and risk being denied. If you’re going to ask someone out on a date, you need to risk the possibility that they won’t accept it. If you desire to learn a new skill, you need to start at a beginner level and surrender that your initial attempts are not going to be as incredible as an expert’s. If you are not confident enough to take risks because you’re too worried about failure, you won’t be able to reap the rewards of success because you haven’t given yourself a chance to succeed.

Nourishing your self-esteem is like making deposits into your bank account. The more you deposit, the more you will save, and the more interest you will make on your self-confidence levels. Having high self-esteem is critical to paving the path to success. It will help you push back against doubt and worry that could otherwise interfere with your self-investment. With high confidence, you will start to appreciate and even anticipate opportunities to learn something new. These opportunities are no longer chances to fail, but rather chances to succeed. Therefore, you want to make as many deposits of self-esteem into your mindset as you possibly can. Over time, continual deposits of belief in yourself will add up, and before long, the doubt that once held you back will be a thing of the past.

Each day I live has taught me a new lesson about the very imbrication between life and one’s self. These lessons have taught me how to actualize self-assurance and have guided me on a path that brought my full self to life. I use the terminology “full self” to paint a vivid picture of a container filled with something good. Prior to this discovery, the level of assurance I needed to function as a champion without reservation was inadequate; self was nowhere near full. It is from these lack of self-confidence narratives I eventually conquered, that I make sense of the person I am today.

In 2012, I entered the Schools’ Science and Technology Societies oratory competition hosted by the Scientific Research Council (SRC). The competition’s format required that I submit a copy of my speech for screening against a score sheet that graded for relevance, facts, conclusiveness, purpose, ability to persuade, and use of language. A preview of each competitor’s speech allowed the judges to select the best ones to advance to the finals. I worked extremely hard to write a good enough speech on the assigned topic. When I received my scores back, they appeared in a table format, with the winner’s scores brandished next to mine, for comparison purposes—I suppose.

My score was 42.8, and the winner had a 42.9. You’re a failure by point one, I told myself. Having the winner’s score next to mine didn’t do me any good. I instantly began to question my capability to deliver my speech in the final round. Can I…? Must I…? Will I…? Quite honestly, though my score was short a few points from being displayed ostentatiously in the winner’s column, dusky fumes of failure headed my direction.

What if I stumble on my syllables?

What if, after I present my speech, I end up with the lowest overall score in the competition?

It was never—what if I win?

I remember expressing the slightest feeling of defeat to Miss Thomas—one of my science teachers in high school—and she reminded me of my oratory competence and motivated me to improve on it for the competition.

The overpowering thoughts of failure that once flooded my mind experienced drought. I began to believe in my ability to speak well. Day after day, leading up to the finale of the oratory competition, I did my very best to let confidence flow through the channels of my mindset. I repeated authentic affirmations of victory every time I looked at my speech, and I believed every ounce of what I said. The doubt and worry that were lurking in my mind to rob me of a victory were deceased. On competition day, I spoke to captivate, clarify, and convince. At that moment, I knew I had done my best. For my hours of preparation and my self-belief, the SRC awarded me as the 2012 champion orator.

Remember that self-investment is a risk of its own that requires you to have some faith in yourself. However, when you get past the initial fear of investing, you realize that self-investment has a very low risk of ending poorly for you and a very high chance of reward. Like many other risks you may need to take, it is not nearly as frightening as you might initially make it out to be in your head. If you can deposit enough belief in yourself to overcome your fear of investing in yourself, you can do the same for other sources of doubt. When you begin believing in yourself and become willing to try new things and see how they go, you will notice that many of the horrible consequences you imagined only existed in your head. Let go of doubt, and you will never let an opportunity to make progress on your goals pass you by again.

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” — Suzy Kassem