Mindy Kaling’s Guide to Building Confidence

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Leaders are commonly asked, “Where do you get your confidence.” When I hear people try to answer this, there’s typically an air of humility – they pass the credit to their parents, a teacher, or a strong support system and deflect any responsibility in owning their confidence. Then Mindy Kaling gave the perfect “confidence-origin” response.

Mindy Kaling is an actress, executive producer, and writer for the critically acclaimed The Mindy Project and The Office. In addition, she has also written multiple bestselling books and is considered to be one of the leading voices in comedy today. Mindy could not have achieved her level of fame without confidence. She shared the source of her conviction in a recent article for Glamour magazine.

According to Mindy (and I agree), confidence is based in entitlement. This is not the entitlement associated with believing you are better than someone else (that is arrogant self-admiration). No, Mindy’s entitlement is maintaining the belief that you deserve something. Determining your “something” depends on what you want to accomplish and your skillset; this is the easy part. The more difficult task is how to determine you deserve it.

To feel like you deserve something, you need to earn it. And the only path to earning it is hard work. As Mindy explained in her article,

I work a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I feel like I must have been watching TV as a kid and that cartoon parable about the industrious ants and the lazy grasshopper came on at a vital moment when my soft little brain was hardening, and the moral of it was imprinted on me. The result of which is that I’m usually hyper-prepared for whatever I set my mind to do, which makes me feel deserving of attention and professional success, when that’s what I’m seeking.

Mindy tells the story of when she went to baseball camp in elementary school. She didn’t put in any effort and walked away with a “Best Dressed” trophy. Mindy was proud of this trophy until her mother said, “They gave you that trophy so you wouldn’t feel bad, not because you deserved it. You should know the difference.” This may seem harsh in a time when we feel the need to give an award to everyone, but it’s an important life lesson that must be taught.

Confidence is not about how many compliments your parents gave you as a kid; this is a great foundation for self-esteem, but you can feel good about yourself without having the assurance that you’ll be a success. Confidence is an intrinsic quality that you can develop through sheer willpower. As Mindy wrote,

Work hard, know your s–t, show your s–t, and then feel entitled.

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