People respond differently when they encounter the unexpected. One person who comes upon the scene of an accident might drive by, while another is compelled to do something, even at the peril of his or her own life.

In a time of crisis, people who may not have appeared confident before sometimes surprise everyone with their heroics. Others who are very confident in public shy away from involvement. What is happening here?

Those who respond impulsively to a crisis do so because their focus shifts from self to others. The urgent need of another person can motivate us to take confident action.

Are you comfortable in your own skin? I briefly met an educator in an elementary school whose presence felt invigorating and refreshing. Someone’s observation to me was that, ‘she feels comfortable in her own skin.’

Some people have this quality naturally from a young age. Others have acquired it. People who are comfortable in their own skin are not people who spend a lot of time looking in the mirror. They are looking outward, enjoying others, and enjoying life.

Yesterday I spoke with someone who said that he no longer felt intimidated by the fact that others were “smarter, better, or wealthier” than he. He was comfortable with who he was.

We can choose how we will see ourselves in light of the success of others. We can be consumed by envy and resentment. We can give way to feelings of inferiority or we can rejoice in the success of others.

The man I spoke with determined to affirm others in their success. By validating others he no longer felt intimidated by them.

Too much change, too quickly may leave us feeling shaken and insecure. When life is unpredictable, when we lack control over a situation, we tend to fear the future.

The perception that we have limited control does not need to cause fear. A child, for example, can entrust his welfare to his parents. In a similar way, a person who believes that God has a plan for his life can trust him with his future and dispel fear.

As our fear increases, our confidence diminishes. The Bible teaches us that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:8). Love, God’s love, is the antidote to fear. It is also the key to confidence. Embracing the truth of God’s love for us will replace fear with peace and assurance.

Every person is worthy of love. No other person is more worthy of love than you are. Nor are you more deserving of love than they.

We tend to measure people’s worth by accomplishment. If we were to have exactly the same opportunities and abilities as another person we could do what they do and become who they are. But we all have a different mix, so the result will be different.

If I were to experience the same disadvantages as another person who does not appear to be prosperous, I would be in the same situation. If I had the same decision making processes, for instance, I would make the same choices.

The good I experience is a gift. For this reason I am obliged to love my neighbor.

One of the best ways to build confidence is not by focusing on ourselves, but by helping others and becoming others-focused. Gretchen Rubin has a few tips on how to feel better about yourself  in Want to Boost Your Self-Esteem? Throw Away Someone Else’s Trash

….you don’t get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling yourself how great you are, or even from other people telling you how great you are.

You do boost your self-esteem when you keep a difficult resolution, meet a challenge, solve a problem, learn a skill, or cross something unpleasant off your to-do list. And one of the best ways to feel better about yourself is to help someone else.

Life is a process of growth and change. Little children and teens can often be observed trying on different behaviours and personalities as they seek to establish an identity. They determine what to keep by how well it suits them and by watching the reaction of peers and adults.

Adults do the same thing. Admit that you have mimicked a gesture, or practiced a certain lingo, or adopted a popular hair style or way of dressing.

The choices we make, and the reasons why, are as unique as our fingerprint. True confidence comes not from assuming the identity of another but from discovering and appreciating how we are similar to and different from others.

At a writers conference a woman remarked to me that she felt like a pebble among all of these boulders. To me she appeared as competent as any other person there. I wondered why she lacked confidence.

I presume that by boulders she referred to the agents, editors, and of course writers present. If I were to think about it, I was also one of those pebbles. But I considered myself to be made of the same stuff as the boulders.

Rather than be intimidated, I saw this as a grand opportunity to rub shoulders with the boulders, so to speak. I planned to draw out as many people as possible and leave with a wealth of information about the business of writing.

When do we need confidence? We need confidence when we are required to speak or to act.

Confidence is generally associated with performing before other people. When I became a waitress I lacked confidence. I could easily serve dinner to my parents and brothers and sisters, but waiting on people in a restaurant was different.

Confidence is also associated with an expectation. This is an expectation we have of ourselves, or that we perceive others have of us. In other words, there is pressure to perform in a certain way.

Confidence can improve with practice and increased skill. Repeated success builds confidence.

We all know the feelings–the discomfort in the pit of our stomach, the anxiety, the sweaty palms, or just the embarrassment that is part of a lack of confidence.

Confidence is elusive, at best. Although no one can guarantee a road to confidence, there are certain paths we can choose that will result in greater confidence. I’m not talking about putting on airs or knowing the right body language. I’m talking about a deep sense of being familiar with life so as not to be knocked off balance by it. I think this is something we all want and it’s called confidence.