Excerpt: 'The Confident Woman,' by Joyce Meyer

Joyce Meyer, an enormously successful minister and author, has a new book, "The Confident Woman: Start Today Living Boldly and Without Fear."

The book is a faith-based answer to how women can throw off the shackles of insecurity in order to lead a full and authentic life.

Meyer says the confident woman has these traits:

The confident woman know that she's loved.

The confident woman refuses to live in fear.

The confident woman avoids comparisons.

The confident woman does not say "If only" and "What if"

Ways to become confident:

Break away from other's expectations.

Learn to cope with criticism.

Have an opinion.

Refuse to pretend.

Chapter One: Confidence

What is confidence? I believe confidence is all about being positive concerning what you can do -- and not worrying over what you can't do. A confident person is open to learning, because she knows that her confidence allows her to walk through life's doorways, eager to discover what waits on the other side. She knows that every new unknown is a chance to learn more about herself and unleash her abilities.

Confident people do not concentrate on their weaknesses; they develop and maximize their strengths.

For example, on a scale of 1 to 10, I might be a 3 when it comes to playing the piano. Now, if I were to practice long and hard -- and if my husband could put up with the racket -- I could, maybe, transform myself into a middle-of-the road, level-5 pianist. However, as a public speaker, I might be an 8. So, if I invested my time and effort into this ability, I might just be able to get to a level 10. When you look at it this way, it's easy to see where you need to invest your efforts.

The world is not hungry for mediocrity. We really don't need a bunch of 4s and 5s running around, doing an average job in life. This world needs 10s. I believe everyone can be a 10 at something, but our problem is that we often work so hard on trying to overcome our weakness that we never develop our strengths. Whatever we focus on grows larger in our eyes--too large, in fact. We can turn something into a huge problem when, in reality, it would be a minor nuisance if only we viewed it in perspective with our strengths. For example, let's say you are not a "numbers" kind of person. You struggle to figure out a 15% tip at restaurants, and your checkbook hasn't been balanced since 1987.

You could obsess about your inability to "do the math." You could buy Math for Dummies and other books on the subject, and maybe even take a class at the community college. But your math obsession could eat up time that could be devoted to stuff you're great at--like teaching Sunday school, creative writing, or raising funds for charity. In other words, you might rob time and effort from the 10s in your life just to bring a lowly 3 up to a mediocre 5.

Wouldn't it be much better to delegate the math stuff to someone else? Use an online bill-paying system that has built-in ways to catch errors or overdrafts? And you can always ask your dining companions to help you with figuring a tip. There are even tip guides you can carry with you.

I remember interviewing a man and his wife on our ministry's television program. I asked the man, who happened to be a minister, what his weaknesses were. His answer: "You know, I don't concentrate on them. I am sure I have some, but I couldn't tell you right now what they are because I just don't focus on them." I laughingly replied that I would ask his wife later. I was sure she would know his weaknesses, even if he didn't. When she joined us later in the broadcast, I promptly popped that question to her. She replied, "To me, my husband is perfect; I don't focus on his weaknesses. He has so many strengths that I just focus on them and help him be all he can be."

It didn't take me long to understand why these two were so happy and upbeat all the time--and why they had such a wonderful marriage. Confident people make it a habit to think and act positively. Therefore, they enjoy life, and they accomplish a lot.

A person without confidence is like an airplane sitting on a runway with empty fuel tanks. The plane has the ability to fly, but without some fuel, it's not getting off the ground. Confidence is our fuel. Our confidence, our belief that we can succeed, gets us started and helps us finish every challenge we tackle in life. Without confidence, a woman will live in fear and never feel fulfilled.

Confidence allows us to face life with boldness, openness, and honesty. It enables us to live without worry and to feel safe. It enables us to live authentically.

Confidence allows us to face life with boldness, openness, and honesty. It enables us to live without worry and to feel safe. It enables us to live authentically. We don't have to pretend to be somebody we're not, because we are secure in who we are-- even if we're different from those around us. I firmly believe that confidence gives us permission to be different, to be unique. God has created every person in a unique way, yet most people spend their lives trying to be like someone else--and feeling miserable as a result. Trust me on this: God will never help you be some other person. He wants you to be you! You can be sure of this!

People with low confidence, on the other hand, are not sure about anything. They are double-minded, indecisive people who constantly get frustrated with life. If they do make a decision, they are tormented by self-doubt. They second-guess (and third- and fourth-guess) themselves. As a result, they don't live boldly. They live little, narrow lives, and they miss out on the big, rewarding lives God wants them to enjoy.

You may be aware of some of God's promises for His people--promises for peace, happiness, blessings, and so on. But did you know that all of God's promises are for every person?

That's right--when it comes to fulfilling promises, God does not discriminate. However, He does attach certain conditions to some promises, just as a parent might promise to take a child on an outing as a reward for a good report card.

Similarly, God requires us to approach Him in faith--the deeply held confidence that God is trustworthy and will always make good on His promises. God loves you; He wants you to relax in the knowledge of that love. He wants you to experience the peace of mind that comes from resting in His love and living without the torment of fear and doubt. Too many people cower at the mention of God's name, because they are afraid He is sitting up in heaven, just waiting for them to slip up so that He can punish them. I'm not saying that we never have to face consequences for our actions, but God doesn't delight in punishing us. Instead, He wants to bless us and prosper us. He is merciful and if we are able to receive His mercy, He frequently gives us blessing when actually we legally deserve punishment. Thankfully He sees our heart attitude and our faith in Jesus and not just our actions.

When we have confidence in God and His love and kindness, we can progress to living confidently and enjoying the life He wants for us. Note that I said confidence in God, not in ourselves. Usually, when people think of confidence, they think of self-confidence. Think of how many times you hear TV self-help gurus or athletes urging you to "believe in yourself!" I beg to differ. I want to make it clear, right from the start, that our confidence must be in Christ alone, not in ourselves, not in other people, not in the world or its systems. The Bible states that we are sufficient in Christ's sufficiency (Philippians 4:13), so we might also say that we are confident through Christ's confidence. Or another way to say it would be, "we have self-confidence only because He lives in us and it is His confidence that we draw on."

Imagine you're a member of a basketball team, captained by a point guard who is the most talented and most court-savvy player in the world. Not only can this athlete outplay anyone else on the court, she can also bring out the best in her teammates. You can enter each game with confidence, knowing that your team leader has the knowledge and skill to lead you to victory. Sure, you will need to do your part, fulfill your role on the team, but even if you have an off-game, your superstar will have you covered. She's got your back. And, as each game unfolds, you find that your leader's confidence is contagious. You can play boldly, because your captain inspires you.

So, if I say I am confident, which I frequently do, I don't mean that I am confident in myself or my abilities. I mean that I am confident in my leader, God, and the gifts, talents, and knowledge He has placed in me. I know that without Him I am nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, I can be a champion, because He brings out the best in me.

... we glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances. (PHILIPPIANS 3:3)

Are You Suffering from Confidence Deficiency?

Under-confidence is a condition; it might even be considered a sickness. And just like many other sicknesses, under-confidence is caused by a deficiency of one thing (confidence) and too much of another--in this case--fear. I refer to fear as an emotional virus because it begins as a thought in your head, then affects your emotions and behaviors--just like a flu virus might invade your body via a handshake or a sneeze and then make you feel miserable all over.

Fear is a dangerous virus, because a fearful person has no confidence and can never reach her potential in life. She won't step out of her comfort zone to do anything--especially something new or different. Fear is a cruel ruler, and its subjects live in constant torment.

It breaks my heart when I see people living fearfully, because without confidence, people can never know and experience true joy. The Holy Spirit of God Himself is grieved, because He has been sent into our lives to help us fulfill our God-ordained destinies. But you can't seek out your destiny when you've let fear slam and lock the door of your life. Instead, you cower behind the door, filled with self-hatred, condemnation, fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of others.

Many victims of fear end up being people-pleasers, prone to being controlled and manipulated by others. They give up the right to be themselves and usually spend their lives trying to be what they think they ought to be in someone else's eyes.

Sadly, when we try to be something or someone we are not intended to be, we stifle ourselves and God's power in us. When we have confidence, we can reach truly amazing heights; without confidence, even simple accomplishments are beyond our grasp.

Now, you might have read the preceding paragraph--about "amazing heights," and thought to yourself, Yeah, right, Joyce. I'm not able to do anything amazing. (And I'm scared of heights too.) Don't despair if you have thoughts like this. Throughout history, God has used ordinary people to do amazing, extraordinary things. Yet, all of them had to take a step of faith first. They had to confidently press forward into the unknown or unfamiliar before making any progress. They had to believe they could do what they were attempting to do. "Achieve" comes before "Believe" in the dictionary, but the order is switched in real life.

It's important to note that, in many cases, successful people have tried many times and failed before they ultimately succeeded. They not only had to begin with confidence, they had to remain confident when every circumstance seemed to shout at them, "Failure! Failure! Failure!"

Consider inventor Thomas Edison. He once said, "I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed three thousand different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently likely to be true. Yet in two cases only did my experiments prove the truth of my theory."

That means that Edison developed 2,998 failed theories en route to arriving at success. In fact, the true story of the light bulb is a long, tedious tale of repeated trial and error. Imagine how Edison must have felt as the failures piled up by the dozens, then the hundreds, then the thousands. Yet, through it all, he kept pressing forward. He believed in his bright idea, so he didn't lose his determination.1

Just because ordinary people take steps to accomplish extraordinary things does not mean that they do not feel fear. I believe the Old Testament hero Esther felt fear when she was asked to leave her familiar, comfortable life and enter the king's harem so she could be used by God to save her nation. I believe Joshua felt fear when, after Moses died, he was given the job of taking the Israelites into the Promised Land. I know I had fear when God called me to quit my job and prepare for ministry. I still remember my knees shaking and my legs feeling so weak that I thought I would fall down. I remember the fear I felt then, but it frightens me more now to think of how my life would have turned out had I not faced the fear and pressed forward to do God's will. Fear does not mean you are a coward. It only means that you need to be willing to feel the fear and do what you need to do anyway.

If I would have let the fear I felt stop me, where would I be today? What would I be doing? Would I be happy and fulfilled? Would I be writing a book right now on being a confident woman--or would I be sitting at home, depressed and wondering why my life had been such a disappointment? I believe a lot of unhappy people are individuals who have let fear rule in their lives.

How about you, my dear reader? Are you doing what you really believe you should be doing at this stage in your life, or have you allowed fear and a lack of confidence to prevent you from stepping out into new things--or higher levels of old things? If you don't like your answer, then let me give you some good news: It is never too late to begin again! Don't spend one more day living a narrow life that has room for only you and your fears. Make a decision right now that you will learn to live boldly, aggressively, and confidently. Don't let fear rule you any longer.

It's important to note that you can't just sit around and wait for fear to go away. You will have to feel the fear and take action anyway. Or, as John Wayne put it, "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." In other words, courage is not the absence of fear; it is action in the presence of fear. Bold people do what they know they should do--not what they feel like doing.

Courage is not the absence of fear; it is action in the presence of fear. Bold people do what they know they should do--not what they feel like doing.

As I write these words, I feel very excited for you. I truly believe this book will be life-changing for many of you who read it. It may be a good reminder for some of you, but for others it will help you step out onto the path of your true life. The life that has been waiting for you since the beginning of time--and the one you may have been missing due to fear and intimidation. Satan is the master of intimidation, but once you realize that he is the one behind all your hesitation, you can take authority over him by simply placing confidence in Jesus Christ and stepping out boldly to be all you can be. God told Joshua, "Fear not, for I am with you." He is sending you that same message today: FEAR NOT! God is with you, and He will never leave you, nor forsake you.

Abraham was told, "God is with you in all that you do" (Genesis 21:22). That sounds like large living to me. Are you ready for a larger life, one that leaves you feeling satisfied and fulfilled? I believe you are, and I want to do everything I can to help you on your journey.

I know what it is like to live in fear. Fear can actually make you sick to your stomach. It can make you so tense and nervous that everyone around you notices that something is wrong; it's that evident in your facial expressions and your body language. What's more, just as confidence is contagious, so is the lack of self-confidence. When we possess no inner confidence, no one else has confidence in us either. Imagine a timid, cowering basketball player, standing in the corner of the court with her arms wrapped around herself. Is anyone going to pass her the ball? Is anybody going to call out plays to her?

When we think people are rejecting us, we feel hurt by them. The basketball player in the example above might think that her teammates hate her or have something against her. But, for fearful, under-confident people, the root of the problem is that they are rejecting themselves. They are rejecting the person God intended them to be.

A Classic Case of Confidence

Just as under-confidence comes with its list of symptoms, the same is true of confidence. A confident person feels safe. She believes she is loved, valuable, cared for, and safe in God's will for her. When we feel safe and secure, it's easy to step out and try new things. During the initial construction on the Golden Gate Bridge, no safety devices were used and twenty-three men fell to their deaths. For the final part of the project, however, a large net was used as a safety precaution. At least ten men fell into it and were saved from certain death. Even more interesting, however, is the fact that 25% more work was accomplished after the net was installed. Why? Because the men had the assurance of their safety, and they were free to wholeheartedly serve the project.2

When people feel safe, they are free to take a chance on failing in order to try to succeed. When we know we are loved for ourselves and not just our accomplishments or performance, we no longer need to fear failure. We realize that failing at something does not make us a failure at everything. We are free to explore and find out what we are best suited for. We are free to find our own niche in life, which is not possible without stepping out and finding out. Trial and error is the road to success, and you can't drive that road as long as your car is parked. So get moving, and God will direct you. When people are confident, they try things, and they keep trying until they find a way to be successful in what God has called them to do.

Sure, life can sometimes make us feel like we're in over our heads, but the reality is that, without God, we're always in over our heads.

For example, a little three-year-old girl felt secure in her father's arms as Dad stood in the middle of a swimming pool. But Dad, for fun, began walking slowly toward the deep end, gently chanting, "Deeper and deeper and deeper," as the water rose higher and higher on the child. The girl's face registered increasing degrees of panic, as she held all the more tightly to her father, who, of course, easily touched the bottom. Had the little girl been able to analyze her situation, she'd have realized there was no reason for her increasing fear. The water's depth in ANY part of the pool was over her head. For her, safety anywhere in that pool depended on Dad.

At various points in our lives, all of us feel we're getting "out of our depth" or "in over our heads." There are problems all around: A job is lost, someone dies, there is strife in the family, or a bad report comes from the doctor. When these things happen, our temptation is to panic, because we feel we've lost control. But think about it--just like the child in the pool, the truth is we've never been in control when it comes to life's most crucial elements. We've always been held up by the grace of God, our Father, and that won't change. God is never out of His depth, and therefore we're as safe when we're in life's "deep end" as we were in the kiddie pool.

A Little Godly Confidence Goes a Long Way

Katie Brown weighs only ninety-five pounds, and she is just a bit over five feet tall. She stands a lot taller than that, however, once she's nimbly scaled a 100-foot climbing wall (that's equivalent to a ten-story building).

Katie is a "difficulty climber," an endeavor in which she's a world champion and multiple gold medalist at the "X Games"--which you may have seen televised on networks like ESPN2.

As you might imagine, it's intimidating for a small person to attack climbing walls and cliffs that are twenty times her height, but Katie says that her extreme faith brings her peace, even when facing extremely dangerous challenges.

"I know that I couldn't have done what I've done without being a Christian," she explains. "My faith in God doesn't get rid of my healthy fear or caution when climbing extreme heights, but it does help me deal with it. It takes away a lot of the pressure, because you know that God's not going to condemn you if you don't win. So there's nothing to worry about. When I see others competing, I wonder how I could compete if I didn't have faith in God."

The "walls" you face in your life might not be literal or physical. They might be emotional or relational. And it's okay to feel intimidated or frightened by the walls in your life. As Katie notes, it would be unhealthy not to appreciate the significance of a major challenge.

But, like Katie, you can rest secure in the truth that God will not condemn you if you can't get to the top of your wall--or if it takes you hundreds of attempts. God is more concerned in your faithful effort--an effort built on your confidence in His love for you.3

If at First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again

I believe that failing is part of every success. As John Maxwell says, "We can fail forward." History is filled with examples of people who are famous for doing great things--yet if we study their lives, we find that they failed miserably before they succeeded. Some of them failed numerous times before they ever succeeded at anything. Their real strength was not their talent as much as it was their tenacity. A person who refuses to give up will always succeed, eventually.

Consider these examples:

• Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he succeeded.

• NBA superstar Michael Jordan was once cut from his high school basketball team.

• After his first audition, screen legend Fred Astaire received the following assessment from an MGM executive: "Can't act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little."

• Best-selling author Max Lucado had his first book rejected by 14 publishers before finding one that was willing to give him a chance.

• A so-called football expert once said of two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Vince Lombardi, "He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation."

• Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he lacked ideas. Later, he went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.

• Upon his election as U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln was called "a baboon" by a newspaper in Illinois, his home state. The paper went on to say that the American people "would be better off if he were assassinated."

• A young Burt Reynolds was once told he couldn't act. At the same time, his pal Clint Eastwood was told he would never make it in the movies because his Adam's apple was too big.

The people listed in the examples above succeeded in a variety of different endeavors, but they had one thing in common: perseverance.

Copyright © Joyce Meyer 2006