Confidence doesn’t come first.
I came across another article on confidence today about it being one of the keys to success. I found it to be the complete opposite of how life actually works, especially when it comes to confidence. Like the idea that hard work is brave and noble, it’s been conditioned in to the cultural narrative so many times that we’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for it again and again.
We are told that successful people exude confidence, it’s obvious that they believe in themselves and what they are doing. We are told that it isn’t their success that makes them confident, the confidence was there first.
Now. It’s true that successful people exude a deep natural confidence, you feel the glow of their presence, the certainty in their leadership and sense of direction, the willingness to stand behind their beliefs and ideas.
We forget that we are taking our impression of someone’s external reality and comparing that with how it looks on the inside of our world. We fail to notice that when Usain Bolt won the last world championships, he stumbled out of the blocks in the semi-final and almost fell over. Before the final his coach told him to stop thinking about it, you’ve done this a thousand times before, you know what to do.
That was the key, he knew what to do. We all know what to do. Most of us are sat waiting to feel confidence before we can act. The problem being that it’s not confidence that we need, it’s courage.
It’s the courage to have a cause and a dream great enough to risk failure, to risk death. It takes courage to fail completely and see that as a step on the adventure towards greater success.
Dave Grohl, one of the most successful rock musicians of the last 30 years, still suffers from stage fright. He doesn’t let that stop him from performing. He looks confident, he exudes confidence. That doesn’t mean that we feel confident before we act. Besides, no matter how confident we are of victory, we still might lose.
Once you go for it, once you fall over and keep going, once you practice and become competent, once you learn how to respond in the moment. Then you become more confidence grows.
Even Neo in the Matrix couldn’t jump the chasm the first time.
It’s not confidence you need to reach for new challenges, it’s courage.
Doubt breeds doubt so we are told. Why would anyone believe in you, your ideas or abilities if you didn’t believe in them yourself? That sounds great but do you have any idea of the number of people who believe they have great business ideas, raise funding and then crumble. Belief in an idea or your ability is massively overrated, especially if you haven’t done a thorough reality check.
I was incredibly confident in my ability to make a living playing poker, that confidence had no relation to the actual reality of the situation. There is no causal relationship between confidence and skill. You can be terribly anxious and get incredible results. Many high-achieving people have high anxiety and little confidence. It’s said that the consulting firm McKinsey deliberately recruited such people who would achieve great results and never feel secure in their position.
We are told that we need to remove all the barriers created by self-doubt. There’s nothing about doubting yourself that stops you from courageously trying things out and taking action. People who are fearful or insecure stay inside their comfort zones? Anyone seen the Republican candidate for the 2016 USA election? He seems to be making waves out of his comfort zone and it looks to me like he’s incredibly fearful and anxious. At least that’s how it works for me when I respond to criticism by descending into personal abuse and hurtling insults across the world.
The article goes to claim that people in dead -end jobs are the people who lack confidence. Unconfident people often feel at the mercy of circumstances. I’ve worked with leaders, successful business owners who don’t feel confident. Confidence is how people tend to look on the outside when we are looking from our lens of perception on the inside.
Although. I’m now going to contradict myself and agree with the mysterious writer of the article. Confidence does come first. Every child I’ve met, given scope to play and express themselves freely has deep, natural confidence. The kind that allows mistakes, the kind that has an insatiable curiosity and wants to explore life, to discover and find things out. To learn and grow and live. After all that could really be what being successful is all about.