4 myths of self-confidence
The subject of self-confidence makes a regular appearance in my line of work.
Intelligent, experienced, self-aware individuals who are successful by the traditional metrics, can and do find themselves questioning whether they have the confidence to take the next step.
Even though every human-being experiences doubt and uncertainty at regular points in their lives, when a smart, successful person admits those natural, evolutionary traits are stopping them from doing something important, it can lead them to question whether they are really as smart and successful as they’d previously believed.
In my view, there a number of myths about “self-confidence” which are unhelpful. Here are some of the big ones;
Myth 1 : You can lack self-confidence
I disagree. You don’t lack self-confidence. Self-confidence is part of who you are. It cannot be given or taken away. When we label ourselves as lacking self-confidence, it usually means we are fearful of making a mistake/doing something wrong.
Myth 2 : Self-confidence means not having any doubts
We tend to use “self-confidence” as a short-hand for being fearless. This means, when we approach a significant decision where thoughts of “what if it doesn’t work out” are quite reasonable and useful, we misread them as a sign of intellectual or emotional weakness.
Try looking at the concerns or differing opinions as useful sources of information. Being confident means you DO experience fear, doubt and uncertainty. You DO care about what the important people in your life think and feel. These, along with how you feel and what you want, form the context for your decisions.
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie
Myth 3 : Self-confidence means not getting it wrong
Confidence is not the same as being right. In fact, confidence allows us to be questioned and disagreed with without us feeling threatened. Confidence means we draw on a range of different opinions, we create alternative options, we can even change our minds!
We can only do what we believe is right with the information we have at that point in time. We do make mistakes. We will fail. Confidence means using each experience as an input to our next decision.
“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.” Peter T. Mcintyre
Myth 4 : Self-confidence can make you toxic!
This is powerful and one we don’t usually acknowledge straight away. For instance, if someone rates themselves as 5 for self-confidence (on a scale of 0-10) this probably means they feel confident at times and not at others. Describing what an 8/10 looks like, they imagine decisions are straight forward, changes are manageable, risks are diminished.
At this point, connecting with what confidence means/is/feels like is relatively safe and easy. Words flow, eyes light up, hands move animatedly.
What would scoring a 10 look like? “Being absolutely certain about success, removing all the risks, ignoring what anyone else says or thinks!”
And then………the brakes come on.
From somewhere an image appears, unbidden, in their minds. The egomaniac boss, the arrogant colleague, the aggressive salesperson, the obnoxious, pig-headed, ignorant individual who represents the antithesis of how you want to be perceived.*
At this point, all the excitement and possibility that resonated so warmly moments before becomes distorted by a fear that being more confident will turn them in to the kind of person they despise.
This is highly unlikely. Confidence means being fully yourself, not becoming someone else. When you understand what’s most important to you (your values) and behave in a way that is congruent with them, decisions are simpler, changes feel more manageable and you own the impact you have.
Your natural self-awareness, connection with others and curiosity about both will stop you becoming the person you despise. I can say this with confidence because you’ve read this far!
“Confidence is not ‘Will they like me?’ Confidence is ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t’
*(See this article on 11 Signs You’re Working With a Psychopath from Inc.com if this sounds like someone you know!)