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what is confidence

There are so many misconceptions about what confidence really is. Let’s unpack the mystique and give you some solid takeaways for your own best confident life. After all: what is confidence, really?

You’ve done this before.

At its most basic level, confidence simply means you’ve done this before.

Which is not the same as having a perfect smile, or saying the perfect thing. Nor is it dressing to perfection (whatever that is), although the way you dress does say something about you. 

Remember Steve Jobs? He always dressed in that black turtleneck and blue jeans. He wasn’t the best dressed man, but he was consistent.

You can do that, too. In fact, your confidence may lead you in the direction of an outfit, which will lead you to the job that fits you best (if you don’t want to wear the suit, maybe you want to find a place to work where you don’t have to wear the suit!)

At any rate, lock in this basic message: Confidence comes with repetition. Whatever you repeatedly do is what you become confident at. 


Confidence isn’t always positive.

What you are currently confident at may not be what you want to continue to be confident at. For example: If you consistently avoid conflict, you will become confident at avoiding conflict. You’ll become very good at hiding your emotions and your opinions, for many reasons. But is this really what you want to be confident at? 

Consider the possibility that confidence is sometimes negative, which is counter-intuitive. You’ve been taught that confidence is a positive thing to want in your life. The question you now know to ask is, “What do I want to be confident at?”


Start small.

If you want to run a marathon, start with a nice long walk. Next time, run part of the walk. Then run a bit more. Run more and more until your strength and agility begin to rise. Soon, your small, consistent acts will begin to add up, until the point where you are surprised at how far you can run!

The same is true if you want to become more confident at speaking up. Speak up a little. Take a small risk and express your opinion. Don’t try to make the leap from not speaking to saying too much. The stretch is too big. 

Whatever you wish to be more confident at, start small and work your way into doing more and more of what you want to be confident at.

Learn from your mistakes.

Confidence grows as much from what didn’t go right as what did go right. If you are learning, you will make mistakes. The key to continuing on the path to greater confidence is to not shy away from your mistakes. Rather, really learn from your mistakes and make modifications that work better for you next time. 

Ask for help.

A recent article in the Forbes magazine, the best and growing leaders ask for help. There are many benefits of asking for help which build your confidence. Among them: 

You’ve chosen to live in a discomfort zone. Which is great! When you are alive, you are growing. 

You gain different and varying insights. My friend Yukio used to say, “Pick as many brains as you can. Then you have a better brain.”

You’re building the people around you. By asking for help, you give others a chance to step up and help. 

The takeaway:

Choose what you want to be confident at, and start doing more of it! (and start doing less of what you don’t want to be confident at.)

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