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  • Melanie Lopes, MFT

Taking Risks Helps Build Self-Confidence

taking risks

There comes a time when you recognize that in order to truly move forward and reach your goals, you need to take a risk of some sort. Success and achievement typically don’t just land in your lap, and you know that in order for a positive change to occur, you have to do something that is outside of your comfort zone or that moves you into unknown or uncertain territory. You have to do something that could leave you feeling vulnerable.

You have to take a leap of faith.

But let’s face it. Taking risks can be scary.

While there are some people who are more inclined to take risks, many of us are more inclined to avoid risks because it feels safer and we instinctively move away from things that feel unsafe or dangerous for the sake of self-protection and survival. And the truth is, sometimes the risk is so great and there is so much at stake that it may be wise to avoid taking certain risks.

It is important to be thoughtful and careful when taking risks, and it’s advisable to take the time to thoroughly consider the consequences and do some planning before you take a leap. Taking a risk does not have to be impulsive and careless.

But more often, the risks you face are actually far less severe. They're usually not a matter of life or death, but often a matter of facing uncertainty or vulnerability. Nonetheless, your fears can still be strong enough to prevent you from taking the leap. And while avoiding risk may help you feel more comfortable and stable in the meantime, over time it can leave you feeling stuck and may lead to missed opportunities that you later regret.

One of the most common fears that gets in the way of taking a risk is the fear of failure. This can include being afraid that:

  • things won’t work out the way you want

  • you’ll make a mistake

  • you’ll make the wrong choice or decision

  • you won’t know how to do it

  • you won't follow through

  • you’ll lose something that you value

These are all valid fears, worth paying attention to and acknowledging, but I also think it’s worth noting that often what is underneath this fear of failure is a lack of self-confidence or not believing in yourself -

uncertain woman

Not believing in your ability to do certain things or take on new challenges

And more importantly, not believing that you’ll be able to handle a potential failure or any potential negative consequences of your choices.

So how can you build your self-confidence enough in order to overcome the fear of failure and take that leap of faith?

Well, one way to build your confidence to take risks is to... start taking risks. That may not be the answer you were hoping for, but it’s true. This is based on the same idea behind exposure therapy - in order to overcome your fears, you can start exposing yourself to the thing you fear, slowly and in small doses, so that you can learn to soothe yourself, offer yourself reassurance, and build up your ability to tolerate the experience.

By taking risks and facing your fears, you give yourself the opportunity to see that oftentimes the worst-case scenarios that you imagined, don’t actually happen. Think about all the times that you worried that the worst thing could happen and then think about how often the worst thing actually happened. Chances are you have spent a lot more time worrying about the worst case scenarios than you've spent enduring the worst case scenarios.

You also get the opportunity to see that regardless of the challenges, mistakes, and “failures” you might experience along the way, you can and will find a way to make it through, however difficult it might be. It might not turn out the way you had hoped or expected, but you will get through it, step by step, one moment at a time.

inspirational quote

And remember that you have a choice in how you think about the experience and what meaning you give to it – will you see it as a failure or a lesson to learn from? Is it an obstacle or an opportunity? Shifting how you think about your experiences can move you from discouraged to encouraged, from defeated to an ever-evolving work in progress.

And ultimately, each time you see yourself take a risk and move through an obstacle or setback, you build confidence in your ability to do so, and this helps you overcome the fear of failure.

leap of faith

By taking risks, you give yourself the opportunity to learn, to grow, to test your limits, and to see what you are capable of. It opens up new and important opportunities that you may have never thought possible for yourself. You can build your resilience, or that ability to bounce back from hardship, and through all of this, you learn more about yourself and you can start to trust yourself more.

As you stay committed to learning, growing, and moving forward, you naturally build self-confidence and start believing in yourself more and more.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is that taking a risk doesn’t always mean taking a HUGE leap. In fact, it’s helpful to start small and gradually build from there. You can start by paying attention to even the smallest risks that you already are taking in your everyday life and then try adding one or two things each day that are different, spontaneous, and associated with some degree of risk. Then gradually keep trying things that seem a little more risky or uncertain, with the goal of building up your tolerance for risk and uncertainty.

Be sure to take some time to think about how you will deal with the consequences of your actions, including how you will deal with the stress or anxiety that you might experience as a result. This can help improve your coping skills and greatly reduce your stress, worry, and anxiety, while at the same time helping you feel more prepared and confident that you'll be able to handle whatever comes your way.


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