Before we dive into this, I want to say that I’m glad you stopped by. Both courage and self confidence are incredibly important for everyone to work on throughout life.
Building good habits can be instrumental in developing self confidence and acting with courage. I’m currently running a giveaway of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It runs from 2/10 – 2/17. Click here for details.
Back to the topic at hand… No one, regardless of appearances, is completely self confident in every situation in their life. There are too many things to do in the world and too many unique experiences.
I suppose you could make the argument that someone who has completely stopped trying anything new might be 100% self confident. I’d agree that’s true but I’d also say that person has a very lame life.
That can’t be you though. A person like that wouldn’t have landed on this page, unless they did by mistake and in which case would have closed the window already.
Anyhow, what I want to do in this post is:
- Explain what confidence and self confidence are
- The one critical area where everyone must build self confidence to achieve success
- Explain why self confidence (and having the right amount of it) is important
- Clarify how courage builds confidence
With that being said, let’s go ahead and dig in.
What exactly is confidence?
A basic definition of confidence is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something.
I can have confidence that the sun will rise tomorrow.
I’m confident that the president will tweet something within the next two days.
I have confidence that when I touch a hot grill I will experience pain.
We can have confidence in or be confident about innumerable things.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The sun has come up every single day of your life so far. You have every reason to fervently believe that it will tomorrow.
Usually the things we don’t have much confidence in are things that are unfamiliar, new, and possibly make us feel a little uncomfortable.
Say you had the same boss for 10 years and they up and quit. Who would you have more confidence is as your new boss?
- A well known, well liked person from the company whom you know personally, or:
- A brand new person that came over from another company.
Most people would naturally have more confidence in person #1. Confidence in person #2 could be built up but it wouldn’t be instant.
That’s because confidence in someone or something is usually built by experience.
Imagine you join a basketball team and the coach has brilliant direction and leadership. He knows dozens of drills, is great at motivating, and has glowing charisma.
You would naturally gain confidence in this individual’s ability to coach the team.
By that same token, a bad experience can cause you to lose confidence in someone or something.
If the coach is mumbling, provides no direction, and displays a complete lack of leadership, you would naturally lose confidence in his ability to coach.
As another example, imagine you got your heart broken by your significant other of three years. Would it be easy to have confidence that the next person wouldn’t do the same?
In this case, your previous experience might cause you to lose confidence in both someone (your new interest) and something (relationships).
So as you can see, individual experiences can cause you to gain confidence or lose confidence in someone or something, but it’s still based on experience.
What about SELF confidence though?
What does it mean? And does it operate in the same way as confidence in general?
To keep it simple, it would mean the same thing as confidence, but about yourself. In other words, self confidence would be the feeling or belief that you can rely on yourself.
Rely on yourself to do what? Answer: whatever it is you desire to do.
If you want to do something and feel as though you can rely on yourself to do it, then you have confidence in your ability to succeed. If you don’t, well…you don’t.
By and large, having a lack of self confidence boils down to having a desire to do something combined with an inner belief that you don’t have the ability to do it.
This is where experience comes back into play. Most of the time when a lack of self confidence is present, it’s because of no experience or very little experience.
Many people have more experience simply because they got started earlier in life. Take two 16 year olds who both play the guitar. One has been playing since she was four years old while the other only started at 15.
Who do you think will have more self confidence performing in front of a crowd of hundreds of people? Naturally, it will be the guitarist with 12 years of experience versus the one with just one year under her belt.
This is a simple example about something very specific, but it applies to more broad areas of life as well. Think about who has more confidence in the following areas:
- Social Interactions – An extrovert who has never had a problem starting up conversations with strangers or someone who is shy and has always kept to themselves for the most part.
- Public Speaking – A polished politician who has given dozens of speeches in the past few months or someone speaking for the first time publicly at a Toastmasters meeting.
- Leadership – A 15 year CEO of a fortune 500 company, or a young associate at the same company who just landed his first management position ever.
It’s hard to argue that the extrovert, the politician, and the CEO wouldn’t have more self confidence in the given situations.
Some might argue that the young associate could be a better leader than the executive. They might say that leadership isn’t about position, having a title doesn’t mean anything, blah blah blah.
Sure, the young newcomer could be more of a natural leader and have better leadership qualities. The question, however, is who would have more self confidence, specifically in their ability to lead.
The CEO will have more self confidence because she’s done it for so long. She has probably made numerous mistakes along the way and has grown because of them.
I’m a firm believer that there is no learning on the planet equal to actual experience.
When I was talking about confidence in general earlier, I mentioned that an individual experience can lead to an increase or decrease in confidence.
The thing with self confidence is that a greater number of experiences almost always leads to more confidence rather than less.
Of course this doesn’t apply to everything imaginable. I would never say someone who has been married 7 times is more confident in their relationship skills simply because they’ve been in more relationships.
In fact, they may be less confident because their past relationship experience is that they (relationships) don’t work out.
Or after the first two failed marriages, they became confident that all relationships have an expiration date. So every one after that became a self fulfilling prophecy? Hmm…
The point is that both confidence in other people & things and self confidence are largely regulated by experience. The difference is that:
- Confidence in other people or things might increase due to a good experience or decrease due to a bad experience
- Self confidence generally tends to increase with the amount of experiences whether they are good or bad.
Why would self confidence increase even with a bad experience?
Well it might not in a tangible way with any one bad individual experience. However, the mere act of having the experience creates a little bit more self confidence. You must act again quickly though or it will be lost.
In other words, self confidence is always increased by more experience but you have to keep getting more experience.
And when you consistently act with courage, there are no limits to the number of new things you can experience.
More on that in a bit but first you need to know the granddaddy of all life areas where you need to build self confidence. Communication.
Why Self Confidence in Communicating is Critical
Besides the fact that it might keep you married, it will also improve every other area of your life.
You can lack self confidence in many areas of your life and still be successful. Lack of self confidence in communicating is not one of them.
Communication is intertwined with every aspect of life and if you lack self confidence in your ability to communicate, one of the following things will occur depending on the situation:
- You will choose not to communicate at all, or
- You will communicate but hold back for fear of:
- Being judged or rejected
- Being misunderstood
People can’t understand you if don’t attempt to communicate at all. Trying to understand others is incredibly important but it is equally important to ensure that you are understood.
At some point you have to get over the fear of being judged and/or rejected. There is zero chance everyone is going to agree with you or appreciate your point of view.
All successful people have been judged and/or rejected and continue to be from time to time. They are also, however, more confident because they know that others know where they stand.
Holding back for fear of being misunderstood is an interesting paradox because by holding back you ultimately guarantee that you will be misunderstood. People can’t see the full picture if you don’t show it to them.
Having good communication skills is something that seems like an afterthought sometimes. In reality, it should be at the top of the list.
I challenge you to find one high paying job description that doesn’t list good (or excellent) communication skills as a requirement.
Effective communication is massively important and it all begins with the degree of your self confidence to do it well.
The Dangers of Too Little or Too Much Self Confidence
Too little self confidence
It’s obvious from everything that I’ve written so far that lacking self confidence is not a good way to go through life.
What is particularly dangerous about it though? Is danger too strong a word? I don’t know but I’m going to stick with it.
The dangerous thing about a chronic lack of self confidence is that it can have an enormous negative impact on your self-esteem and mental well being.
This is largely because you are unlikely to act when you don’t feel confident you can perform something well. Trying new things and putting yourself in new situations will be infrequent if ever.
When you don’t act and/or try new things, you don’t get results. Better yet, you don’t get new results. Failing to act causes you to get stuck in a cycle where everything in your life seems to stay the same.
All while other people seem to be growing, changing, and achieving more in life. I’ve personally been there and it’s not a good place to be.
Albert Einstein once famously said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
I know what he means by that statement and I agree with it. I would go on to say that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a recipe for depression.
Eventually it can get so bad for some people that they don’t believe there is any reason to go on. I won’t make the gigantic leap to say lacking self confidence in and of itself can lead to taking ones own life.
It can certainly be a contributing factor at the least.
That’s clearly the worst case scenario and certainly falls into the category of dangerous.
Imagine if it’s anywhere even close to that though. What if someone has a complete lack of self confidence and feels powerless to change anything?
Like all hope for the future is lost and feeling like life will only stay the same at best or just get worse.
I’d say that’s a fairly dangerous place to be.
That’s one reason, a huge reason, why having self confidence is important.
Having too little or none at all can have devastating consequences on the quality of a person’s life.
People with little to no self confidence believe they can’t do anything to change themselves, but they would like their circumstances to change.
As a result, they hold on to a belief that something external must happen to be happy. When it doesn’t, they feel they’ve gotten a bad lot in life and fall even deeper into despair.
Too much confidence?
How in the world can a person have too much confidence?
I’ve been sitting here talking about how important it is for you to have self confidence. What gives?
Well there is such a thing as overconfidence and it can be detrimental to your growth and improvement.
If you have too much self confidence (overconfidence) you might take too much stock in your own thoughts and opinions.
Overconfident people have usually achieved a lot of success and at some point start to devalue others because of it.
They tend to hold their individual knowledge and experience above all else because it’s gotten them this far.
They have a singular mental model of the world that has brought them success in one area and try to apply it to all areas.
This eventually has a negative effect in a world where things are constantly changing. They stop learning and become obsolete.
Everyone who stops learning eventually gets rendered obsolete. Like it or not, some knowledge has a half life and much of it expires at some point.
How Courage Builds Self Confidence
So what the heck is courage anyway and what does it have to do with self confidence?
Actually, let me back up for a minute because I need to say one thing about the word courage itself first.
No one has courage. Courage isn’t something that you are born with and it isn’t something you can acquire.
Courage is a verb. It is an action. People have fear and whether or not they act in the face of fear determines whether or not they have acted with courage.
You might generally think of someone who runs into a burning building to save people as being courageous.
If the person going into the building was afraid and went into the building anyway, then they were being courageous. They were acting with courage.
If they weren’t afraid, I’d say that person is just a badass and you would definitely want them around if you were in trouble.
Chances are the vast majority of people going into a burning building would have some trepidation about it.
I’m only saying the person who isn’t afraid to go into the building isn’t displaying courage to illustrate a point.
That point is that some amount of fear is a prerequisite for courage to happen. If you are fearful of doing something and proceed to do it, you are acting with courage.
It’s not going to be the same thing for everyone. Said badass from before who isn’t afraid to go into a burning building might be afraid to speak up during a meeting at work.
If he does decide to speak up, in spite of the fear, he is being courageous. Get it? I’m pretty sure you get it so I won’t keep rambling.
Bottom line, courage = fear + action
It is the action of intentionally disregarding the fear and moving forward that gives courage its power.
You know that whatever you are doing is more important than maintaining the feeling of being safe and comfortable. That feeling of importance compels you to do something.
That’s all good and well but what does that have to do with self confidence?
How does courage build self confidence?
Courage builds self confidence because you are taking the step of acting. Doing something. By doing something, you increase your belief in your ability to do it.
Once you do something the first time, it gets easier the next time. and even easier the next time. Until one day you are no longer afraid at all. The behavior just comes naturally to you.
At this point you could say that you have self confidence because you aren’t scared, or in other words, you feel as though you can rely on yourself to do it.
After all, isn’t fear largely based on uncertainty about the outcome? If you knew that running into a burning building you would rescue two people and come out unscathed you wouldn’t be too concerned about it.
If you knew that every time you spoke up you would receive a positive reaction, there would be no hesitation to speak up in the first place.
But you don’t know if you’ll come out of that building unscathed, and you don’t know whether or not you will be rejected and judged for the things you say.
The trick with how courage builds self confidence is that you have to consistently act with courage before it can become self confidence.
If you act with courage on Monday, and fail to act on Tuesday through Sunday, you’re no better off than you were before.
It’s good that you acted with courage once, but unless you continue to do it you won’t build any self confidence. You will proceed to lack self confidence because you won’t believe you can rely on yourself to do it.
Acting with courage consistently also makes you more resilient to judgement and rejection. Honestly, no one likes being judged or rejected. It just doesn’t elicit positive emotions.
However, if you get judged and rejected enough times, you will become resilient and almost immune to it.
Am I telling you to go out there and get rejected a hundred times? Absolutely, if that’s what it takes.
The funny thing is, every time you experience rejection you are still getting experience. After all, you must act in order to get rejected in the first place.
Unless you have no ability to learn whatsoever, chances are that you will naturally change your approach over time. Assuming of course you don’t quit after being rejected a couple of times.
Sooner or later, you will get the result that you desire and that is a mega boost to your self confidence.
By acting with courage consistently, you’re doing two things:
- Building up resistance to judgement and rejection
- Proving that you can do it once you get a positive result
This is a recipe for self confidence all day, everyday.
Tying it all together
If I’ve been a little all over the place with this post, I apologize and want to thank you for sticking with it. I try to be concise and not go off on tangents too much, but it does happen.
Let me try to tie this all up in a pretty bow for you.
Confidence is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something. Self confidence is the feeling or belief that you can rely on yourself.
Specifically, rely on yourself to do the things you want to do and get the things done that you want done.
You can have self confidence in general, meaning you feel that you can rely on yourself to do anything. You can also have a general lack of self confidence, meaning you feel like you can’t rely on yourself to do anything.
Most people have a high degree of self confidence in some areas, a low degree in others, and a middle-of-the-road amount in most.
The one area that is critical to build self confidence in is communication. This is because being able to communicate effectively can improve every aspect of your life.
Not communicating at all or communicating poorly because you lack self confidence can have negative ripple effects throughout life.
It can cause you to lose hope in your ability to succeed at anything. At it’s worse, it can cause isolation and depression.
It’s also possible to have too much self confidence, in which case you might feel the need to stop learning. Once you stop learning, you stop growing. Once you stop growing, you become obsolete.
Regardless of where you have self confidence or lack it, the formula for building more is the same.
You have to get experience doing whatever it is that you need to gain self confidence in. If you need more confidence in communicating, you need to communicate.
If dancing is your thing but you lack confidence in your ability to do it, you need to start dancing.
Lacking self confidence makes it hard to try things we don’t feel skilled at, and that’s where courage comes into play.
You must act even when you feel the fear, or be resigned to the fact that you will not get better.
Put simply, courage leads to action, which leads to experience, which leads to self confidence.
That’s how courage builds self confidence.
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