Self-Confidence is a Reward not a Requirement
Bravery not confidence
We see successful people and we often think, "I wish I had that kind of self-confidence".
But that is getting it backwards. That's not why they are successful.
Self-confidence is not a requirement for success, it is the reward we get once we've succeeded despite our fears.
It comes as a result of successfully pushing through our discomfort.
For example, when we are doing something for the first time why on earth would we feel confident about that? We may feel confident in our abilities and training but until they are put to the test they are still somewhat theoretical. The best laid plans and all that.
Being sure that we are going to succeed at something we have never done before is being delusional not confident.
What it takes to be successful is not confidence but courage.
Confidence + Intimidation = a constant
Confidence and intimidation are not opposing drives, they are different ends of the same measuring stick. They are like hot and cold, not like fire and water. They are results not causes.
When we feel intimidated by something there is nothing we can do to magically create confidence because by definition if we feel confident about something, we are not intimidated by it.
Confidence is about knowing we can handle something, it is predicated on knowns whereas fear is arises from unknowns.
If we don't know what is going to happen then feeling confident is not appropriate. We should be as confident only as much as we are sure of the situation.
So if we want to be less afraid and more confident, how do we do that?
Fear is a warning to be alert
The answer lies in the fact that fear is not about actual danger it is about potential danger. It is not a measure of reality, by the time reality is hurting you it's likely too late to do anything about it.
Fear is an indicator that we should be paying more attention to the situation at hand.
It helps us to prepare in case that rustle in bush is a bear and not just the wind. We are descendants of the fearful cavemen who went on alert 9 times when it was just the wind because the 10th time it was an actual bear.
In fact, our lack of self-confidence serves to heighten our focus. It is not a sign of something wrong.
That initial fear is good, it is correct, it is the right reaction to something new and there is nothing wrong with us for feeling that.
But in order to keep moving despite our instincts screaming at us to be careful of the rustle in the bush, we don't need confidence, we need courage.
Courage requires fear
Courage doesn't mean not being afraid, it means being afraid and then doing it anyway. The simple act of pushing through the fear, of continuing to move despite the fear, is courage.
Which means that being afraid is actually an opportunity.
If we are not afraid of something, then we aren't being brave when facing it. But when we are afraid, we may never not be afraid, we may never develop confidence, but courage is always the answer.
Once we push through despite the fear, we almost always find that it is not as bad as we thought. Plus we feel a certain amount of pride for showing courage.
Our confidence in executing that task and our confidence in ourselves in general both start to increase.
That confidence makes it easier to continue, and if we keep pushing we enter a cycle of positive feedback.
Having confidence makes things easier because by definition we are less afraid, and the more we succeed the more confident we get.
But getting that cycle started is the difference between being successful and being envious of success.
Your fear is not going away, if you don't like public speaking then making a speech will always scare you, but the more you do it the more you can start relying on confidence and the less courage it will take.
Courage is infinite
Courage is always the key but that doesn't mean it is not easier for some people than for others. Different situations are going to cause different amounts of fear for different people based on their different experiences and context.
If you are the first person from your family to go to college, you are working against a lot more fears and worry and thus need more courage than someone who is the fourth generation to attend Harvard.
But in all cases, it is courage
By focusing on courage, we fight emotion with emotion. The more we are afraid of something, the more courage it takes to overcome it, and therefore the better we feel about ourselves.
In fact confidence decreases with our perceived weakness but courage increases.
We have an infinite reservoir of courage once we realize that we don't overcome our fear, it doesn't go away. That fight or flight response is real, that discomfort you feel is real, it is not going away.
The key to courage is to stop having our goal be to reduce discomfort. The difference between the person who fears and doesn't move and the person who fears but is courageous is just that: the simple act of moving despite your fear.
In both cases, the discomfort and fear is still there. Embrace your fear as an opportunity for courage and you will succeed. 99 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.