If I could describe the notion of self confidence in one sentence, I would say:
Self confidence is the greatest tool you can ever utilize.
I work in a very dog-eat-dog industry; someone will always have a better idea than yours and there will always be someone out to get you and shut you down. The key to surviving this is by having a very high self confidence, which is why most advertisement professionals, filmmakers, writers, artists and creatives are so adamant about their beliefs. Trust me, we don't want to come off as douchebags, but sometimes it is the only way to make it through a cut throat world.
However, I discovered the importance of this characteristic way before I entered the working world. I'm not sure exactly when, but I must have been about 16 or so - past my awkward and not so pretty pubescent phase.
Don't get me wrong; I am still as awkward as they come. The only difference now is that I flaunt it. I may continue to say weird things or act in odd ways, but I do it with a 'if you don't like it then deal with it' attitude.
Now, let's not confuse self confidence with having an oversized ego. The two are very different.
Firstly, our egos are the identities we construct; it is a combination of the beliefs we have of our talents, abilities, personality and looks. These notions are always false. It is a very active part of who we are and what we do and plays a big role in creating emotional drama in our everyday lives.
Have you ever caught yourself saying "Nobody likes me", "The mole on my chin is so ugly" or "I am so smart"? The I's and the me's are our egos talking.
Secondly, having a very active or a large ego has negative consequences more often than not; a person may become more self, self centered and self indulged as they seek constant recognition and validation of their notions. I knew nobody liked me because my friend didn't text me back. I knew my mole was hideous because the cute guy completely ignored me.
Self confidence, on the other hand, is an assessment of our self-worth; are we of any value to ourselves and those around us? It does not rely on other peoples judgements or our interactions with them; instead, it comes from a place deep within ourselves.
Deepak Chopra, one of the century's most influential people, beautifully described the idea of self confidence. He said that "... true self esteem is based on direct experiences of your core consciousness, your higher self, which lies beyond your ego... It cannot feel embarrassed, resentful, humiliated, or proud. The esteem of the higher self is simply a recognition of pure awareness."
There is a very fine line between the two, one that can become blurry at times. The trick is to redirect our focus on ourselves and our own ideas and not what others may think about us. Acknowledge and accept your weaknesses along with your strengths and don't dwell on either, because once you do that your ego comes into play.
I was not always aware of the importance of being confident until I realized what a hurdle being insecure was. I wasn't able to enjoy the simplest things nor did I have the courage to venture out of my comfort zone.
Here I am now, a few tough lessons later, doing things I never imagined doing and being comfortable doing them, too. I've come in terms with who I am, my skills, my talents and my flaws, and I strive to improve my ways on a daily basis.
It's not as scary or difficult as it sounds. In fact, it is totally worth it. The benefits have cultivated into my relationships, my career and my whole life, really. It has also become the greatest accessory I can ever wear. It has kept the spark alive in my life because I am no longer held back by fear or shame.
But it's a never ending journey; we must strive to accept who we are and improve our ways so that we can reach the ultimate level of self awareness, and ultimately, enlightenment.