Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I was talking with a friend recently and the subject of confidence came up.

I've given this subject thought throughout my life, but more over the past few years. When thinking about contentment and significance, confidence arises as a component.  It's difficult to be content without also being confident - at least in my opinion.

There are several antonyms for confidence: doubt, fear, hesitation, uncertainty, weakness, timidity, and a few others.

It seems to me that confidence - learning to be confident, growing in confidence, developing confidence - follows a progression, a predictable pattern. When I begin a new task or skill, I start without confidence. My skills are weak, I doubt that I'll be able to perform adequately, and uncertainty colors my experience.

As my skills develop, my confidence progresses and grows.
Taken too far, my confidence can become arrogance.

Beginning confidence, I believe, is still affected by weakness. Although I'm "confident" in my skills, at some level I understand that my skills aren't complete. There's still a chance that my abilities can (and probably will) fail me. Therefore, I feel the need to prove that my skills are better than other people's skills. I have to prove to them that I am competent. In reality, I'm trying to prove things to myself. Although I may understand my weaknesses, I'm often unwilling to admit those weaknesses, either to myself or others.

As my skills continue to grow, so does my confidence and inevitably I reach a stage of over-confidence. I become arrogant in my skills. Everyone goes through this stage - everyone. In the last stage I recognized that I had weakness, but was unwilling to admit them. In this stage, I think I have no weaknesses (in this particular skill area). "I am the best. My skills are the best. I'm better than everyone else. No one's skills are better or even equal to my skills." That's what arrogance sounds like and feels like.

Some people get stuck in the arrogance stage. If I'm unwilling to recognize my weaknesses, I see no reason to further develop my skills. My skills stagnate, which makes it all the more important to prove my expertise. I over compensate for my unrecognized weaknesses.

When things go wrong, I cannot accept responsibility for my part because that would be admitting weakness. Instead, I blame other people or circumstances. When things go right, I take credit. And not just partial credit - I take all the credit. Even credit that is due others, I claim for myself.

But, it is possible to move past the arrogance - not back to confidence, but forward to True Confidence. When I recognize my weaknesses, I develop an understanding of where I need to grow and I also develop a better understanding of my true strengths. True Confidence includes a willingness to use my strengths and understand my weaknesses. I no longer need to prove myself to others (or myself). My actions speak for me. I don't need words to convince people I'm competent. People recognize my competence through my actions and the results of my actions.

When things go wrong, I accept responsibility. If I'm leading a team that experiences failure, I'm able to accept responsibility for the whole team. There is no blaming. True Confidence allows me to accept responsibility for failure because I know that failure in a specific circumstance does not define my competence.

When things go right, I share the credit. Giving credit to others also does not diminish my competence. In fact, sharing credit makes people want to work with me more. It increases my resources, increasing my chances of success. There are so many great people, I want them working with me. I want to learn from them, which increases my competence. The more I share, the more I grow.

True Confidence

This same progression can be applied to specific skills, like becoming a school counselor or counselor educator. And it can also be applied to life in general. There are some skills at which I'm still timid, like playing a ukulele. There skills in which I'm confident and some skills in which I'm arrogant. Hopefully there are more areas in which I'm truly confident and very few in which I'm arrogant.

What are your thoughts?
Are you a confident person? An arrogant person? A truly confident person?

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