What We’re Getting Wrong About Confidence

Written by on February 11, 2019 in Self-Awareness, Self-Determination

Avoid These Myths About Confidence

The reason that so many people never fulfill their potential is not lack of intelligence, opportunity or resources, but lack of confidence.

But what is confidence, anyway?

By definition: Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance arising from appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

From there, things get a little blurry, particularly when it comes to how to get and maintain confidence.  In fact, there are a surprising number of misconceptions about that very subject, so today we’re going to clear up some of the most common.

Confidence is not ‘They will like me’. Confidence is ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t.

Common Misconceptions About Confidence

You Need to Be Born Confident

Depending upon which study you read, some experts say that anywhere from 25% to 50% of confidence is genetic.

Even if you buy into this theory (and not all researchers do) that’s a big gap. But say we go with the 50%, that still leaves a lot of room to work with to increase your confidence level.

You Must be Confident before Taking Action

Waiting until you’re fully confident before performing a task can either be a sign of perfectionism or simply an excuse to keep from challenging yourself.

Preparation can help lower anxiety and improve performance, but it is in the cycle of taking action—which includes the willingness to take risks, to struggle, to fail, and to eventually master something—that builds confidence.

Confident People Do It on Their Own

Confident people know that no one has all the answers and value having a strong support system. After all, everyone needs encouragement from time to time.

They are secure enough to admit a weakness so they have no qualms about asking others for help.

You Have to Be an Extrovert to Be Confident

Being an extrovert doesn’t automatically mean you’re confident. There are insecure extroverts, and some of the most successful people in the world are confident introverts.

Authentic confidence is feeling comfortable in your own skin and choosing to live true to who you really are on the deepest level.

You Have to Take Big Risks to Be Confident

It’s not the size of the risk that’s important, it’s pushing self-imposed barriers and doing things that are new and challenging for you.

If you don’t often push your comfort zone, then a simple change, such as mustering the courage to speak up at a staff meeting, can give you a small boost in confidence. As you get more comfortable with smaller challenges, you can move on to riskier ones.

Confident People Have No Insecurities

Insecurities (and fear) are a part of everyday life. Whenever we’re faced with the unknown, it is human nature to feel a little insecure.

Just because you might have self-doubt or feel unsure when you’re changing jobs or moving to a new city, it doesn’t mean that you’re not confident.

A confident person will keep moving forward anyway.

External Recognition Increases Your Confidence

You are human so of course, it feels good to be recognized. But don’t mistake the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with recognition for authentic confidence.

Only when you are able to acknowledge your own achievements, actions, talents, skills, etc, will you develop the kind of self-confidence that is sustainable.

You Can’t Fake Confidence

According to Amy Cuddy and her colleagues from Harvard University and Columbia University, who studied the impact of using specific poses on your own feelings of power indicates that confidence can indeed be faked.

The idea is that you can make yourself feel confident by simply changing your body language.

Self-confidence is not taught or learned; it is earned by surpassing your own self-imposed limitations.

Fake Confidence Only Takes You So Far

I admit I’m playing devil’s advocate here but there are two critical points I want to get across.

First, I challenge you to rewrite the often quoted advice “fake it until you make it” and instead try “fake it until you earn it.”

This may seem like wordplay, but the second version does a better job of getting across that faking confidence may help you take the first steps, get you through a presentation, or unexpected challenge, but you need to do the hard work to earn that confidence for it to become sustainable.

And second, confidence doesn’t look the same on every person.

There are those who will advise you to walk fast, talk loud, power pose and always look busy so that you give the impression that you are filled with purpose, self-assured and in demand. But if you are quiet by nature, maybe an Introvert like I am, this feels fake and contrived.

Can you picture the soft-spoken hugely successful Bill Gates taking a power pose?!

Keep in mind that authentic confidence is not contrived or boastful. Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others. It is a natural expression of ability, expertise, and self-regard.

Comparing Ourselves to Others Increases Confidence

The absurd idea behind this myth isn’t just to compare yourself to others in general, but to select those who you perceive to have or somehow be less than you are and in doing so puff up your fragile ego.

Comparing yourself to others is damaging for so many reasons, none the least of which is it’s based on an illusion because what you see represents just a small slice of another person’s life.

Self-Criticism Boosts Confidence

A couple of years ago I met a very nice man, a fellow author, who had a habit of beating himself up over every little thing.  “You better work harder, or you will fail miserably”; “You are a discredit to your family”; and so on.

For those of us who are chronically positive, this may be difficult to imagine, but the truth is that many people go through life using this approach to try to motivate themselves to achieve goals, or simply get through the day.

I remember asking this nice man how this approach was working for him, and he said, “Well, I just know that things would be a lot worse if I didn’t keep pushing myself the way I do.”  

The fact is that the result of this behavior is not confidence, but rather an attempt to avoid the even greater pain of inadequacy and failure.

When you constantly criticize yourself, you become depressed, and depression is not a motivational mindset and it surely isn’t a recipe for a happy life.

Confident People are Arrogant

This myth has more to do with personality and insecurity than confidence and stems from those who believe they have to boast about their life to appear more confident to others.

Insecurity tends to breed artificiality; confidence breeds sincerity and honesty.

Confident people don’t mind admitting their mistakes or feel the need to be the center of attention. They’re happy and proud of their life achievements, so they don’t need reassurance from others.

Confident People Are Confident all the Time

Confidence naturally increases and decreases throughout your life, and it’s common to be more confident in one area than another. There can be periods when you feel ready to take on the world and other times when uncertainty and self-doubt kick in.

It’s boosted when we experience a win or receive praise. It takes a hit when our efforts fall short of the mark, we’re criticized, rejected or simply feel a lack of external recognition.

So you’re not broken, weak, or under-evolved because you feel anxious and insecure at times, but you may be relying a little too much on external validation and approval, or it could be that you’ve allowed yourself to get a little too comfortable.

You can’t go for extended periods of time without ever challenging yourself and assume that when an opportunity arises you’ll suddenly be able to count on magically having the confidence you need to tackle it.

Closing Thoughts

The most important thing to know is that no matter what your background or current circumstances may be it is absolutely possible for you to develop greater confidence.

It may take a little more work for some than others depending upon your background and experiences, but increasing your capacity for self-trust and confidence is well within your ability.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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