I had a huge crush on an older, popular guy in Middle School.
I’m talking legit stalker status. I used to make my mom drive me by his house every day after school. It was not on the way home.
I lamented to my friends that I just didn’t have enough confidence to tell him.
I’d flirt with other guys hoping that their interest in me would earn me sufficient confidence to confess my feelings to him.
I thought that I would know that I had enough confidence as soon as my fear around him subsided. I thought that confident people must feel all warm and fuzzy inside all the time, so I was waiting for my internal state to match that.
I interpreted my nervousness around him as a barrier, as something that was stopping me from saying how I really felt.
So I waited. And waited. But the fear never subsided. He graduated and I never saw him again (…except when I stalked him on Facebook).
Said boy still has no idea that I used to dream/fantasize/gossip/cry about him on the regular. I was always too afraid that if I got rejected by him, it would deplete whatever remaining stores of confidence I had.
I literally didn’t think that I could do something as bold as ask out an older, popular boy. I thought something like that would take more confidence than I possessed. I used to treat confidence like an allowance that I had to earn. I treated it like something of fixed quantity, like money.
I thought I either had enough confidence to take bold action…or I didn’t.
Since then, I have learned a secret that totally changed my life. A secret that would have freed me up to ask my crush to the school dance.
But before I tell you, a word of caution.
Only read on if you’re really serious about being a confident person. Sometimes, we use the excuse of “not having enough” confidence to get us off the hook for having to be bold. So if you want to continue justifying being comfortable and safe, stop reading here.
If you’re ready to totally take responsibility for going after the things that you want, then here it is:
The problem is never that we don’t have enough confidence. The problem is only that we think confidence is something we can have.
The trick to being abundantly confident is realizing that confidence doesn’t objectively exist.
If we x-rayed our bodies, we wouldn’t find confidence anywhere!
Confidence isn’t like money that we have to inherit or earn, and we don’t use it to barter for the experiences that we want.
Confidence is an always-accessible way of being. It is a perspective, available to everyone at all times, from which we can take action.
Confidence isn’t something we have, it is something that we can choose to be. Here’s an exercise to help you choose confidence even when you don’t feel confident:
When we think that we need to have confidence, then we always have to stop and assess whether we have enough of it before taking bold action. Just like we wouldn’t buy something that we don’t have the money for, we wouldn’t act on something that we didn’t think we had the confidence for.
So we take stock of how much confidence we have by judging our internal state. We look for evidence that we have enough confidence by assessing our thoughts, feelings and sensations. If we encounter fear and doubt, we take that to mean that we don’t have enough confidence.
When someone proclaims “I am confident,” it’s not because she’s some rare breed of human with extra confidence molecules in her blood; it’s because she chooses to take bold actions regardless of her thoughts and feelings about it.
In the moment that we stop to assess our internal state to gauge if we have enough confidence, we are looking for something that doesn’t exist. We think that having confidence means the absence of fear, doubts, and hot fiery sensations in our bodies—and the presence of things like positive thoughts, ease and excitement.
And then, if we don’t have that experience, we go out looking for more confidence. We seek validation and approval, thinking that that will give us the confidence we need.
We try diet and exercise plans, search for the perfect partner, sign up for leadership programs, spend money on expensive cars, outfits or apartments, thinking that once our lives look good enough, we will have enough confidence to act confidently.
Meanwhile, we’re justified in not having to take confident action because we think we’re not ready yet.
This is a misbegotten search that only distract us from actually having to be confident.
True confidence is not dependent upon how much money we make or what car we drive or how our bodies look or how successful we are or who we are dating. That’s condition-dependent confidence, which will fade as soon as our circumstances change.
Thinking that we need to acquire confidence from the outside world is the biggest barrier to actually taking confident action.
It leaves us feeling like we never have enough confidence and thinking that acquiring more confidence will make scary stuff easier to do. Then, we get into a “confidence scarcity” mentality and postpone taking confident action until we store up more confidence.
We can only get ourselves out of this confidence scarcity mentality when we realize that confidence is not expendable. The potential for confident action is always present, never depleted. Failure does not automatically deduct confidence from us. We always have equal opportunity to generate confident action, regardless of our successes and failures.
When we realize that confidence is a moment-to-moment choice, we gain the power to act confidently even when we feel scared. Even when we don’t feel like we deserve to.
We realize that feeling confident is irrelevant to being confident. We realize that we can take risks and be bold even when we feel scared.
Sometimes I’m still just as nervous as I was around that boy in high school. But now, I interpret my nervousness differently. Rather than thinking that feeling scared means that I don’t have enough confidence, I focus on how nervousness makes me feel so alive. I follow that feeling of nervous excitement like a guiding light, because I know that something wonderful is on the other side of it.
Since I now know that my confidence is not condition-dependent, I am free to be bold even when I know I might fail. I know that confidence is a choice that can’t be revoked by failure. I know that I have the right to be confident even if I’ve failed over and over and over and over again.
We don’t have to earn confidence, we choose it.
Paradoxically, the best way to have confidence is to realize that we never had it in the first place! We don’t need to have confidence to be it.
If you want the results of an ultra-confident person, stop trying to get confidence—and start being confident.
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Editor: Toby Israel