How to get internal confidence without external validation

One night a couple of years ago I was out with two friends.

A third dude, Shadi, joined up. I think he was friends with one of my friends.

We went to buy something to eat from the local kiosk.

Anyway, Shadi wasn’t that hungry it seemed… After he had eaten half his hot dog, he smeared it all over the table attached to the kiosk. Then he looked at us as if he thought we would laugh with him. Because it’s so fun to make the kiosk attendant clean up after you (not).

At first, I was shocked he would behave like that. Then I got pissed off.

I decided to confront him.

Calmly, I told him: “That’s really unnecessary. Why would you do that?”

He tries to play it off by nonchalantly answering: “Who cares?”

I keep going: “Seriously, what’s fun about making others clean up after you?”

He tries to ignore me. But one of my friends diplomatically chimes in: “Yeah, that’s actually pretty unnecessary…” I could hear he agreed fully with me, but he just didn’t want a conflict because he was friends with Shadi.

I feel I got my point across, so I drop it and everything goes back to “normal”.

Shadi never apologized and because I stood up, in the short run, the evening got uncomfortable for all of us.

But today, I still feel great about that moment and standing up for my values. And I know both of my other friends that night respected me for it.

There’s something important in this story that I want to share with you.

How integrity can give you confidence that doesn’t change from day to day

A lot of you who read these articles from me and David have asked us how to get more consistent and solid confidence without needing external validation.

In my story, I talked about how you can confront someone acting like an idiot. But more importantly, this is about how you want to feel about yourself.

By acting on your values, you will start building internal confidence and self-esteem from within, instead of basing it on external factors you can’t always control. (Read more about the dangers of a high confidence, but low self-esteem here.)

confidence external vs internal

This isn’t about being a jerk and complaining about things that don’t really matter. It’s about standing up and setting limits when it’s important for you. I don’t want friends who are disrespectful because that’s an important value to me. That’s why I decided to confront Shadi in this situation. I try to avoid complaining or criticizing unless I feel it can make an important difference.

By reminding yourself of your values and acting accordingly, you’ll develop internal confidence. The reason it’s so solid is that nobody can change what you value and your morals.

When you are in contact with your values – you will have a calm sense of confidence even in stressful situations like in my story above.

Questions to start thinking about your values in life

  • What do you value in life?
  • What are your morals?
  • How would you act in a similar situation?
  • How do you WANT to act in that same situation?

Thinking about questions like that is the first step towards building your integrity and in turn, getting a rock-solid, internal confidence (without external validation).

When your confidence is based on your inner values and principles, it will be a lot more solid compared to when you base it on what others think of you.

Read more:

Do you remember any times you felt proud of how you acted? Or maybe a situation where you WISH you acted in another way? I think both of those questions can help you to find out more about your values and how you can behave to live according to them ( = with integrity).

I would love to read your stories in the comments below and try to help you identify your values.

Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages SocialSelf’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (2)


  1. Thanks for sharing Viktor, your story about Shadi, reminded me of the time I stood up to my parents when they were talking behind the back of another family member(s). I followed something I learned from Socrates, and said “Ok, you’re going to talk bad about someone that I care about, when you only know the half truth? No that’s not right.” And normally its very hard for me to stand up for myself, especially to my parents but I felt driven to protect people I care about. I’m still working on trying to figure out my values, but I wanted to share.


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