“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” - Carrie Fisher
OK, let’s be honest. How many times have we said something like this:
I’m going to do it. I’m just waiting to feel confident.
I really want to do it - I just don’t have the confidence.
We love confidence.
We see it as a magical power that shows up and allows us to feel so pumped up about ourselves that we can suddenly do something - do anything, really.
We see confidence as getting rid of self-doubt, as erasing anxiety. As finally, finally allowing us to feel OK about ourselves.
Umm…I don’t know about you, but I have never actually experienced this sort of chest-thumping confidence.
And yeah, confidence is nice. It’s awesome. But really - is it necessary to do things that matter to us? Because if we wait for for that mythical state of confidence, we may just spend life waiting - while watching it get smaller and smaller as we avoid doing things that matter to us because we don’t feel ‘ready’ yet.
So I want to suggest a different way of viewing confidence.
Confidence doesn't just happen
Confidence doesn’t come with time - from waiting for it to happen.
It doesn’t magically appear one day.
It doesn’t come from building self-esteem or from positive affirmations.
It comes with practise. It comes from doing.
The etymology of the word confidence comes from the Latin
com (with) + fidere (faith or trust)
Confidence is trust in what matters, in our values - the WHY behind the action we want to take.
It is not a feeling. It is not an absence of critical thoughts or doubts. It is a choice, a commitment, a stance, a promise - to keep moving towards what matters to me, what I deeply trust EVEN WITH all the doubts and fears.
We don’t build confidence by attacking our feelings of insecurity. We build confidence by embracing our doubts and fears - and realising they do not have the power to stop us from moving towards what matters, what we deeply trust.
When I first started doing this work, I had absolutely no confidence in whether I could do it. Still now, years later, I have doubt all the time - I still wonder what I am doing, whether what I am doing even helps. My mind tells me I am a fraud all the time. Yet I have always deeply trusted the WHY (wanting to share this stuff, doing work that feels meaningful) and that is what has helped me act confident, even though I rarely feel confident in the way most people think about confidence.
And you know what? Research shows that learning to work with doubt and insecurity and even stress can help us learn and grow more effectively than chest-thumping confidence where we see ourselves as more of a fixed 'I have arrived' entity.
Confidence is not an absence of self-doubt
We don’t build confidence by attacking our feelings of insecurity. Nope.
The bad news? They are here to stay.
The good news? They are neither our boss nor our enemy.
Because while feelings of insecurity are painful, they do not have the power to stop us from taking action towards what matters to us.
They are showing up as a clumsy way of trying to protect us, of keeping us in our comfort zone.
We can allow them to hang out as we take steps towards what matters to us with faith or trust in our values instead of a feeling of confidence which may or may not show up.
Because the actions of confidence come first, and the feelings of confidence come only later - only as we keep our commitments to ourselves and build trust in our abilities through action.
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” - Steven Pressfield