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  • Writer's pictureMaria Wade

The Surprising Truth Behind Confidence

Updated: Dec 20, 2021


“Lack of confidence kills more dreams than lack of ability. You’re capable of more than you think. Don’t be your own bottleneck.”

- James Clear


A lack of confidence, or a perceived lack of confidence, is a very common issue I see in my coaching practice. A number of conversations with my clients center around one of the following aspects of confidence: They may find they lack confidence, they may allow their (self-described) “perfectionist” tendencies to hide their confidence behind second-guessing and doubt, or they may worry they will come across as too confident, which they fear will reflect negatively on them.

But, what does “too” confident even mean? Where is the line between confidence and arrogance?

First, let’s start with a definition…

What are we talking about when we say “confidence?” Some of us may describe confidence as a feeling; something that, when we close our eyes, we can sense inside of ourselves. I believe confidence often comes down to having strong personal values and being willing to stand up for your convictions. Regardless of your formal definition, when we see confidence, we take notice. Confidence might sound like this…

- “She will not back down from a debate.”

- “He has raised issues with senior management that others are reluctant to surface.”

- “He negotiated for what he thought he deserved.”

- “She didn’t think twice about giving credit to her team for the successful client call.”

Do any of these sound familiar? Would you associate these with confidence? What image do they conjure up inside of you?

So, where does this “arrogance” piece come in?

As I mentioned, sometimes when I work with my clients on confidence, we can sometimes come to the “tricky bit” of this discussion, which is a fear of coming across too strongly, too direct, too… something. You likely have a picture in your mind of this as well. It has many names, but it is often called arrogance.

This is not an abstract concern: Confidence can certainly be mistaken for arrogance. The interesting thing is that there is a fine line between the two in spite of the fact that they are actually polar opposites. Think about it: much like a magnet with a positive and negative pole, arrogance and confidence can be viewed in the same respect.

So, confidence and arrogance are actually opposing behaviors?

Ultimately, a lack of confidence comes from your way of building relationships with people. If you build your relationships with honesty, openness and free-sharing of your opinion, your true self will shine. Ironically, your humility and authenticity, openness to feedback and willingness to be “real” will breathe confidence into any space.

If you are conflict-avoidant and build your relationships with a guarded nature and lack of transparency (perhaps out of fear of “looking bad”), your lack of authenticity actually becomes your confidence problem. You refuse to accept help from anyone, won’t let others take credit and put up walls.

Now what? How do we grow our confidence?

Hopefully between these two images, you have a feeling about the leader you want to be. And, here’s the good news about confidence: it is not an inherited trait. Confidence can be learned, honed, and developed.

● First, begin (or continue) your exploration of self-awareness. By opening up this process, examining your values and your behaviors, you will begin to discover so much about yourself. Once you think you’ve found out everything there is to know about yourself… go even deeper.

● Next, be vulnerable. What are your trouble spots? Where do you need support or to ask for help from others? Remember, having areas of weakness does not equate to a lack of confidence.

In “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” Jocko Willink and Leif Babin write “Confident leaders encourage junior members of the team to step up and lead when they put forth ideas that will contribute to mission success… a good leader pushes the praise and accolades down to their team.” They are secure in knowing that when the team wins, everyone wins.

Leading in tense, difficult environments where the future is uncertain is not an easy task. Asking for support makes a leader stronger, not weaker.

● Finally, be aware of your relationships with your colleagues, team and others. Notice how you speak. Are you lifting up their wins with genuine joy? Are you taking time to listen to their feedback with openness and without defense? Are you willing to admit when you were wrong?

If you want to create something beautiful in your life, start with your relationship with people.

There is nothing that says “confidence” more than an open mind and open heart.

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