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April 24, 2021

Successful people are confident, but confidence doesn’t make you successful. The missing ingredient is competence!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

Competence is the key to moving into the unknown and being ok with uncertainty or any hurdles you may face in your day to day life. Having the competence to decide when to press the pause or game over button is as important as being able to ‘bluff’ your way through a situation.

When we are overconfident, we can make mistakes. We assume because we’ve done something before, we can do something else. It is a tricky old game. Confidence is fluid. Everyone strives to be more confident, assuming it suddenly makes life easier or allows you a secret pass to the world of success. Confident people are like everyone else, they are humans and need to work on this important quality. And without the foundations, the underlying knowledge and experience, then your new-found confidence is misinformed, and can lead you into tricky situations.

No one is born with confidence. You only gain it by trying new things, maybe even overcoming adversity. It is a balancing act as before you try new things, you need a base level of confidence.

Sometimes you feel confident, other times it is like you need to find it, “Where is my missing confidence?”. How many times have you looked at someone who you think is confident and wish you could be like them, but never ask how they ‘achieved’ this? Is it real confidence, backed with experience, or misplaced overconfidence?

On the surface and to the outside world I am confident, but there are days when I hold my hand up and need to admit defeat. Being confident doesn’t mean you are immune to feeling self-doubt, especially in a new area in your life. Being confident doesn’t give you access to a magic bag of tricks to overcome hurdles – you will need resilience for this: reminding yourself you have overcome tricky situations before and having a flexible mindset.

I remember in the Spring of 2019 I hiked Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland – solo. As I climbed, I felt my confidence grow, but to hike in the first place I had to have some level of confidence. And that came from knowing I have hiked other mountains, from a respect of mountains, and following my gut.

When I was only five minutes away from the summit, I stopped and turned back. There was a white-out at the top of the mountain, I couldn’t see one footstep in front let alone the route to the summit. I knew immediately my boundaries and although I have hiked, it’s never been solo and definitely not in these conditions. My gut, based on my competence, acted as a reminder not to be the overconfident version of me, that warrior princess I know lives inside, and push on but to know when to say ‘get me out of here’.

I waited in the same spot for some time until other hikers passed returning from the summit and I followed them safely down the mountain.

Never be fooled by overconfident people. Sometimes they are clueless and are bluffing their way through with limited, or no, knowledge or experience to justify their confidence. Confidence, backed up with competence, is a true quality attribute. Confidence with no supporting competence is dangerous.

If you ever think you’ve lost your confidence, then go away and work on something you’re competent at. Never doubt your ability, sometimes you need to go back to basics and build up your confidence again. Many small steps in the right direction, leads to big achievements. This eventually grows competence and confidence! Once you’ve got your mojo back, then get back out there and tackle the big stuff by starting small again.

What is important is we don’t wait to feel confident to start something new or different, as guess what – you will be waiting forever to find that confidence. Start small. If you want to run a marathon then start with a 1km loop, then increase to 3km, move up to 5km then as your running competence grows, so will your confidence and you achieve your goals.

If you do find yourself in a confidence slump then pause, reflect and slowly build up your confidence. How? We only learn about ourselves by looking back over our life and joining the dots. Remember experiences where you may have struggled to achieve something or encountered a difficult period, then also remember how you overcame the adversity or achieved that big goal, which once seemed out of reach. Or remember that job promotion you never thought you were good enough for or the time you tried a new hobby for the first time. Confidence is a quality, a bit like a muscle, which you need to keep developing, nurturing, stretching and maintaining.

Every step in life will lead you to grow in confidence or encounter a setback. Being competent is knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know. Reminding yourself, each day is a day to learn. So get out there and earn that confidence by pushing yourself in life and growing your competence.

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