Society places a lot of value on confidence, but I believe a lot of people have it backwards as to what confidence really is.
Don't confuse the outward appearance of confidence with true inner confidence.
Style versus substance
Style confidence refers to the loud talkers, the ones that talk a big game, the ones that make it all about themselves. I'm sure we all know someone who talks, talks, talks, and never listens. The ones that say they do things, but behind closed doors, they don't do them. The ones who proudly talk about their accomplishments, but know they're lying inside. The ones who always try to impress. The ones who crave significance by outward appearances. The ones who claim they're not afraid of anything.
To the outside world, at first glance (and even second, third, and fourth glances) they seem to have it together. They seem to have something we don't. But oftentimes, that outward appearance of having it together is just a coverup.
Yes it's true that we respond better to people who appear more certain. Creating certainty in yourself, and in how you relate to others, is an essential skill as a leader - whether you're leading your kids, your company, or most importantly, yourself. But certainty is a slightly different topic than the confidence I'm addressing in this post.
My goal here is not to judge, but rather to help people on both sides of the spectrum - both those suffering from the need to constantly exude a false sense of what society calls confidence, and those who lament the fact that they don't have it.
There are two serious issues with admiring style confidence. First, it tricks people into emulating and admiring what is really an insecurity in someone else. Second, it creates internal conflict and turmoil for the individual who admires.
When we don't live in congruity with our true nature, with who we really are, we have internal conflict, and we're miserable. Something feels off, or worse, everything feels off. Either way, we're not happy inside.
My hope is that by separating style from substance, people will pause and ask themselves: Am I operating under the pretense of style confidence, or really living with substance confidence?
So then the question becomes: What is real confidence, and how do we develop it?
Substance confidence is real. It's keeping promises to yourself. It's taking action despite fear. It's being vulnerable. It's admitting your weaknesses. It's showing strength in character. It's being the last one to speak, because you value everyone else's opinions first. It's being patient, because you're not trying to take anything from the moment in front of you. It's wishing other people's success, because you know there's plenty of success to go around.
You see, we too often mistake style confidence for something real, something to admire, and we forget about substance confidence, which is what really matters.
There's nothing wrong with appearing confident, so long as it's coming from within, not from the outside.
The ironic thing is, the more we confuse style confidence with substance confidence, the more unhappy we are. And conversely, the more confident we are at a substance level, the more happy and fulfilled we feel.
Here are three things you can do to develop true confidence.
1. Keep a promise to yourself. When you make a commitment to yourself, stick to it. Wake up when you say you would. Don't let yourself down. When you get in the habit of following through on your decisions, you start to develop a sense of certainty within yourself. Eventually, this will flow outwardly into everything you do.
2. Do something when you're afraid. It takes no guts to do something if you're not afraid. It takes no confidence. But to move forward when you're clouded by fear? That's hard. Try doing that, then celebrate it.
3. Be vulnerable with someone you love. Tell a friend you really value your friendship with them. Bring up an insecurity that's been weighing you down with your significant other. Say something to somebody that you truly feel, but don't necessarily feel comfortable saying.
I actually think we all do a lot of things each day that would boost our confidence, if we just looked at our lives a bit differently. If we recognize that confidence is keeping a promise to ourselves, then we can acknowledge how we woke up when we said we would, and celebrate that small feat. When we're afraid of something, but don't let the fear stop us, that's something to be proud of. When we have a difficult conversation with someone we value - that's hard, and that's a reason to congratulate yourself.
Throughout the day, when we stack these small wins, we end up with a little more confidence in our ability to carry out what we aim to achieve.
Ditch the idea that confidence is just an outward appearance. It's much deeper than that, and it starts within yourself. The next time you think someone is so confident, ask yourself, is it really confidence I'm seeing?
Live with substance!