One of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to confidence is believing that you have to feel and act confidently when you don’t. There’s this idea that if we just pretend to be confident, then things will work out.
Fake it till you make it!
Just act confidently!
All seemingly common and accepted one-liners that get thrown out there a lot, but really, they’re meaningless when you’re in the throes of self-doubt.
True and lasting inner confidence can only come from being authentic and not trying to be anyone other than who you are. If you don’t, you continue to project an image of who you think you need to be – and you simply keep on reaffirming the message that you aren’t good enough as you are.
To be confident will mean different things to different people. Confidence is a deeply personal journey that will look different for each one of us and is not an end-goal that we can get “to”. Rather it’s a continuous exploration of our own sense of self and how we relate to the outside world.
Authentic confidence must by default be deeply rooted in who you are, grounded in self-awareness and built on a foundation of your sufficiency.
For some, it may mean applying for that promotion. For others, it may mean speaking up during a meeting. And for others again, it may be learning to set clearer boundaries and prioritising your own health and well-being. So really, the question is: what does authentic confidence look like to you?
Ultimately, I believe that authentic confidence comes from a deep understanding of who you are and what matters to you most. An inner knowing and belief that says: whatever comes my way, I know I have the resources to handle any situation and I know that I can and will act on this.
What confidence is not is 100% certainty of any outcomes, not pretending to be someone who you are not, not failing or making mistakes, and it’s certainly not being fearless.
Authentic confidence doesn’t mean that you never experience doubts and insecurities about who you are and what you are capable of. Rather it’s an acknowledgement of who you are and the gamut of feelings and experiences that you have.
Rather than hiding part of who you are, it’s showing who you are – and the paradox is that the opening up of yourself actually makes you feel more confident and in integrity. When we stop suppressing the feelings of insecurity, we can in fact allow those feelings to flow through us more and we can tap into a deeper sense of self that is not clouded by thoughts of insufficiency. To feel is to be human, yet these feelings don’t need to define you or your actions.
Authentic confidence is therefore based on an acceptance of the fact that at times you may feel insecure but that you know this doesn’t need to define your actions and you can act courageously on the basis of your values and sense of purpose.
Self-doubt often shows up in a range of negative thoughts about who we are and what we are capable of. But thoughts are simply that – while they may feel real to you, they are simply the workings of your mind. Your thoughts need not define who you are and what you are capable of and you can choose to listen or not.
While we may not be able to control our thoughts, we can control whether we act on these thoughts or not. We can take committed courageous action on the basis of our values and sense of purpose in life. We can learn to manage our response to our thoughts through mindfulness skills and we can set ourselves up for the best through self-compassion and self-care practices.
You can be afraid and brave at the same time. In fact, confidence often is a consequence of the courage that you call upon within yourself and courage, by definition, can only exist in the presence of vulnerability. The paradox is that by embracing your own insecurity and dropping the need to present yourself in a particular way, you become more confident.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela